50th Classic: Hanselman, the dark horse

In 2015, Ray Hanselman enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in tournament fishing history, but he still may not be the most accomplished competitor in his own household. By his own reckoning, that honor would go to his wife Misty, who was part of a national champion equestrian team at Texas A&M University.

“She’s not the type to brag about it,” he said. “She wears her Aggie class ring, but not that (championship) ring.”

Judging by his demeanor and the company he keeps, Hanselman shares that low-key approach. Fellow Texan and Classic competitor Keith Combs, who has known Hanselman for years and occasionally roomed with him during Elite Series competition over the past two seasons, warned not to expect any excessive celebrations should Hanselman win the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. He said that the humble resident of Del Rio spends more time outdoors than just about any of his colleagues and may be the best topwater fisherman he’s ever seen, but he’s not to one to brag.

If Hanselman was the type to boast, the first topic would be that magical 2015 season, when he fished a total of five tournaments and won them all. The first was a major team tournament in Texas, and he followed that up with three straight FLW Series Texas Division events. For those who thought he’d be lost outside of the Lone Star state, that notion got put to rest when he won the Series championship on the stingy Ohio River, where he beat his closest competitor by a Texas-sized margin of more than 8 pounds.

He’s no stranger to tour-level championships, either, as that performance placed him in the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup on Wheeler Lake, where he finished a respectable 20th. Nevertheless, in his inaugural Elite Series season of 2018, he failed to qualify for the 2019 Classic, ending up 55th in the Angler of the Year race. Early season bombs on Grand Lake (83rd) and Kentucky Lake (101st) put him behind the eight ball and negated the strength of four money finishes. In 2019, not only did he increase the number of checks, but he avoided the stinkers, too, and ended up 29th overall, well inside the Classic cut.

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