Several years ago, a company planning an ad campaign around the Bassmaster Classic contacted me about a claim they were making.
They were certain that their lures had been responsible for more Classic victories than any other manufacturer, and they had created a print ad to that effect, showing each of the baits — still in production (at that time) — and the champion anglers.
Of course, there was a problem. Their baits did not lead all others in Classic wins … and it wasn’t even close.
You get that sort of disconnect between reality and advertising from time to time, especially when there’s not a lot of fact-checking going on. I suppose the company was concerned that they might get called out by another manufacturer, so they did a little due diligence. Good thing for them.
As we head into bass fishing’s most important tournament, it seems a good time to review the brands that have led the way to more victories than any others. Here are the leaders when it comes to most Classic wins.
Classic Winning Lures
- Strike King 9
- Bagley 5
- Cotton Cordell 5
- Mann’s 5
- Berkley 4
- Bomber 4
- Luck-E-Strike 4
- Zoom 4
Classic Winning Rods
- Daiwa 13
- Quantum 8
- Berkley 5
Classic Winning Reels
- Daiwa 15
- Abu Garcia 14
- Quantum 10
Classic Winning Lines
- Stren 15
- Trilene 15
- Bass Pro Shops 5
I’ve also tracked the lures for biggest bass of each Classic. Here are the top manufacturers in that category.
Big Bass at the Classic Awards
- Berkley 5
- Strike King 4
- Yamamoto 3
- Zoom 3
What does all this tell us? Probably less about the baits than about the anglers who were sponsored. After all, you might make the best lure in the bass world, but if no one competing in the Classic is using it, you won’t get a piece of that spotlight.
For many years, there was a perceived (and sometimes very real) gap between what tournament anglers used on the water and what they said they used at the post-tournament press conference. This gap has narrowed significantly as tournament coverage has increased and become more invasive. With cameras seemingly everywhere, it’s tough to hide anything from the audience.
For the most part, that’s a great thing. We all want the best information we can get.
Ironically, as information on the equipment used to win the Classic and other high-profile tournaments has gotten more reliable, the value of the win may be waning. Forty years ago, the fact that a lure won the Super Bowl of bass fishing meant that most bass anglers were going to find and buy one. Today, the consumer is savvier. He understands that what worked on high, cold, muddy waters in Tennessee might not serve him so well on a natural lake in Florida, a tidal river in Virginia or a canyon reservoir in Arizona. It’s not always true that an educated consumer is your best customer. That educated consumer knows there is no magic lure or color. He’s not as easily tempted as the novice.
What is a Bassmaster Classic win worth?
So, what is a Bassmaster Classic win worth to a sponsor that manufactures the winning lure, rod, reel or line? The answer, of course, is “It depends.”
It depends on whether the product is new or old.
It depends on how universally applicable the item is. If it’s perceived as only good for cold, muddy water — conditions when most anglers would prefer to stay home — it’s not going to catch fire.
It depends on how innovative and different the item is. Is it revolutionary or basically indistinguishable from a hundred similar things.
It depends on the nature of the win. Did the champ blow ‘em out or did he just squeak by?
It depends on the company’s reputation.
It depends on the company’s production chain. Can they make a lot of them fast — when demand will be highest — or will it take them months to fulfill production, while interest wanes, competitors scramble to copy them off and anglers forget about them.
It depends on the company’s distribution. Can they get the item to your right away — while you can sell them?
It depends on the product’s price.
It depends on who won. A win by Kevin VanDam is (let’s be honest) worth a lot more than a win by an unknown BASS Nation angler.
And it depends on the marketing skills and budget of the company that makes the product.
That last one is easily the biggest factor of all.