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Clunn Goes Back-to-Back

5/13/2008

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The 1977 Bassmaster Classic was different from any that preceded it in several ways.

For one, it was held on Lake Tohopekaliga in Central Florida, so it promised to be hotter than any of the other events which to that point had always been held in the fall of the year. Toho's expansive shallow flats and grassbeds also promised to confound many of the competitors.

For another, it was the first Classic for which the contenders and fans had advance notice of the location. The news was out a week prior to the tournament so media and fans could make arrangements to be there.

Defending champion Rick Clunn didn't care one way or the other about the advance notice. But he wasn't very excited about the location of the 1977 Classic. Florida was not his favorite fishing venue.

"On Toho, it is going to take more luck than skill to win the Classic, and for me that's bad," Clunn continued. "I never want to go into a tournament thinking that I have to win by luck ... but here I am.

"Historically, I've never done well fishing in Florida." he said. "I've never caught more than 13 pounds total in any Florida tournament, never won a cent."

That was about to change. Clunn would not only do very well in Florida at this tournament, but he'd also benefit from a little luck.

On the first day of the Classic, Clunn took off in search of a place he had caught fish three years earlier, but early morning fog put him off course (these were the days before GPS) by about 100 yards. His second cast with an inline buzzbait produced a 7-pound, 7-ounce lunker that would hold up as big bass of the tournament.

Clunn's Day 1 catch of 9 bass (there was a 10-bass limit) weighed 19-10 — good enough for a 4-6 lead over Larry Nixon. Over the next two days Clunn would hang on to win his second championship in a row as the entire field struggled to catch any fish at all. Clunn's three-day total of 27-7 (he caught only three bass over the final two days) was just enough. Only two other anglers were able to post totals that exceeded his first day's catch — Larry Nixon and Bo Dowden, who finished second and third, respectively.

"I won the tournament the first day," Clunn said. "The other two days I was just hanging on. Those last two days were strictly a matter of survival."

In his long Classic career Clunn has won almost every way imaginable — by dominating, by coming from behind and by "just hanging on." His second Classic title solidified his position as one of the sport's elite performers.

Clunn would win the championship again in 1984 and 1990, clearly establishing himself as the leading man on fishing's biggest stage. His domination of the Classic has been complete and daunting. Some of his Classic records include: