Here’s the worst finish by any angler who won AOY (or led through the regular season):
2006 – Michael Iaconelli – 66th
2007 – Skeet Reese – 67th
2008 – Kevin VanDam – 56th
2009 – Skeet Reese – 29th
2010 – Skeet Reese – 59th
2011 – Kevin VanDam – 33rd
2012 – Brent Chapman – 68th
When you mitigate disaster by making your worst finish something that’s not in the bottom third of the field, you keep the door closed for challengers who hope to jump in when you stumble. Statistically, this is the biggest difference between VanDam and the legion of anglers who post a season or two near the top of the AOY race. His “bad” tournaments really aren’t so bad. Their “bad” tournaments are dismal.
The real reason KVD has won so many AOY titles and challenges virtually every year is that his worst finish in any Elite event was 59th at Clear Lake in 2010. (He’s also the best of all-time, and that doesn’t hurt.) VanDam barely missed the cut in his worst tournament! Everyone else who has fished at least one full season in the Elites has a finish of 79th place or lower.