Tommy Sanders’ favorite moment of 2016 has asked our team of writers and staff to reflect on their favorite moment of 2016. Tommy Sanders is the host of the Bassmaster television show and Bassmaster LIVE. 

I’ve told anyone who’ll listen that my favorite moment of the year was the entire four days of the Classic Bracket competition on the Niagara River.

It was an ugly duckling, red haired stepchild event from the beginning, with hardly anything going as planned.  Designed to be a last chance shot at Classic qualification for some desperate anglers, it turned out to be that way for only one of the competitors, Koby Krieger. 

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Krieger’s first match was against road roomie Jacob Powroznik, who said quite honestly that he was going to make sure his buddy was the victor in the match.  After laying up most of the first day, Jacob caught and weighed a 1-1 keeper as a souvenir.  That token line-burner turned out to be the lead heading into the second half of that match.  Powroznik then totally dropped all pretense of fishing and went to Krieger’s fishing spots to cheer him on as he would surely catch a couple of small keepers on day two and move this thing along.

Except, Krieger’s no-keeper-catching ways continued well into part two of the contest.  It was like witnessing one of the most exquisite train wrecks of all time: horrifying, destructive and noisy, yet you couldn’t stop watching. Finally, the winning fish came with less than half an hour to go, putting us all out of our sweet misery.

And there were other memorable nuggets scattered through that star-crossed tourney, including Kevin Van Dam landing a keeper outside of the tournament boundary—prompting a nail biter of a ruling from tournament director Trip Weldon, who just happened to be the official in KVD’s boat. 

To be fair, it wasn’t all about an inability to keep it between the ditches.  Dean Rojas calling his shot and roaring back with five pounds in the last five minutes to erase a deficit and pull out the win was just stunning.

I forget who won (just kidding).  But I will always remember the inaugural Classic Bracket tournament.  As you get older, you gain an appreciation for imperfections and how we all deal with them as they arise.  And you come to understand that so many successes start out running anything but smoothly and mistake free.