- Ken Duke
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The Bassmaster Classic was born in the desert of the Nevada, but it's rarely thrived so well as in the Louisiana Delta. The 2011 edition was a record setter in lots of ways.
For starters, Kevin VanDam joined Rick Clunn as the only anglers to win four Bassmaster Classics and two in a row. Clunn won his back-to-back titles in 1976 and 1977.
Though the Classic has been to several venues on more than one occasion (including four times on the Louisiana Delta), KVD becomes the first angler to win twice on the same body of water.
His $500,000 payday puts VanDam over the $5 million mark. What's more, his career earnings ($5,078,976.30) are more than the second- (Skeet Reese) and third-place (Denny Brauer) anglers on the all-time money list combined!
For the second straight time, VanDam has won the Classic and the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year award in the same season. Only Mark Davis (1995) had accomplished the feat before.
VanDam's winning weight (69-11) is the heaviest ever tallied in the five-bass-limit era (easily surpassing Luke Clausen's 56-2 from 2006) and the second heaviest ever. Only Rick Clunn's winning total from 1984 of 75-8 (when the daily creel limit was seven bass) weighed more.
Over three days, the Delta gave up 1,506-5 a little more than three quarters of a ton, and the third best total in Classic history. Only the Red River in 2009 and Lake Toho in 2006 did better.
The Delta also produced the third best average bass in Classic history. The average fish here weighed 2-11. Best was 2-15 from the St. Lawrence River in 1980.
Perhaps most impressive were the top weights from the Delta, which completely rewrote the record books. Not only did KVD surpass the old mark (56-2), but so did Aaron Martens and Derek Remitz. Six of the top 11 totals in the five-bass-limit all came from the Delta this year.
Of course, by now everyone knows that Martens has finished second for the fourth time in the Classic. It's not only a record, but it doubles the next highest total. Tommy Biffle, Denny Brauer, Rick Clunn and Ricky Green all finished second twice.
VanDam's 10-pound, 11-ounce margin of victory was the third greatest of all time. The biggest in history was Clunn's 25-8 in 1984.
KVD now has nine top 5 Classic finishes second only to Clunn's 11. He has 13 top 10 finishes again, second to Clunn with 16.
VanDam and Gary Klein have now surpassed the 600-pound mark in career Classic weights. Clunn leads the way with 772-2.
VanDam and Clunn are now tied in the category of most days leading the Bassmaster Classic with nine.
Boyd Duckett's 8-15 lunker in the final round was the biggest ever on the last day of the Classic and the sixth biggest of all time. Russ Lane's 7-12 on Day Two was the third biggest ever in that round.
At 43 years, 4 months and 6 days, VanDam is the 10th oldest angler ever to win a Classic. Woo Daves was the oldest at 54-2-28 in 2000.
And VanDam surpassed Roland Martin's longstanding record of 19 career B.A.S.S. wins in style at the Classic. With 20, it appears he can rest easy that the mark won't be broken by anyone else during his career.
Brandon Palaniuk's fourth-place finish is tied for fourth best all-time among Federation Nation qualifiers. Bryan Kerchal leads the way, of course, with his championship in 1994. Danny Correia (1986) and Dalton Bobo (1997) finished second, and Terry McWilliams was fourth (2007).
5hEric D. Williams