Much has been made of the fishermen who punched their tickets to Guntersville at this derby, and rightly so. But there are four anglers on the water today whose only chance to qualify for the Classic is to win this tournament. Derek Remitz, Nate Wellman, Jeremy Starks and Kotaro Kiriyama have all had tough seasons, but they could be salvaged in a big way by winning here and earning a trip to the Classic through B.A.S.S.' win-and-you're-in (WAYI) format. Like that or not, it certainly adds some drama to the proceedings. Of this year's Elite champs, only Brandon Palaniuk needed WAYI to be Classic-bound. Jason Christie squeaked in by virtue of double qualifiers. They rest of the Elite tournament winners earned their berths through AOY points.
Just caught his fourth fish of the day at about 3 pounds. That should be a total of four fish for 14 pounds.
Chris Lane has upgraded. It appears he has more than 17 pounds. The boat traffic is getting crazy. I assume there is a sail boat race out if Port Huron. Various flights of sailboats are passing. This is one busy place this morning. The shipped traffic is light.
Photo by marshal Shawn Elliott.
Davis has been fishing for an hour and has yet to put a bass in the well. He doesn't show any signs of frustration, but if things don't get crackin' soon, he might.
The wind is stiffening and the waves are starting to grow whitecaps. That will make it harder to control the boat. The good news is that smallmouth bass like the wind. Maybe it'll turn the fish on.
Davis swings and misses. Let's get this party started.
Most people turn into zombies when sleep-deprived. Aaron Martens gets hyperactive. He has talked all week about his lack of sleep due to the preparation time he's devoted to winning this tournament.
Oh, yeah, he won the 2013 AOY title Saturday on his 41st birthday. So there was a celebration dinner and a speech to give last night. And his wife, Lesley, had driven the kids to Detroit Saturday, unexpectedly. Martens was, of course, overjoyed by everything that happened yesterday. But once again there was little time for sleep.
"I got 3 1/2 hours," Martens said at takeoff Sunday. "I've had 20 hours sleep since last Sunday night. I had to do a lot of stuff last night. I'd start to do something, then I'd forget what I was going to do."
I'd bet he hasn't forgotten how to catch smallmouth bass from Lake Erie. But if ever there was a day when it didn't matter whether A-Mart caught a fish, it is this one.
When you start the season with an 85th-place finish and somehow rally to win AOY, enough said, job done.
Currently in 35th place in the AOY standings is none other than Gary Klein, a two-time AOY and an all-time great who has now qualified for his 30th Bassmaster Classic. Only Rick Clunn with 32 has been to more championships. Klein's fate slipped out of his own control on Friday, when he missed the first cut, but things worked out and now he's making plans to fish Guntersville in February. Not only has Klein qualified for 30 Classics, but he's done it all using Mercury outboards and is one of two anglers to fish the Classic in each decade of its existence — the 1970s through the 2010s. Paul Elias is the other.
So who's on the bubble to qualify for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic? It's Fred "Boom-Boom" Roumbanis, who is 39th in the AOY standings. And what are his chances of getting in? Well, they're very, very good actually. Of the 12 anglers in the finals at St. Clair, eight of them are already "in" the Classic, so if one of them wins the tournament he'll double-qualify and that spot will roll down to Roumbanis, putting him in the championship. If that doesn't happen (and I'll tell you why it almost certainly will a little later in this blog), Roumbanis still has some "outs" in the Opens.
If an angler already qualified for the Classic wins one of the remaining Opens, Roumbanis is in. He's also in if an angler who did not fish all three Opens in that division wins one. Add the possibilities up, and things look good for Roumbanis. In fact, if all of those possibilities came through, the next three Elites could all qualify, too. That would make Jason Williamson, Boyd Duckett and Brandon Card very happy. Unfortunately for them, the odds of each making it becoming increasingly worse as you move down the list.
The AOY standings are remarkably stable as we enter the final day of the 2013 Elite Series season. Only one angler is "on the bubble" today, and that's Fred Roumbanis (more on Boom-Boom later). The rest are safe in their Classic berths or thinking back to the lost bass or mistakes that cost them a spot in the Classic.
Even the eight All-Star spots are secure today.
I can tell you without fear of contradiction that 10 of the 14 All-Star spots belong to:
Cliff Pace (as the Classic champ)
Hank Cherry (as Rookie of the Year)
Nothing that happens on the water today will affect those positions. The only spots remaining will go to the top four online vote-getters. Expect Skeet Reese, Gerald Swindle, Michael Iaconelli and Brandon Palaniuk to do well there, but there might be some surprises in the mix if other anglers can find ways to mobilize their fan bases.