Bassmaster Classic Rewind – 1998

Bucks Skeeter Yamaha

BMCRewindby Dan O’Sullivan

Location: High Rock Lake, N.C.
Winner: Denny Brauer

The Bassmaster Classic returned to North Carolina’s once again for 1998, it was the third time that the venue hosted the Classic.  Being held in the summer, the High Rock Lake area was greeted with hot sticky weather and the anglers expected the bass to be either offshore, or on deep docks as the previous two events, as the previous two events were won.

The 1994 winner was Bryan Kerchal of Newtown, Conn.; the first and only Federation Nation angler to win the Bassmaster Classic did so pitching a small plastic worm to deeper docks. The 1995 winner was Mark Davis, of Mt. Ida, Ark. who claimed the event offshore (see our 1995 Classic Rewind Here).  Denny Brauer, the veteran pro from Camdenton, Mo. changed all of that when he won targeting laydowns in shallow water.

1998 marked the first time that Denny and his son Chad fished in the Bassmaster Classic field together.  Ironically, they both claimed daily big bass prizes in the tournament, Denny on day two, and Chad on the final day.  In winning, Brauer was the only angler to weigh a five bass limit each day of the tournament

Denny Brauer 1998 Classic Winning Bait

Denny Brauer 1998 Classic Winning Bait – photo courtesy Strike King Lure Company

The Winning Pattern:
Brauer reported finding fish in the four day pre practice period for the tournament a month prior.   Only, the bite that he found didn’t last until the tournament.  “I got on a really strong dock pattern in that practice period,” said Brauer.  “The fish were eating a Strike King jig really well, and I was sure that I would be able to capitalize on it during the event.”
He also reported finding a strong backup pattern away from the docks on a bank that looked like nothing was there.  He said that the great thing about his backup area was that it was a very subtle area with a flat that directed traffic away from the bank.  “What I found on that bank was that there were several laydown trees on the bank,” he said.  “I was able to get several bites on it, but felt that it was best as a backup area.”

While he felt comfortable with his practice results, he felt more optimistic for his son.  “Chad found an area directly across the lake from my backup area that was holding quality fish,” said Brauer.  “His spot was so good, that I thought he was going to have a strong chance to win the tournament on it.”

Once the official practice period started, Brauer went to check his areas, and he found them to be unproductive.  “I pitched that 1/2-ounce jig around my docks, and eventually the backup area and had zero bites,” he said.  “I was about to leave frustrated when I remembered a bulk bag of generic Black Neon tubes that Chad had given me.  I tied one on, and immediately got a bite on y backup area; so I figured I needed to finesse them a little.”

On the first morning of the event, Brauer returned to his docks, and managed to scrape a limit.  He had intended for that to be his primary plan, but he went to the backup bank late in the day and was able to upgrade a little.  His first day was enough to keep him in the hunt, but not in the lead.  “I think I ended the day in the top five, still having a shot, but keeping my pattern hidden,” he said.  “It’s a good position to be in on the first day of the Classic; kind of under the radar, but not too far behind.”

He began the second day of the event on the docks again, but after managing to catch only a couple of keepers, he went to his backup bank, and everything changed from there.  “I was able to catch a 17 to 18-pound limit including my 7-pound, 10-ounce big bass,” he said.  “The 7-10 gave me all kinds of confidence in the area, and it made it easy for me to go there the next day.”  The spot also gave him a slim lead going into the final day.

His spot had still been kept largely a secret for the first two days, but he would be greeted with a crowd of nearly 100 spectator boats.  “I pretty much had to stick to my guns and that area all day because too many people knew where I was,” he said.  “I had a good day; they didn’t come fast, but they came steady.”

His day included the only bass he weighed in that wasn’t caught on the tube.  “I had a bite and when I set the hook, I rolled the fish over, but didn’t hook it,” he said.  “I pitched back in there with the tube, and it didn’t bite again, but when I went back in there with a worm, it bit, and I caught it.”

He arrived at the arena with a solid limit to push his total weight to 46 pounds, 3 ounces, allowing him to beat second place finisher George Cochran by 9 pounds, 15 ounces.   The win was Brauer’s first Classic title after an already long and successful career.

1998 Bassmaster Classic Top Five
1. Denny Brauer Camdenton, Mo. 46-03
2. George, Cochran Hot Springs, Ark. 36-04
3. Randy Blaukat Joplin, Mo. 35-02
4. Mike Reynolds Modesto, Calif. 35-01
5. Rick Clunn Glorieta, N.M. 30-04


Denny and Shirley Brauer 1998 Bassmaster Classic Parade Lap – photo courtesy B.A.S.S.

Wrap Up:
It was Brauer’s 16th trip to the sport’s grandest stage.  His previous 15 trips had resulted in a fourth place, a fifth place, a third, a ninth place and a runner up finish.  Brauer said that the Classic win was an accomplishment that meant a lot.  “I’d been close several times, and it was starting to get a little frustrating,” he said.  “The media would ask if I had it in me and it felt good to put that title on my record.”

He said that the win didn’t result in any big change in his family’s life, largely because his sponsors had been so good to him prior to the Classic win.  “I’d had a pretty good career up to that point; I’d won Megabucks, and several other events, as well as an Angler of the Year,” he said.  “I was able to collect on some Classic winning bonuses, but I wouldn’t have felt right about trying to hit them as a different angler because of winning one extra tournament.  My job is to go out and do well in tournaments, and I just did my job a little better that week.”

The event was special because his son was there, but also because it was the first Classic that his mother was able to attend.  “We flew her down there and she was able to go through the parade lap with us; it was a really special moment.”

The win also led to the development of the Strike King Denny Brauer Flipping Tube.  While he won on a tube, Brauer knew how to make it better for the application.  “I went to John Barnes, the owner of Strike King and told him my ideas,” he said.  “I came up with the idea for the solid head and a longer 4-1/2” body that would allow me to put a bigger Mustad Flippin’ hook in.  The smaller one had some issues that were hard to overcome, but we did with that project.”