Mark Davis will lead the AOY race when the Elites leave Toledo Bend, and he'll have done it on one of the most impressive runs in B.A.S.S. history. With half a season left to go, he'll certainly be the front runner to claim fishing's most prestigious title, and you have to like his chances on Lake Dardanelle right there in his home state of Arkansas (thought he was 53rd the last time the Elites were there in 2009). Davis fishes well everywhere and has an enviable track record on all the venues left on the schedule. So what's his biggest obstacle? It might be age. Davis will be 51 years old later this year, and while fishing doesn't punish older participants the way stick-and-ball sports do, age certainly takes its toll over the course of a long season. If he wins, Davis will be the oldest AOY in history by a wide margin. Roland Martin was 45 when he last won the title in 1985.
Don't forget to check out First Look with Davy Hite as the Top 12 come off the lake to weigh in their fish.
After a great year in 2013 that saw him qualify for All-Star Week and his first Classic, this season has been a nightmare for Chris Zaldain leading up to Toledo Bend. He was 76th at Lake Seminole, 85th at the St. Johns River and 94th at Table Rock. It's tough to bounce back from a start like that, but a Top 12 at Toledo Bend will help. The same can be said for Jonathon VanDam. He was 97th, 98th and 51st, respectively, before coming to Toledo Bend. It's a pretty safe bet that neither of them wants to go back to Florida anytime soon ... maybe ever.
Only three of the 12 finalists have never won a B.A.S.S. event — Jacob Powroznik, Chris Zaldain and Cliff Crochet. Everyone else has at least one win, and Skeet Reese leads the way with seven B.A.S.S. titles. Mark Davis and Jared Lintner have endured the longest droughts; they haven't won since 2005.
Dean Rojas is taking no chances with check-in time. At 2:30 he gave us the done sign, cranked up the motor and headed in.
He doesn't have a 3-pounder in the boat, but he's got a limit.
Dean Rojas just made two short moves north from the mouth of Housen Creek. I'm talking real short. He hit one spot for a few pitches, then idled over to another.
James Overstreet and I are going to stick with him until check-in time. Rojas just dropped his Power Poles, signaling a bed fish. He just swung and missed. Stay tuned.
This is the first Elite Top 12 ever for Jacob Powroznik, Randall Tharp and Chad Morgenthaler. Among the rest of the finalists, Casey Ashley and Chris Zaldain have had the longest droughts. Neither has made the final round since the Alabama River tournament almost exactly a year ago.
Dean Rojas just had what has been a flurry for him today -- a brief hookup and then catching one that didn't help him. Rojas is only about 10 minutes from the check-in site -- maybe less than that the way his Skeeter/Yamaha combo ran away from us earlier today.
So you know he's going to fish this to the last possible minute of making that 3 p.m. check-in.
Photographer James Overstreet and I were having a shorebird discussion, since several species have been "fishing" near Dean Rojas. Neither one of us knew conclusively the species of our discussion.
Overstreet conceded, saying, "I don't really know, man. I ain't no orthodontist."
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