Back-to-back for RC and KVD
Two doesn't seem like a big number until you attach it to consecutive Bassmaster Classic titles. Then it seems almost unattainable. Only two men have done it, but they're two of the giants in the sport's history. Rick Clunn was the first to accomplish the feat in 1976 and 1977, first on Lake Guntersville and then on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The '76 title came on the last "mystery lake" Classic; in '77 he won the first Classic where competitors had advance notice of the destination. Kevin VanDam matched him in 2010 and 2011 on Lay Lake and the Louisiana Delta, respectively. Both men have won two other Classics, but it's the back-to-back championships that most impress.
Three shall be the number of the counting
While we're on the subject of wins, we might as well cover consecutive wins of any kind on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail. For that, the record is three, and it's held by the two anglers who have won more B.A.S.S. events than any others. Roland Martin (with 19 career wins) pulled it off in the early 1980s on Lake Okeechobee, Toledo Bend Reservoir and Lake Eufaula (the one on the Georgia-Alabama state line). Kevin VanDam (20 career wins) matched him in 2005 with wins at Lake Lewisville (Texas), Lake Wissota (Wisconsin) and Pittsburgh's Three Rivers. The last of those was KVD's second Bassmaster Classic title.
If this gallery seems like the Kevin VanDam show, you're right. There's a reason he's generally regarded as the best ever to cast a rod and reel. Four is the number of consecutive Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year awards he won from 2008 to 2011, breaking Roland Martin's mark of three in a row between 1971 and '73. Martin still has the record for total AOYs with nine, but no one can match KVD's string of four, and his total of seven AOYs is next best to Martin.
The goal of every Bassmaster Elite Series angler is to fish on Sunday. That's the fourth and final day of Elite competition, where the trophies and big paydays are earned. Between the last two events of the inaugural 2006 season and the first four stops in 2007, Skeet Reese fished every Sunday and never placed lower than 10th, despite competing on rivers, tidal waters and impoundments ranging from California to Maryland and several states in between. Aaron Martens matched him with six straight finals appearances between the second half of the 2013 season and the first event in 2014.
An even dozen
The most prestigious award in all of bass fishing is the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year trophy. To win it is to establish yourself as the very best in the sport. To perennially challenge for the title is to claim your place among the all-time greats. For 12 seasons between 1977 and 1988, Larry Nixon never ranked lower than eighth. For nine of those years — consecutively (1979-87) — he was in the top five. It's the best AOY run anyone has ever posted, though Kevin VanDam has come close. KVD is currently on a string of nine straight years of placing seventh or better, and in the 11 seasons from 1992 through 2002, he was never lower than ninth.
Pencil him in
Between 1974 and 2001, Rick Clunn never missed a Bassmaster Classic. That's 28 in a row, and it may be the most iconic number in the world of professional bass fishing. During that streak, Clunn won four Classics, was runner-up twice, finished in the top five 11 times and absolutely dominated fishing's biggest, brightest stage, earning Classic berths under the terms of seven different U.S. presidents. When the string was over, the biggest news in the industry was that the Classic would go on without him. The record helped propel him to a landslide victory in ESPN's Greatest Angler Debate (2005).
This streak just ended at the St. Johns River after 29 events. From May 2010 to March of 2014, Kevin VanDam made the first cut and earned a check in 29 consecutive Elite Series tournaments. The string included three full seasons (2011 through 2013) and covered waters as far ranging as Guntersville and Grand, the Mississippi River and a couple of the Great Lakes. His worst finish during that stretch was 45th place. And by the way, KVD also has the second longest in-the-money streak in Elite history at 16 (2008-10). Overall, he's earned prize money in 93 percent of the Elite events he's fished. No one else is even close to that mark.
This is another streak that's in progress. The 44th edition of the Bassmaster Classic recently concluded on Alabama's Lake Guntersville, and for every one of those championships there has been at least one competitor from the state of Arkansas. And we can all but guarantee that the Natural State will be represented in 2015, too, because Mount Ida's Mark Davis is off to such a strong start in the Elite Series that he seems a lock to qualify already. Occasionally the number of Arkansas qualifiers has been precariously low — just one in 2012 — but there's always been someone. Though Texas leads the way (by a large margin) in sending the most qualifiers to the Classic, no one from the Lone Star State made it in 1973. Similarly, North Carolina and Oklahoma suffered a one year lapse in 1971 and 2001, respectively.
Move over Joe
To be competitive at the highest levels of professional fishing, you must find a way to catch a limit of five keeper bass every day, day in and day out, rain or shine, hot or cold, north or south, shallow or deep, muddy or clear. For 57 straight competition days between March 13, 2008 and June 12, 2009, Kevin VanDam did just that. If a limit of bass is the equivalent of a b
ase hit in baseball, VanDam's accomplishment is akin to Joe DiMaggio's consecutive game hitting streak in 1941 ... but KVD was one better.
As you know, 365 is the number of days in a year. It's also the number of consecutive days that legendary bass writer Jason Lucas fished ... for at least eight hours each time. The feat was no stunt. It was how the longtime Sports Afield fishing editor gathered the know-how he passed along to his readers. You got no "armchair theories" from him, thank you very much. Lucas' books and articles were full of practical bass-catching information that made him the foremost bass scribe of his time and absolutely the most important bass writer since Dr. James A. Henshall.