Classic XXVI Aug. 8-10, 1996

LAY LAKE, Ala. The scouting report on Alabama's Lay Lake predicted bass would be holding deep along river ledges, to escape the brutal summer heat.

But George Cochran knew better. Just as he had done to win the Classic nine years earlier, Cochran went against conventional wisdom in the 1996 Bassmaster Classic.

Fishing a shallow, stump-filled pool in Bulley Creek, the Arkansas pro brought a winning total 31 pounds, 14 ounces.

Cochran ranked fifth after the first day with five bass weighing 10-14. He was using a variety of lures in a variety of places, but his best combination appeared to be a 3/4-ounce white Strike King Premier Pro Model spinnerbait with two Colorado blades.

He slow rolled the spinnerbait through the stumps, or flipped weeds and occasional boat docks with a red Riverside Pro Rib worm.

He also fished a 1/4-ounce buzzbait, a Cordell Little O crankbait and a tube jig rigged for flipping.

Of note

" The top three finishers fished within 100 yards of each other in Blue Springs Creek for much of the tournament.

" George Cochran has 10 top 10 Classic finishes and five top five Classic finishes.

" The 1999 Classic was the hottest in history. The first and final rounds topped out at 96 degrees.

Top 6 finishers
1. George Cochran Hot Springs, Ark. 31-14
2. Davy Hite Prosperity, S.C. 30-14
3. Mickey Bruce Buford, Ga. 26-15
4. Bud Pruitt Houston, Texas 23-06
5. Ray Sedgwick Cross, S.C. 23-04
6. Kevin VanDam Kalamazoo, Mich. 22-08