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Hooks and Antlers: Bassmaster Classic starts Friday

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Because of the presence of the Bassmaster Elite Series at Waddington this past summer, the upcoming 2014 Bassmaster Classic will likely attract significant attention from angling fans across the north country. This year’s Classic is set for this Friday through Sunday at Lake Guntersville, Ala., where anglers will compete for a one million dollar purse, including $300,000 for the winner.

Among the 56 anglers from 23 states competing in the 2014 Classic is Brandon Palaniuk of Idaho who qualified via winning the St. Lawrence River Showdown at Waddington. Today’s column takes a look at some of Palaniuk’s competitors in the 44th annual Super Bowl of bass fishing.

Cliff Pace

Cliff Pace of Mississippi was the 2013 Classic Champion, but even though he qualified for this year’s Classic, he won’t be competing because of a late January accident. While bow hunting for deer, Pace fell as he climbed down from his tree stand, and he broke his leg in two places and tore his ACL.

Despite the bad news, there are two positives in Pace’s case. One is that BASS officials deferred the angler’s Classic qualification until the 2015 Classic. Too, Pace and his wife, Brana, had their first child two months ago so the angler will be able to spend more time at home with his new daughter, Jordan Baylee Pace.

CHAMPION ANGLERS

A number of former champion anglers will be competing for the million dollar prize money at Lake Guntersville. Among that number are seven former Classic winners and those individuals are Mark Davis, Mike Iaconelli, Alton Jones, Chris Lane, Takahiro Omori, Skeet Reese, and Kevin VanDam.

Also, eight anglers who have won the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title will be competing. Those individuals are Brent Chapman, Gary Klein, Aaron Martens, Gerald Swindle, Davis, Iaconelli, Reese, and VanDam.

VETERAN ANGLERS

When Gary Klein qualified for the current Classic, it marked his 30th overall and first in three years. Klein’s first appearance was at the age of 21 at the 1979 Classic. Since that time, he has earned two Angler of the Year titles, but a Classic win has eluded him. Kevin VanDam will be appearing in his 24th consecutive Classic, and the popular angler is a four-time Classic champ and seven-time Angler of the Year.

Klein and VanDam are the most experienced participants at the 2014 Classic, but there are 13 other anglers with at least 10 Classic qualifications under their belts. Rick Clunn won’t be competing at Lake Guntersville; however, he holds the all-time Classic record with 32 appearances.

YOUNG AND OLD ANGLERS

At age 58, Mark Dove is the oldest Classic contender. Dove qualified through the B.A.S.S. Nation, and this marks his second consecutive Classic and his third overall. If Dove were to win, he would be the oldest champion in history, surpassing Woo Daves who was 54 when he won the 2000 Classic. Daves’s record would also be broken if Gary Klein or Tommy Biffle were to win this March.

On the younger side, 14 Classic rookies will compete in Alabama. Three of those first-timers qualified through the Bassmaster Elite Series while five qualified through the B.A.S.S. Nation, four qualified through the Bassmaster Opens, and two qualified through the College Series and the Bassmaster Weekend Series.

HOMETOWN FAVORITES

Nine Alabama residents will be the home favorites in the 2014 Classic. Of the nine, Chris Lane has to be the overall favorite as he actually lives on Lake Guntersville. Still, Alabama’s Boyd Duckett in 2007 is the only angler to win the Classic in his home state.

Outdoors Calendar

Feb. 21: Public comment period closes on DEC Black Bear Management Plan.

Feb. 22: St. Lawrence River Walleye Association’s 8th annual Northern Pike Challenge (384-3450).

Feb. 22: Gouverneur Fire Department’s Open-Boundary Ice Fishing Tournament.

Feb. 28: Seasons close for gray squirrels, ruffed grouse, and pheasants.

March 15: Parishville Sportsman Club’s 29th annual Rabbit Hunt (265-2922).

March 15: Walleye season closes until the first Saturday in May.

March 15: Ice shanties must be removed from NYS waters.

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