Shaw catches another good one to continue the cull train. Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Trait Crist.
Scott Ashmore is culling. Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Joe Malone.
Just as the eventual Toyota AOYs started the season on the right foot, all of them were pretty strong in the finale, too. In fact, none of them missed the first cut in the final tournament of the season. The worst finish was 41st out of 101 anglers by Michael Iaconelli in 2006. KVD was 38th out of 106 in 2008 — again, not bad at all. Three of the seven AOYs were in the top six and five were in the top 14.
If it means putting extra effort or practice into the last event, do it. If it means enlisting extra (and legal) outside help, get it. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as falling short at the finish line. If you leave something undone and wind up second, you’ll be kicking yourself all off-season.
Here are the season finale finishes for the seven AOY regular season leaders of the Elite era:
2006 – Michael Iaconelli – 41st
2007 – Skeet Reese – 14th
2008 – Kevin VanDam – 38th
2009 – Skeet Reese – 14th
2010 – Skeet Reese – 2nd
2011 – Kevin VanDam – 2nd
2012 – Brent Chapman – 6th
Keep the pressure on to the final cast and leave it all out there on the water. Most AOY races aren’t over until the final weigh in of the last tournament.
KVD has culled twice in 2 cast for a 3lb upgrade.
Photo by Marshal Billy Black.
Realistically, even a Toyota AOY is going to have a letdown somewhere along the way. A key seems to be when he has it. Have it too early and it gets the entire season off on the wrong foot. Bomb in the first tournament and you may find yourself pressing in the next. Pretty soon, one bad tournament snowballs into three … or four … or a full season.
Have the bad tournament late and you get run down from behind. There are almost always a few competitors within striking distance if the leader has a bad day at the last event.
In Elite history, the eventual AOYs were uncanny in this timing element. None of them had their worst tournament in the first event … or the second … or even the third. They started strong.
Likewise, none of them had their worst showing in the last tournament. And only one had his worst finish in the penultimate event. If you’re going to have a hiccup, sandwich it somewhere in the middle.
Kevin Ledoux with a 2 fish flurry resulting in keepers 7 and 8. Both fish were over 2 pounds and culled one pounders. Photo by Mark Keith
Five of the seven AOYs in the Elite era won at least one tournament in the season they captured the crown. VanDam won twice in 2008 and Reese did the same in 2010. Only Reese in 2009 and VanDam in 2011 finished the season without a trophy, and both of them had a second place finish that year.
Under the current Elite scoring system, the difference between first and second is only a single point, so winning isn’t as valuable as it was before 2012. Nevertheless, in your club or circuit scoring system, the difference between a win and a runner-up finish might be considerable — perhaps even more than the margin between AOY and the second place finisher.