Panic time for Elite Series pros trying to make 2012 Bassmaster Classic

Ken Duke
Tommy Biffle has dug a very deep hole. It will likely take an Elite win for him to get back to the Classic in 2012.

About the author

Ken Duke

Ken Duke

Ken Duke is the Managing Editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer and the author of two books on bass fishing. Follow him on Twitter @thinkbass.

We’re halfway through the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series season, and the numbers and standings are starting to mean something very real for the competitors. As football legend Bill Parcells once famously said, “You are what your record says you are.”

That means Derek Remitz is the 97th best angler in the field, Tommy Biffle is 84th, Mike McClelland is 69th, Rick Clunn is 68th, Skeet Reese is 67th, Boyd Duckett is 64th and Mark Davis is 56th.

Of course, history and a broader look at their careers tells us this is far from the truth. For 2011, however, it’s reality.

The other thing history tells us about those anglers — at least as far as this year is concerned — is that they’ll likely be watching the 2012 Bassmaster Classic from the comfort of home (or perhaps a sponsor booth at the Classic Expo).

This year, making up that ground is a little tougher than ever before for one reason: Instead of inviting 36 Elites to the Classic based on their Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, only 28 will earn berths that way.

Here’s how it works: The first angler guaranteed a berth in the 2012 Classic is Kevin VanDam, as the defending champion. Then, eight berths go to the anglers who win regular season tournaments. That means a Classic spot for Shaw Grigsby, Edwin Evers, Davy Hite and Dean Rojas.

Currently, Grigsby, Evers, Hite and Rojas all rank in the top 28, so their spots will roll to the next four anglers in the standings (the 29th, 30th, 31st and 32nd anglers in the AOY race).

Oh yeah, Gerald Swindle picked up a Classic spot by winning the first Southern Open and he’s solidly in the top 28.

And since many of the rest of the tournament winners (Elites and Opens) will also rank in the top 28, it’s a pretty safe bet that Classic invitations will go out to anglers ranking as far down as 36, 37 or 38.

To look at it a different way, throughout the history of the Elite Series, it takes an average of 1,505 AOY points to finish 35th after eight events. The anglers listed above as being in trouble are well below that pace.

In 2007, Mike Wurm came from the farthest back when he went from 60th to 35th in the final four tournaments. Jeff Kriet made the biggest overall jump in 2009 when he went from 59th to 14th (45 places) in the last four events.

Let’s take a look at the some of the sport’s biggest stars who are struggling this season and what they need to do to get back in the mix (38th place or so):

Angler Currently Avg. Finish Needed
Mark Davis 56th 36th
Boyd Duckett 64th 32nd
Skeet Reese 67th 31st
Rick Clunn 68th 30th
Mike McClelland 69th 30th
Tommy Biffle 84th 20th
Derek Remitz 97th 6th

Duckett has a history of Elite comebacks. Since 2007 (his first year in the Elites), here’s his record with four tournaments to go and where he ended up.

Year Rank with 4 to go End of season
2007 26 17
2008 49 33
2009 30 31
2010 47 25

Can he do it again? Sure he can, but he’s dug a pretty deep hole. Finishing in the top third of Elite events four consecutive times is a tall order, and he’s never done it before. Few have.

Tommy Biffle is probably the best “second half” angler in the Elite field. Here are the same numbers for Biffle since the inception of the Elite Series in 2006:

Year Rank with 4 to go End of season
2006 35 9
2007 25 9
2008 43 57
2009 20 8
2010 27 7

Knowing the task in front of them, it’ll soon be time for some of these anglers to change the way they approach each tournament. They’ll need to pull out the stops and go for a win. Nothing less will get the job done.

In the final analysis, the odds might be better for winning one of the remaining tournaments than for finishing the season in the top 35.