AOY: Seven up and seven down

About the author

Pete Robbins

Pete Robbins

Veteran outdoor writer Pete Robbins provides a fan's perspective of B.A.S.S. complemented by an insider's knowledge of the sport. Follow him on Twitter @fishywriting

We’re only done with three Elite Series tournaments, so it might seem like the season just started; but for those anglers who want to move up in the Toyota Angler of the Year standings or maintain their position, time is running surprisingly short. A week from now, we’ll be at the halfway mark; and while no one can really coast after that, before you know it we’ll be hearing about anglers who “need to win the last event” if they want to have a shot at the Bassmaster Classic.

Obviously, everyone wants to win the AOY title, but only a few anglers each year have a meaningful opportunity to achieve that. As Ken Duke has pointed out previously, one bad stumble and you’re pretty much out of that race. On the other hand, the Classic carrot remains viable for everyone up until the last event. To be honest, I didn’t love the “win and you’re in” concept at first, but I’m inclined to admit that I was wrong. It keeps anglers committed until the end, and that increases the incentives, the storylines and the possible payoffs.

On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of an eight-event Elite Series schedule. It crams too much together and leaves anglers’ careers subject to too many uncontrollable variables – if your motor blows at the wrong time, you can flush your year down the crapper. Additionally, as a fan, I want more tournaments, at more venues, at wildly different times of year. I understand the operational and financial reasons that led them to cut back from eleven to eight, and I know that the B.A.S.S. management team has a lot of issues to deal with, but I sincerely hope that expanding the schedule is a high priority.

With all of that in mind, it’s not too soon to analyze what’s going on among the 100 anglers who have plunked down their cash and committed to the season. Year after year, certain names repeatedly end up in the same general areas (top, middle or bottom), but the beauty and the frustration of this sport is that we don’t have a large enough sample size to ever predict precisely what will happen. Unlike baseball, where we have thousands of at-bats  to analyze how a hitter fares on turf, against lefthanders, in hit-and-run situations, or on odd-numbered Thursdays, in professional bass fishing, the data field we mine is sorely lacking. So while certain guys are in their predictable spots, for whatever reason there are plenty of guys who’ve left their assigned seating, oftentimes for the worse.

I’m going to give you seven of each:

The top seven in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race features a septet of pros whose presence there should surprise exactly no one.

  1. In the No. 1 spot, we have Edwin Evers, one of the two or three best anglers on tour never to have won a major title.
  2. Directly behind Evers is Terry Scroggins, who likewise has nibbled around the edges of greatness, not missing a Classic since 2004 and consistently threatening to become a superstar.
  3.  In third place is some guy named VanDam. It’s only a surprise when he doesn’t win  Toyota AOY.
  4. The cleanup slot is occupied by Ishama Monroe, fittingly a longball hitter who knows how to close out a win.
  5. Next we have Jeff Kriet, another angler perpetually on the verge of establishing himself as a super-duper-star. He’s already a fan favorite.
  6. Behind Kriet is Brandon Card, last year’s Elite Series Rookie of the Year.
  7. Finally, the seven spot is filled by a first ballot Hall of Famer, the ageless Gary Klein, he of eight B.A.S.S. wins and 29 Classic appearances.

That’s a Murderer’s Row for the ages, and the makings of a pretty good Fantasy Fishing team. Apparently most of the cream does rise to the top.

However, some of the cream got stuck at the bottom of the mug, too. If you scroll down the standings, you’ll find a group of superstars scattered among the bottom half. None of them should have a finger on the panic button quite yet, but if they don’t get cracking soon it will be “put up, or work the Classic Outdoor Expo” time. Here are seven who caught my eye: