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Classic Countdown: 6

2/15/2009

Six has never had the sweetness of 16, the roundness of 10, the luck of seven or even the natural appeal of five. But six is still a good, solid number with a lot going for it ... at least if you don't do it in triplicate (666 has a tainted reputation).

And six is a historic number in the annals of the Bassmaster Classic. It's important to the BASS Federation Nation, shows that great anglers can sometimes bomb, tells us what's average in this year's Classic and harkens back to the last time the world's greatest fishing tournament came to the Sportsman's Paradise.

Let's start with the Federation Nation. Six speaks volumes to the dedicated anglers of the BFN. It represents the number of amateur qualifiers that the Nation sends to the Bassmaster Classic each year. But, of course, it hasn't always been that way.

At the first Classic there were no Federation Nation qualifiers — none. It was the same for the second Classic.

It wasn't until the third Classic — in 1973 — that an amateur was invited. That year Wendall Mann of Snow Camp, N.C., earned his way to the big dance. He finished 26th out of 26, but he forged the way for hundreds of future BFN qualifiers.


From 1973 to 1980, one BFN angler qualified for the Classic each year. In 1981, the Federation Nation was divided into five divisions and each division sent an angler to the Classic. That number was bumped to — say it! — six in 2006 when the division boundaries were reset.

It's been six ever since.

Six also tells the tale of Classic champions who have struggled in the extreme. It's not all glory at the Bassmaster Classic. There's plenty of the agony of defeat, too.

Just ask Denny Brauer, Woo Daves, Michael Iaconelli, Bryan Kerchal, Charlie Reed or Jay Yelas. Each of these former Classic champs also had the ignominious distinction of finishing last. Of course, no one remembers that. We all remember the fanfare of their wins, not the disappointment of their losses.

Of the six who have finished both first and last, only Kerchal did it in back-to-back Classics. In 1993 he was last among 41 anglers. The next year he was first among 40.

And if you like averages, you may be interested to know that the anglers in this year's Classic average 6.51 Classic appearances, counting this year's championship.

Finally, let's take a look back at the Classic of six years ago. It was the last time the championship visited Louisiana and the first time that Michael Iaconelli took the world stage.

Iaconelli was a relatively unknown bespectacled angler at the time. His screaming and enthusiasm were new (and controversial) to the fishing public. It was the first time break dancing and blood-curdling screams had ever been witnessed on the Classic stage.

It was also the first time a Classic competitor had ever been shot at during competition. That's what happened to Gary Klein as he approached his best water on the final day. Naturally, he chose another area and Iaconelli became a star.

It was a dramatic Classic that will live in the hearts and minds of thousands of fishing fans for a very long time.

Tomorrow we're all about five and the Kevin VanDam show. But we'll also make a little room for the 5-bass limit and winner-take-all tournaments.


For the full countdown to the 39th Bassmaster Classic, click here.