Twelve seems like a harmless enough number until you bring it up to Peter Thliveros, or Peter "T," as his many fans know him.
Thliveros has enjoyed a stellar career as a BASS professional, winning seven BASS events (tied for eighth all-time), earning more than $1.75 million in prize money (fourth all-time) and winning both Bassmaster Memorial tournaments.
But there's a blemish on the Florida pro's remarkable career, and it's the Bassmaster Classic.
You see, although Thliveros has fished 12 Classics and qualified for his 13th this year, the Classic has been his nemesis. In 12 tries he's never finished higher than 11th place.
That's the standard for Classic futility. After 38 Classics, only 11 anglers have competed in five or more yet never finished in the Top 10. Thliveros tops that list.
Four other anglers who are fishing this year's Classic are also on the list — Randy Howell (seven Classics and never better than 11th), Bernie Schultz (seven Classics and never better than 11th), Ish Monroe (five Classics and never better than 14th) and Mike McClelland (five Classics and never better than 12th).
Surely one of them can break through in 2009!
Peter T has had his chances over the years. In 1990, at his second Classic, Thliveros posted the best weight of any angler on Day 2 (14 pounds, 7 ounces), but had zeroed on Day 1 so his big catch only boosted him into the teens. Less than 2 pounds on the final day dropped him to 21st.
In 1994 he was in sixth place going into the final day at High Rock Lake in North Carolina when a final round catch of just 5-3 pushed him to 11th, his best Classic finish to date.
Five years later, at the Louisiana Delta, Thliveros was eighth after the first day — 5 pounds off the lead. On Day 2 he fell to ninth and on the last day to 13th. Nevertheless, it was his second best Classic finish.
He last finished in the teens in 2003 — also on the Delta — when he was 14th. Since then he's fished three Classics and never made the Top 25 cut to fish on Sunday. In 2004 he finished 27th; in 2007 he was 37th and in 2008 he was 32nd.
To sum it up, the Bassmaster Classic hasn't been the greatest venue for Peter T's skills. To make matters worse, the Red River in February may not be the quick fix he's hoping for. Although Thliveros has only fished one BASS tournament on the river — a 2001 Tour event — he was a dismal 127th out of 155 anglers.
But we shouldn't lose sight of the most important fact here. Peter T may never have cracked the Top 10 at the Classic in 12 tries, but that's still a dozen times that he qualified for fishing's greatest prize and a dozen times that he's been among the very best in the business. Few can claim such consistency.
And just maybe 13 will be a lucky charm for Peter T. We'll know in less than two weeks.
Tomorrow we'll find out why 11 is a big number if you're talking bass weight ... and we will be.
For the full countdown to the 39th Bassmaster Classic, click here.