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Luke Ovgard details the 'Grand Slams' as set out by the International Game Fish Association

A Gallup poll has asked Americans "What is your favorite sport to watch?" annually since 1937.

America's Pastime (baseball) led right off the bat and remained there for nearly 30 years before being supplanted in popularity by America's Game (football) in the 1960s.

Baseball fans thinking their sport would retake the top spot were quickly proven off-base, as football never relinquished that favorite spot with American fans. After 60-plus years on top, 37 percent of fans prefer football to any other sport — a number that the next five most popular sports combined cannot quite equal (basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, auto racing, tennis, golf combine for 36 percent). Basketball (11 percent today) surpassed baseball (9 percent) in popularity for the first time in the early 1990s, and the two have traded places ever since, with basketball winning more often than not. Soccer (7 percent) is projected to catch baseball within 20 years, too, but baseball will go down swinging.

King Baseball may be deposed, but it has left an undeniable influence on our culture most visible in our language. Already, I've used three baseball idioms in this column, and I've yet to strike out.

COURTESY PHOTO: LUKE OVGARD - Without a doubt the toughest fish to target, I managed a single tiger trout, but it was later removed from the list of options, shattering my dreams.

Grand Slam

Baseball terminology has crossed into other sports and hobbies so organically that most of us fail to realize the runner ever left. The phrase "went fishing" in baseball refers to a batter reaching across the plate for an outside pitch, but it's a niche term and not often used. Not like the term "slam" in fishing.

The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) didn't invent the term "Grand Slam" in the outdoors community. That honor goes to Bob Housholder, who founded the Grand Slam Club in 1956 to celebrate hunters who'd bagged all 29 recognized game animals found in the United States and Canada. The IGFA did, however, popularize the term to a much broader audience.

Few sportsmen and women have the time, money, skill and resolve required to bag 29 game animals, but many more have the ability to catch several species of bass, trout, salmon or myriad saltwater fish in a day. That's the premise of the IGFA Grand Slam.

Not to be confused with the popular breakfast at Denny's or the ultimate offensive feat in baseball, this Grand Slam constitutes catching three or more species of a class of fish (i.e., bass or trout) in a day. Not four. I know; it's a bit of a misnomer.

The Super Grand Slam is four species.

The Fantasy Slam is five.

Available slams include Bass, Billfish, Inshore, Offshore, Salmon, Shark, Trout and Tuna. Granted, some of these are not accessible (@ Billfish) to the average angler and feel much more major league than, say, bass.

Though I now fish for anything that swims in my eternal #SpeciesQuest, I was first and foremost a trout guy. As such, I logged more than a dozen Grand Slams over the years. When I found out the IGFA Grand Slam was a thing, I even had photographic proof or witnesses for five of them and was able to record them.

What I really wanted, though, was a Fantasy Slam.

When I set out to get my Trout Fantasy Slam in 2018, only one had been recorded.

My choices at the time included brook, brown, bull, cutthroat, golden, lake, rainbow and tiger. Goldens aren't anywhere near me, and I've still never caught one. Bulls can legally be targeted in just one part of Oregon, and it's an isolated haul. Lakers in our area require a boat or kayak and are also a bit out of the way. That left me brook, brown, cutthroat, rainbow and tiger.

I began my day by catching a large native rainbow in Upper Klamath Lake. I moved to the Wood River and landed a pair of browns before finding my brookies in the nearby Sevenmile Creek. Relocating to the Rogue River watershed, I fished two streams and got my coastal cutthroat, along with a bunch of coastal rainbows. I finished my day at Fish Lake, where I caught more rainbows and a single, pale tiger.

Though I'd completed what I thought was a Fantasy Slam, that was the year the IGFA removed tiger trout (an artificial brown x brook hybrid) from the list of acceptable Trout Slam species. They removed/demoted all slams including a tiger, too, which meant my Fantasy Slam was now just a Super Grand Slam.

Someday, I'll try to duplicate my efforts and replace the tiger with a laker or bull. Meanwhile, I have the bases loaded for another type of slam.

COURTESY PHOTO: LUKE OVGARD - The fish I catch most often in my home waters is the majestic rainbow trout. This was the softball in my Fantasy Slam attempt.

Royal Slam

For those who don't have the highly diverse fisheries necessary for the Grand Slams, consider the Royal Slams. These operate on a similar premise but aren't time-limited, instead allowing anglers to check every species in a category over a lifetime. Available Royal Slams include Bass, Billfish, Inshore, Salmon, Shark, Trout and Tuna.

For the Trout Royal Slam, I've caught every species but the golden trout, which can be found in a handful of isolated high lakes in the West. It's no surprise I saved it for the ninth inning, and when the world thaws this summer, you can bet I'll step up to the plate for that golden opportunity at a Royal Slam.

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