I'm going to miss the blast-off and the blaring music this morning. Darren Jacobson and I are driving to a bridge that passes over West Point Lake not far from the official launching area.
The plan is to photograph the pros as they pass under the bridge after taking off. We're on the bridge now. It's dark-30 and we're having trouble finding a place to park. This going to be easier said than done.
Just three casts later, and Fletcher Shryock has a limit in the boat. Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Tim Patterson.
Fletcher Shryock finally boats number 4 and is still scrambling to get his limit. Photo by Bassmaster Marshall Tim Patterson.
Of course, you need to be ranked even higher than the top 10 after this tournament to have a chance at AOY. As each event goes into the books, another angler — or two or five — gets eliminated from serious contention. It's a battle of attrition at this point. Everyone starts out even, but as anglers have bad tournaments, they get eliminated — practically, if not mathematically.
From a purely historical perspective, you need to be ranked in the top three in points at the halfway mark to win AOY. That's not a typo — I said the top three. The odds of being outside the top five and winning it are too high to seriously consider.
Looking at the anglers who are in the hunt right now, you have to like VanDam's chances. He's in a good position (third, but essentially tied for second), and he's been here many times before. Can he take down his eighth AOY title, becoming the oldest angler in history to do it at nearly 46? Well, of course he can!
I also like Evers and Scroggins in this race because they've been close before and are in a strong position right now. No one else in the group — other than two-time AOY Gary Klein — has ever finished in the top five before. To me, that labels them as "untested."
Jason Christie is the wild card. He's a "rookie," but he's also very experienced and the hottest angler on the planet right now as he comes off wins on both of the major circuits.
One thing's for sure: a couple of those anglers in the top 10 are going to struggle at West Point and take themselves right out of the AOY race. Watch it happen. We'll get a pretty good idea of who it's going to be at today's weigh-in.
After making a move across the lake Greg put his fourth keeper in the boat.
He has the trolling motor on high and covering water.
It has been a grind this afternoon.
If you know me or have read much of what I write on Bassmaster.com or in Bassmaster Magazine or B.A.S.S. Times, you know I think it's never too early to look at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race and assess an angler's chances of winning AOY or qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic.
Yes, we're just three events in, but there's plenty of information to be reviewed and plenty of numbers to be crunched. The anglers who fish for AOY right from the beginning — the very first tournament of the season — are the ones who can actually win it, not the guys who don't.
And while I don't have a crystal ball and can't tell you who's going to win AOY this year, I can tell you this: he's currently ranked in the top 10.
How can I be so sure? It's because every other AOY in the Elite era has not only been in the top 10 at this stage of the season, but he was in the top eight ... and all but one were in the top five. Anybody further back than that has dug too deep a hole to climb out of and will have to set his sights on another goal this year.
That means our next AOY will be Edwin Evers, Terry Scroggins, Kevin VanDam, Ish Monroe, Jeff Kriet, Brandon Card, Gary Klein, Jason Williamson, Jason Christie or Bobby Lane. I'd put big money on that, too ... if I had it.
Only KVD and Klein have won before, and if either of them wins again, he'll become the oldest angler ever to do it. Williamson and Christie (a rookie) are the only two who have never finished in the top 25 of the AOY race. Card did it only last year, when he was a rookie. The rest have all posted multiple seasons in the top 25 of the AOY race. That kind of history and experience definitely helps.
More in a few minutes.
#3 for Casey Scanlon. Photo by Marshal Mark Ward.
The fact that tournament big bass weights are falling at West Point Lake may make sense. A reservoir goes through a natural boom and bust period. When WPL was turning out its biggest bass, it had probably crested the boom period as a new reservoir. Now it's older and more settled. While there are certainly some giants in the lake, they're probably not as easy to catch.
As a former Georgia resident, I can also tell you that WPL has been going through some other changes associated with age. It's getting clearer, less turbid and less fertile. As a result (and I don't mind being corrected by any biologists who would care to comment or confirm), it's becoming more of a spotted bass fishery. Whereas spots never hit the scales in a tournament there back in the '70s, now they're common and will be growing more so as time goes by.
It's all a part of what I call the "spotification" of American bass fisheries. We're just not building many big new reservoirs (though small water supply lakes are popping up everywhere and often offer outstanding fishing), and our old waters are turning clearer and less fertile. That makes them less friendly to largemouths and more conducive to spotted bass. West Point is a great example, but there are plenty of others all over the country.