We're two events into the eight tournament Bassmaster Elite Series for 2013, and 30 of the 100 anglers have yet to make a cut. That, in itself, is not unusual. In fact, it's pretty average.
Those 30 anglers include three former Bassmaster Classic champs (Paul Elias, Davy Hite and Michael Iaconelli), three former Toyota Bassmaster Anglers of the Year (Hite, Iaconelli and Tim Horton) and three Elite rookies (Kevin Hawk, Chad Pipkens and Cliff Porche). Along with those notables, there's Tommy Biffle, Randy Howell and Brandon Palaniuk.
Now, missing the first two cuts of an eight event season might not seem like a big deal, but it's digging a hole that can be pretty hard to climb out of. Since the Elite season moved from 11 events (2006-08) to just eight (2009-date), consistency and avoiding even short slumps has been critical. After all, fewer tournaments means fewer opportunities to score those critical AOY points.
Between 2009 and last season, 105 anglers found themselves in the same predicament as 30 anglers face this year. With two tournaments in the books, they had yet to make a cut. How many were able to turn things around and qualify for the Bassmaster Classic? Just 10.
Those are obviously not great odds, but someone breaks through every year. In 2009, it was Takahiro Omori. In 2010, Terry Scroggins, Gerald Swindle and Jason Williamson did it. In 2011, Denny Brauer, Howell and Matt Reed climbed out of the hole. And in 2012, Russ Lane, Aaron Martens and Cliff Pace made it. Last year there were also three other anglers who tanked in the first two tournaments but qualified for the Classic (Boyd Duckett, Palaniuk and Jonathon VanDam), but they earned their berths by winning an Elite event. None of them would have fished the Classic without winning an Elite tournament.
What about anglers who missed the first three cuts of a season? Now you're talking about some really long odds!
Sixty-four Elites missed all the cuts in the first three tournaments between 2009 and 2012, but only one went on to qualify for the Classic. It happened last year for Aaron Martens. After finishes of 84th, 58th and 58th, he turned things around in a big way. He was in the top five of three of the next four tournaments and ended up a solid 10th in the AOY race.
Can it happen again? Sure it can, but it's very unlikely. That list of 30 anglers who have missed the first two cuts will probably be pared down to about 20 who miss each of the first three. The big names mentioned earlier will probably start to right the ship ... at least somewhat.
Part of the reason it's so rare for an angler to make the Classic after missing the first three cuts is that it's so rare for a top-tier angler (like Martens) to find himself in that predicament. Someone like Iaconelli or Howell could fight back from such a deficit, but their best bet for making the Classic is to turn things around at Bull Shoals (the next Elite event) so they won't have to repeat Martens' comeback of a year ago.