If you're a student of the sport and the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, you probably know many of the highlights surrounding this world championship event. But we bet there are still a few things you didn't know.
There have only been six wire-to-wire Classic winners in 34 years. Rick Clunn accomplished the feat twice, in 1977 and 1984. The other Classic dominators were Hank Parker (1979), Bo Dowden (1980), Stanley Mitchell (1981) and Jay Yelas (2002). Yelas accomplished the unthinkable when he not only led the event wire-to-wire but also took big bass honors all three days.
Did you know that four Classic anglers have suffered the indignity of leading the sport's biggest tournament for the first two days only to be passed at the finish line? Paul Chamblee did it in 1975, finishing third. Then, for three years in a row, first place was the last place you wanted to be going into the final round. In 1989, Jim Bitter fell to second place. A year later, it was Tommy Biffle's turn to take the runner-up spot. And in 1991, Zell Rowland slipped from first to fourth.
Any serious Classic buff can tell you that Ricky Green holds the record for the biggest bass ever caught in the championship with an 8-pound, 9-ounce, bass he took on the second day of competition at the 1976 Classic on Lake Guntersville. Did you know that the second biggest bass ever caught in Classic history was taken the same day? That's right, Classic legend Rick Clunn caught a 7-pound, 13-ounce largemouth that same day, but the catch quickly faded into obscurity.
The smallest bass ever to win the daily lunker award was a 2-pound, 8-ounce fish caught by Roger Farmer on the final day of the 1983 Classic on the Ohio River.
Denny Brauer holds the record for most Classics fished 16 before finally winning it. Roland Martin has qualified for 25 Classics without ever tasting victory.
Everyone knows that Mark Davis is the only CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year to follow his title with a Classic win in the same season. But fishing's greatest regular season honor doesn't always mean Classic success. The biggest fall from grace? Tim Horton won the 2000 Angler-of-the-Year title and finished dead last out of 46 just a few months later. And 2004 Angler-of-the-Year winner Gerald Swindle was 51st among 53 competitors at last year's Classic.
The Bassmaster Classic is not often the stage for heroic comebacks. If you find yourself back in the pack at the end of the first day, the anglers ahead of you are just too good to let you pass them by. Nevertheless, there have been a handful of great come-from-behind performances. Perhaps the best such charge was led by the late Don Butler at the 1972 Classic. After finding himself mired in 14th place and down by nearly 13 pounds, Butler mounted an amazing comeback on the second and third days to win the second Classic.
Dion Hibdon, son of 1988 Classic champion Guido Hibdon, won the 1997 Classic on Alabama's Lake Logan Martin, making the Hibdons the first father-son team to own Classic crowns. We bet you didn't know that Dion fished each practice day of the event with his mother, Stella. He couldn't fish with his dad because Guido was a professional angler with experience on the Classic site. In six practice days, Stella outfished Dion every time they hit the water.
Rick Clunn added to the lore of the Classic and his personal legend when he won his fourth championship in 1990. After the first day, Clunn was in 14th place and more than 8 pounds off the lead. After the second day, things weren't much better. He had moved up four places in the standings but had lost ground in the weight column and was down by more than 9 pounds. That just made his victory sweeter. Clunn came out of nowhere to make the tournament's biggest catch on the third and final day and erased any doubt about who is the greatest competitor in Classic history.
Three time Classic qualifier Mark Menendez holds the record for Classic turnaround but in the wrong direction. After taking the opening lead in the 2003 Classic on the Louisiana Delta, Menendez's fish disappeared, and he slipped all the way back to 23rd place before things were over more than 16 pounds out of first.
This year, Pennsylvania's Dave Wolak and Ed Cowan will be trying to overcome a 34-year jinx. No competitor residing in the state hosting the Classic has ever won the event, though a few have come close. In 1982, 1988 and 1997, Jack Chancellor, Woo Daves and Dalton Bobo, respectively, finished second in Classics held in their home states.
Qualifying for the Classic from the Federation ranks is one of the greatest accomplishments in the sport. Few Federation anglers make it to the Big Dance via that route more than once, but Zimbabwe's Gerry Jooste has done it four times, including this year. Michigan's Art Ferguson is the only angler in history to qualify for the Classic more than once from both the Federation ranks (1990 and 1999) and as a pro (2000 and 2004).
Rick Clunn holds the Classic record for most Top 5 finishes with an astounding 11. But did you know that Woo Daves and Tommy Martin are second with six apiece? Similarly, Clunn has the record for most Top 10 finishes with 16, while two time Classic champ George Cochran is second with 10. Roland Martin has nine Top 10s with no wins to show for them!
Of course, Clunn also holds the record for most consecutive Classic appearances with a seemingly unbreakable 28. But did you know that Danny Correia and David Gregg share the dubious distinction of having gone the longest stretches between Classics at 16 years apiece?
One record that you might assume Clunn holds is that of 'best average finish' in the Classic. Surprisingly, he's fourth among those anglers who have 10 or more appearances on their résumés. Guido Hibdon leads the pack with an average finish of 8.7 in his 10 Classics. Hank Parker (10.1) and Ricky Green (10.9) both averaged a 10th place finish in 13 and 14 Classics, respectively, while Clunn has an average finish of 11.9 in 28 Classics. He has a chance to move up this year.
Seven Classic "rookies" have won the Big Dance: Bobby Murray (1971), Rayo Breckenridge (1973), Tommy Martin (1974), Jack Hains (1975), Stanley Mitchell (1981), Charlie Reed (1986) and David Fritts (1993).