Click here to continue 1 / 45 Anglers ranging in age from 20 to 60 qualified for the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in Houston, March 24-26, so there’s sure to be a variety of first impressions of bass fishing’s biggest championship. Wondering how diverse it might be, we asked the 52 competitors for their earliest remembrance. 2 / 45 Chris Zaldain, 31, was the first to respond to the emailed question, writing back his memory that several other anglers also mentioned. “Hands down, my first and most vivid memory of the Bassmaster Classic was when Takahiro Omori won on Lake Wylie in 2004. I was 19 years old at the time and was watching the event on ESPN2 closely,” Zaldain said. 3 / 45 “When Tak made the gut decision to run all the way up the lake late on the final day, and literally win the tournament in five casts, I witnessed competitive bass fishing in its purest form. He just ‘knew it.’ Since then, every tournament I’ve competed in, I learned more and more that ‘simple’ decisions on the water are the difference between success and failure.” 4 / 45 Clifford Pirch, 41, is fishing his fourth consecutive Classic, and the Arizona pro didn’t necessarily offer his earliest memory, but rather one that sticks in his head. 5 / 45 “Not sure if it’s my first earliest memory, but the one that stands out is when Yelas had the pontoon boat wake him,” Pirch said. 6 / 45 “He said it’d take a miracle to catch one after that and the miracle bass happened.” 7 / 45 Shaw Grigsby, 60, is the oldest competitor in this year’s Classic, and he’s also among the most experienced with 15 Classics under his belt. He goes back 32 years with his memory. “The first Classic I attended was the 1985 Classic in Pine Bluff, Ark., that Jack Chancellor won. The Ranger rep for Florida and Georgia, BJ Allison, invited me to fly out with him … 8 / 45 “I remember Jack Chancellor throwing his sunglasses a mile high when he won! I don’t think I will forget that. The one thing that made the biggest impression on me was in the press room. They had each angler’s bio and tournament history printed on yellow paper. When I picked each one up and looked at them, I realized that some of the guys that were fishing the Classic had made a check in only a few of the tournaments. I brought each one home and studied them. It gave me the confidence I needed to realize that I could compete with them. I qualified for my first Classic the next year in Chattanooga.” 9 / 45 Scott Clift, winner of the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship Classic Fish-Off, displayed his Show-Me State pride in his top Classic memory. “For me it would be ‘97 when Dion (Hibdon) won. Great to see a Missouri boy in there,” said the 39-year-old from Dadeville, Mo. 10 / 45 “If I remember the story right, he barely beat Dalton Bobo, and Bobo I think had quit his job to fish it. I remember feeling bad for Dalton and thinking how much guts it took to take that shot,” Clift said. Hibdon won by an ounce, the closest Classic ever, after Bobo suffered a 4-ounce dead fish penalty, which had been increased that year from a 2-ounce penalty. 11 / 45 Steve Kennedy, 47, was around 13 when his father, Van, quite possibly started his path here. “My first Classic memory is of my dad fishing in the 1982 Classic in Montgomery, Ala., on Alabama River. My mom was excited because in previous years they put them on a plane with an unknown destination anywhere in the country.” 12 / 45 “Being from Alabama, she was a little disappointed just going to Montgomery,” he said. “Dad wasn’t too upset because it was somewhere he had fished before. I didn’t get to go pre-fish with Dad, but my brother Travis did.” Van did not post a memorable finish. 13 / 45 Let’s stick with the family theme. Alton Jones' and son, Alton Jones Jr., will be the fifth father/son to fish a Classic. Their first Classic memories are an absolute generation apart. 14 / 45 “My first memory of a Classic is Bobby Murray’s victory at the very first Bassmaster Classic back in 1971, at the ripe old age of 8,” Alton said. “My grandfather, ‘Papa,’ bought me a subscription to Bassmaster Magazine and Murray’s win was my first glimpse at pro bass fishing. I remember telling him, ‘Wouldn’t that be cool to be able to go fishing for your job?’ That was the first time I became aware that there were bass pros who competed against each other, and it launched a dream!” 15 / 45 “My first memory of the Classic is Mark Davis winning it in 1995 when I was 3 years old,” Alton Jr. said. “I remember sitting in the stands and watching him take his victory lap with his family.” Alton Jr.’s dad was fishing B.A.S.S. events at the time, but he did not qualify for the first of his 18 Classics until 1996. 16 / 45 Cliff Crochet, 33, also lists Davis’ victory at High Rock Lake. He was 12. “I didn’t really know any of the competitors, but I knew it was the ‘Super Bowl’ because of the conversations I heard at the bait shop,” he said. “The two things I remember from watching that TV show was Rick Clunn being asked what was the most important time of a tournament day. His response was ‘the last two hours.’” 17 / 45 “The next thing I'll never forget from that show was Mark Davis chuckling and saying, ‘Fat Free Shad,’ and on stage saying, 'I feel like I have an eggbeater right in the middle of what belly I have left. Those are my first memories of the Classic.'” 18 / 45 A majority of the B.A.S.S. Nation qualifiers, all fishing their first Classic, have their memories tied to the Nation. “First Classic I watched was Bryan Kerchal, which was very cool,” Timmy Klinger (center) said. “Such a young guy flipping a little 4-inch worm around docks. I will never forget about the hamburger flipping kid!” Ryan Lavigne (right), the unlikely Nation champion because he came from the non-boater side, also favors Kerchal while Darrell Ocamica (left) said Omori. 19 / 45 “Ironically, the first remembrance of a Classic that sticks out to me is the 1994 Classic on High Rock,” Lavigne said. “I remember being in awe that Bryan Kerchal, a ‘Wrangler Angler,’ won the super bowl of bass fishing. This gave hope to every weekend angler out there to have a shot to excel on the biggest stage in bass fishing. I say ironically because I was fortunate enough to qualify through B.A.S.S. Nation, the current Wrangler Anglers.” 20 / 45 Ocamica said his greatest memory is more on an alluring level. “Takahiro’s last-minute catches to win is my favorite because I am a crankbait fisherman,” he said. 21 / 45 So what would Takahiro Omori himself list as his first remembrance? “Basser magazine (Japan’s first ever bass fishing only magazine) had a story about 1987 Classic that George Cochran won. I was in high school in Japan but when I read that story. ‘I knew it’ was yet to come!!” Wow, Tak had to be rather confident and optimistic to move across an ocean and all. 22 / 45 Ott DeFoe was also inspired by Cochran, this time for his 1996 Classic win on Lay Lake. It was the first Classic that DeFoe, 11 at the time, attended. “It lit the passion in me that is still there to win it someday,” he said. “Seeing everything about the sport at that young age made me want to be involved in it. From the show with all the new boats and equipment to the weigh-in stage, it was the coolest experience ever!” 23 / 45 Randy Howell, winner of the 2014 Guntersville Classic, goes to another legend’s win for his memory. “My basketball coach, Mr. Todd, was a big fishing fan in N.C. He invited me to attend the 1989 Bassmaster Classic in Richmond, Va. I was 15 years old. The final day weigh-in of Hank Parker winning inspired me to chase the dream!” Hank Cherry also gave Parker’s win his top memory, because, “He is our hometown hero.” He also recalls this exchange. “Put them on the scale Dewey! Put them on the scale!! Let's see what I got,” and that anglers didn’t talk with Ray Scott until their fish were weighed. 24 / 45 Another who pointed to Parker, a two-time Classic champ, was Brent Ehrler, but his fascination was with Parker’s winning bait. “Someone gave me some Bassmaster Magazines and I was checking them out. I was obsessed with a spinnerbait at the time,” said Ehrler, about 12 when Parker won. “I hadn’t caught a fish on it. I was just amazed at this wire/blade/skirt thing that would actually catch fish. I bought a handful of them and I’m pretty sure the first fish I caught on a spinnerbait was on Hank's blade.” 25 / 45 Woo Daves was a family friend of Jacob Powroznik, so Powroznik’s first memory of a Classic was easy. “Watching Woo Daves win the Classic … hoping one day that it could be me,” Powroznik said. 26 / 45 Bradley Roy has grown up on the Elite Series and he actually did get to fish at the first Classic he attended. “My first remembrance of a Classic weigh-in was 2004,” he said. “I was 13 at the time and qualified to fish the Junior World Championship, which they ran in conjunction with the Classic the week before. The Classic competitors were our boat captains. Long story short I ended up winning my division and got to go up on the Classic stage before weigh-in one day to receive my trophy. That was my first time attending a Classic and I haven’t missed one since.” This will be his first one he’s competed in. 27 / 45 Open winner Skylar Hamilton can’t go back too far since he’s only 22, but he has a great perspective. “My very first memory of a Bassmaster Classic was the 2008 Classic on Hartwell. I was 13 years old and remember watching the action unfold sitting on my couch,” he said. 28 / 45 “Definitely one of the factors that drove me to be a professional angler was watching Charlie Hartley during that Classic,” Hamilton said. “I’ve always pulled for the underdog and seeing someone that I could relate to even at my young age really motivated me to try to one day fish in the Classic. Thanks, Charlie!” And Hamilton will get to meet Mr. Hartley this week. 29 / 45 Yes, Hartley, who fell out of the Elites, won an Open in 2016 and will be fishing Lake Conroe, where it’s said he camped out much like he did for his other Classic at Hartwell. What is Hartley’s memory? Go back some folks, Charlie’s 52. 30 / 45 “Rick Clunn's face when he was pulled into the arena at Pine Bluff, Ark. The look on his face was incredible - zen-like,” Hartley said. (We don’t have a picture of that but the famous one with the two future presidents). “It reflected an emotion that few humans have experienced. Very rare air! He is incredible! Proud to call him my friend! P.S.: When I was young, I thought bass pros were the coolest guys on the planet. Still do!” Right back at ya, Charlie. 31 / 45 Brandon Palaniuk, 29, has two top 5 finishes in his six Classic appearances, but he can’t point to anything specific. “I would have to say it was around 8 years old. I don't remember the exact time I saw anything about it, but the first time I heard about it was the day I was introduced to bass fishing and realized that I wanted to do it for a living.” 32 / 45 Andy Montgomery’s desire to fish was triggered when he attended the 2004 Lake Wylie Classic and watched local heroes Chris Baumgardner and Jason Quinn weigh in. “I remember telling my buddy Nathan sitting with me that somehow I’m going to fish in the Classic one day,” he said. “I still remember how driven I was leaving that weigh-in to fish for a living.” 33 / 45 Randall Tharp, 48, has two odd experiences in the first Classic he attended, things he’ll never forget. “I was standing on the dock watching all of my fishing idols’ boats being put in the water, and none other than Roland Martin is being backed in,” Tharp said. “He gasses it coming off the trailer while turning the wheel to spin the boat around. His motor sputters and cuts off and then rams the dock full of spectators, busting the brand new fiberglass cowling on the outboard. To this day it’s one of the funniest things I have ever seen.” 34 / 45 “On our way back to Birmingham that day, my family and I stopped at Waffle House. We were finishing up our meal and Ray Scott and Forrest Wood walk in to eat,” Tharp said. “I had never met either of them and was honestly speechless at first. They both signed my hat and we gave them our table as we left. We still talk about that experience to this day.” 35 / 45 Rookie Elite angler Jesse Wiggins, 27, made some Classic history himself this year - he qualified for his second Classic before fishing his first. His first remembrance comes from Skeet Reese’s victory in the 2009 event on the Red River. “I knew the Classic was a thing, but I played sports in high school and kind of fell away from the Bassmasters,” he said. “But I realize I was not going to play college football, and I wanted to be a pro fisherman.” 36 / 45 Matt Herren, 54, goes back to around the time he graduated high school, when someone not much older than him won. “My first memory of a Classic is when Stanley Mitchell won … just how young he was. And it was on the Alabama River. Really lit a fire in me.” Mitchell remains the youngest to ever win a Classic at 21 years, 5 months and 19 days. 37 / 45 Dave Lefebre, 46, of Erie, Penn., read his memory in Bassmaster Magazine. “I was 12 or 13 and was ate up with bass fishing. I had a huge collection of Rapala original floaters and countdown minnows and not much more. My Dad had just subscribed me to Bassmaster. This was when I first found out there were fishing competitions in general, not just the Classic. Larry Nixon won that one (it was in Ohio, one state over) with a spinnerbait and I remember thinking how dumb that bait looked, (lol).” 38 / 45 “But I bought a couple at K-mart right away, a white one and a yellow one. They had that old, flat, wide living rubber and hammered Colorado blades. They worked really good on my small home lake, Lake LeBoeuf, and that opened my eyes to become more versatile and to keep trying new things. With all the baits I own now, it’s crazy to think that some of those same old Rapalas still reside in my arsenal to this day. I lost those first couple spinnerbaits to Pike though and had to buy more.” 39 / 45 As second oldest in this Classic, Boyd Duckett, 56, goes back a ways - you didn’t think there’d only be two anglers whose imagination was captured by Rick Clunn? “My first memory of the Classic was the 1976 Classic at Guntersville. Rick Clunn was my favorite through Bassmaster Magazine. I had only heard of Guntersville and learned more about it through coverage of that Classic. Funny, I now live here today by choice and the long time draw to Guntersville probably started with that Classic!” 40 / 45 Others point to probably the most widely known bass fishing tournament of all-time, the 1984 Classic. Bobby Lane, who just turned 43, had the details. “The first thing that I can think of as my first memory of a Classic would have to be Ray Scott weighing in a seven-fish limit for Rick Clunn in a see-through plastic bag. I am pretty sure he weighed in 27 pounds that day and won the Classic going away.” Yes, he won by 25 pounds, which still stands as the largest margin. 41 / 45 Probably the favorite on Lake Conroe, Keith Combs, 41, also enjoyed Clunn’s Arkansas River win. “I think it was in 1984, which was way before I ever fished my first tournament,” said Combs, about 9 at the time. “I remember him catching them on a crankbait.” 42 / 45 After Clunn won his fourth Classic, California’s Ish Monroe was all about him, too. “It was 1990. I was 16 and I remember Rick Clunn won on a RC crankbait,” he said. “He had his tongue hanging out like Michael Jordan on the front cover of Bassmaster Mag. I went out a got $100 worth of RC baits and swore I was going to be Rick Clunn.” 43 / 45 Kevin VanDam, who tied Clunn with his fourth Classic crown in 2011, said Clunn’s incredible come-from-behind win in 1990 captured his attention. “It was a big deal to me. It’s the first indelible memory,” he said. “It was about the time I was starting to fish full-time on the B.A.S.S. circuit.” 44 / 45 Of course, there’s a number of pros inspired by KVD - 2015 Classic champ Casey Ashley among them. “First Classic I really remember was the one KVD won at Louisiana Delta (2001). I believe I was about 18 or 19. I didn’t get to go to it because I was on vacation with my all buddies at Myrtle Beach, but we all made sure to watch it!” 45 / 45 Justin Lucas, 30, must have been all about fishing to get a trip from northern California to western Pennsylvania. “My mom took me to the Pittsburgh Classic in 2005,” Lucas said. “We flew out from California and watched Aaron and KVD battle it out. It fired me up and I will never forget it.” Yeah, watching KVD celebrate on stage would fire just about anyone up.