Lots of the anglers like to say there's still plenty of time even at the midway point of the season, but that's not exactly true. It's getting away from the guys in the bottom 35 or so, if they still plan to qualify for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. And for the anglers who want a chance at AOY, they'd better be in the top dozen at the halfway mark or it's definitely all over. in fact, I'd bet that it'll be one of the guys currently in the top six who claims the 2012 AOY title. More on that later this week in my column, "Bassonomics."
Brandon Card ranks fourth in the AOY race right now. That's the best any rookie has ranked to this point in the season since Derek Remitz was third after four events in 2007. Steve Kennedy was fourth after four events in 2006. Last year, Ott DeFoe was 9th at this point and on his way to a fourth place finish in AOY by the end of the season. Is Card the real deal? He certainly looks like it right now, but there's still half a season to go.
Randy Howell's making a nice move up the leaderboard today. He probably doesn't have much of a chance to win, but those places in the standings mean a lot in the AOY race. It could mean the difference between a big trophy and big disappointment at the end of the year. It's funny, but the only angler who ever admits to thinking about AOY right out of the gate is Kevin VanDam. Maybe that's why he always wins it. The other Elites will deny that they think of the title until the season's nearly over and they're in the hunt. Even then they'll tell you it's not foremost in their minds. KVD never takes his eyes off that prize. He's got tremendous focus. Randy Howell may be thinking about it a little bit, too. Whether he is or not, moving up a little gets you points you might need at the end. AOY is a title you win a little bit at a time or lose all at once.
Mike McClelland lands a kicker bass towards the end of the day!
The biggest bass ever caught in a B.A.S.S. event on Douglas Lake was a 6-12 largemouth caught by Rogne Brown in last year's Southern Open. Byron Velvick made a run at that mark with his 6-10 on Day Two of this week's Elite event. Without a big fish like that, it's going to be tough for anyone to catch Britt Myers. I realize that his lead has been unofficially cut to mere ounces, but if he can fill out his limit he'll add a couple of pounds to his catch and widen his lead. He's got plenty of time left out there to get one more good bite.
James Overstreet has been telling us all afternoon about how big a hurry that Britt Myers has been in.
And Steve Wright has actually been logging how long Myers is staying in one place.
I thought they were just whining, but Overstreet sent the photo below to illustrate just how big a hurry Myers has been in all day.
That leap, sprint or whatever you call it took place from the steering wheel to the trolling motor. Overstreet simply said: "This is what you call being in a hurry to get to the trolling motor."
The last time a Day Three leader didn't close it out with a win was the 2011 season finale on Wheeler Lake. Bradley Roy led that one going into the finals, but David Walker had a big day while Roy struggled and it gave Walker his first B.A.S.S. win. Jeremy Starks -- second going in to the finals here at Douglas -- was also in second place on Wheeler Lake in 2008. That time he was chasing none other than Kevin VanDam ("Kevin who?" Starks famously said on stage). Starks trailed by 1-7 after three days, but saved his best for last to earn his only Elite win. Can he do it again?
Douglas Lake has shown its stuff this week with the Elite anglers. In the only other B.A.S.S. visits to the venue, it produced a lot of fish, but they were extremely small. In 2001 at a MegaBucks tournament, the average bass weighed just 1-9. A year ago in an Open, the average bass weighed a more respectable (but still quite small) 1-14. This time around it's much better. Through three days, the average fish brought to the scales weighed 2-8. Is it due to the caliber of the anglers? After all, the Elites are the best in the business. Actually, it's probably a combination of a better competition field and the time of year. The Open last year came a month later. As for the difference between this year's production and what happened in 2001, it's almost certainly due to an upsurge in the fishery. Most waters go through productivity cycles, and Douglas is much stronger now than in 2001, when 10 pounds a day would put you high in the standings.
Photographer James Overstreet has covered a lot more of these fishing derbies than I have, and neither one of us has ever seen anything like what Britt Myers is doing. Here's the routine since he caught his fourth fish:
Stop #20 - 12:03 to 12:10
Stop #21 - 12:13 to 12:16
Stop #22 - 12:23 to 12:26
Stop #23 - 12:29 to 12:32
Stop #24 - 12:37 to ?
We're back where Myers caught his fourth fish. It's deja vu all over again following Myers on Douglas Lake, all over again, and again and again.
And right on time, Myers catches his fifth fish. Unbelievable!
"I'm in the 15-(pound) range now," said an obviously elated Myer. "I don't know, man."
It was a fat 3-pounder.
"That's five!" he said. "I ain't never worked that hard in my life for five fish."
Randy Howell is leading the AOY race now and will be after the Douglas Lake event is over. Just how safe is Howell's AOY lead at the midpoint? Not very, but he's probably in better shape than you think. In Elite history, the farthest back the eventual AOY has ever been at the halfway point was 4th, and that was Kevin VanDam in 2008. Half the time, the eventual AOY is already leading the race by this stage. Howell's closest challengers are David Walker and Brent Chapman. Howell and Chapman are 38 and 39 years old, respectively. Walker is about to turn 47. If Walker wins AOY this year, he'll be the oldest in history, surpassing Roland Martin, who was 45 when he last won in 1985.