I usually figure there are two ways to answer any question: a short way and a long way. I’ve always preferred the long way (though I’m not paid by the word), but in the interest of almost equal time, I’m going to offer the short answer here in addition to the long one.
First, the question: How do you win AOY?
I’m not just talking about Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year here, though I’ll be pulling stats and inferences from the Elite Series to make my points. The truth is, the same things that lead an Elite angler to an AOY title will work for you in your bass club or in any other tournament circuit.
Now, here’s the short answer to that question: Be — hands down and without a doubt — the best angler on the water day after day, week after week, tournament after tournament for a full season.
There! Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dig a little deeper, get a little more serious and come up with an instruction manual that can actually help you get it done. Be aware, though, that this longer answer assumes you’re already a very good fisherman — at least one of the top 25 percent in your circuit. If you’re not, come back to this when you’re ready.
By way of explanation, since the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race no longer involves a postseason (as it did in 2009 and 2010), I’m going to use data from those seasons as though AOY was determined through the regular season tournaments only. It means I’ll be writing about Skeet Reese as though he won AOY those years despite the fact that Kevin VanDam took the title both times with strong postseason performances. I’m doing this because I want to stay consistent with the system currently employed in the Elite Series and in most bass clubs.
Here then, are five not-so-simple things you must do to win AOY.
You only have one chance to make a first impression, just one opportunity to get out of the gate cleanly. Realistically, you’re going to need every point you can accumulate if you want to win AOY, and it starts with the first tournament. There are no throwaways, no “drops” and no do-overs.
Year after year, Elite anglers tell me they’re not thinking about AOY early in the season. They’re either not telling me the truth or they’ve taken their eye off the prize. If you want to win something — anything — it’s important to keep it in the crosshairs all the time. That includes the first tournament.
In Elite history, the worst season-opening performance by an eventual AOY was 31st out of 109 anglers by KVD in 2008. Not only is that not bad and well inside the first cut, but it’s actually very, very good — and that’s the worst! Four of the seven AOYs in the Elite era ranked in the top nine in the season’s first tournament. Five of the seven were in the top 16 and all but VanDam were in the top 22.
If you want to win AOY, start strong. And if you don’t start strong, start thinking about next year. It’s that critical.