Classic Countdown: 9

Like the game of baseball, the 2009 Bassmaster Classic abounds with the number 9.

In baseball it's nine players per side, nine innings, and even three strikes per three batters per half inning is just another way of saying nine.

At the 2009 Classic, nine is all about the number of qualifiers from Alabama, the number of champions living in Texas when they won and the number of former Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Anglers of the Year in this year's field.

Let's start with the Heart of Dixie. With nine qualifiers in this year's Classic, Alabama leads the way ... again. For the past three Classics Alabama has posted the most qualifiers in the Classic.

Here are the Alabama qualifiers eager to show the power of their numbers:

Kim Bain-Moore, Alabaster
Boyd Duckett, Demopolis
Matt Herren, Trussville
Randy Howell, Springville
Tim Horton, Muscle Shoals
Steve Kennedy, Auburn
Kotaro Kiriyama, Moody
Aaron Martens, Leeds
Greg Pugh, Cullman

Bain-Moore, Herren and Pugh are all Classic rookies. The rest are veterans of the big dance. And if it's any consolation to the rookies, Boyd Duckett won the 2007 Classic as a rookie.

The state which usually sends the most qualifiers to the Classic is Texas, which has not only sent the most overall in history with 263, but also has the single season record with 12 in 1983.

And Texas brings us to our next point.

The Lone Star State has the record for producing the most Classic champs with — how'd you know? — nine. Granted, four of them were Rick Clunn back when he called Montgomery, Texas, home, but that's still an impressive number.

Here are the champs who were living in Texas when they won fishing's biggest title:

Tommy Martin, 1974
Rick Clunn, 1976, 1977, 1984 and 1990
Larry Nixon, 1983
Jay Yelas, 2002
Takahiro Omori, 2004
Alton Jones, 2008

This year's field boasts seven Texans, and each one would love to add another championship to the Lone Star State's win column. These are the Texans with a chance to win this year:

Michael Burns, Plano
Todd Faircloth, Jasper
Alton Jones, Waco
Kelly Jordon, Mineola
Gary Klein, Weatherford
Bryan Schmidt, Olney
Byron Velvick, Del Rio

Three of the Texans (Burns, Schmidt and Velvick) are rookies. The rest are Classic regulars. Only Jones (the defending champ) has tasted victory at the Classic.

Our final tie to the number nine involves someone from each of the previous lists. This nine is the number of former Anglers of the Year in this year's Classic field.

They are:

Rick Clunn, 1988
Mark Davis, 1995, 1998 and 2001
Davy Hite, 1997 and 2002
Tim Horton, 2000
Michael Iaconelli, 2006
Gary Klein, 1989 and 1993
Aaron Martens, 2005
Skeet Reese, 2007
Kevin VanDam, 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2008

You could make that number 10 if you added Kim Bain-Moore to it. She was the 2008 Toyota Tundra Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year. But until she can add an AOY from the Elite Series to her list of accolades, she's on the outside looking in at this group.

Come back tomorrow and find out why eight is the number for Classic rookies and flashes in the pan.

For the full countdown to the 39th Bassmaster Classic, click here.