Alton Jones with his second fish of the day. Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Danny Truelove.
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.
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.
Here are the season opening finishes of the seven eventual AOY leaders in the Elite era:
2006 – Michael Iaconelli – 16th
2007 – Skeet Reese – 9th
2008 – Kevin VanDam – 31st
2009 – Skeet Reese – 22nd
2010 – Skeet Reese – 2nd
2011 – Kevin VanDam – 4th
2012 – Brent Chapman – 4th
Brent Chapman with a magnum 4.5 lb Coosa River Spot below the dam at Lake Jordan. Photo by Marshal Jace Hilton.
Shaw says it's now "cull time" - upgrading with a solid 4lber.
Photos by Bassmaster Marshal Harvey Starling.
Shaw just landed his fifth keeper. Around a 10lb limit of fish in the livewell.
Since the marshals and others are covering things from the water, I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, how it’s shaping up and what to look for at this tournament on the Alabama River. I’ve isolated five keys to winning the AOY race, and while I’ll be using examples from the Elite Series, they’ll mostly work for your club AOY race, too.
By way of explanation, since the Bassmaster AOY race no longer involves a postseason (as it did in 2009 and 2010), I’m going to use data from those years 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 in 2009 and 2010 despite the fact that Kevin VanDam took the title both times with 11th hour heroics in the postseason. I’m doing this because I want to stay consistent with the system currently employed in the Elite Series and in most bass clubs.
Stick around, the five keys might help you in your club or give you a different way of looking at this year’s Elite race.
Get in the boat! Chad Pipkens knows how to handle them. Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Gerome Burrell.