Note: This is an analysis of the numbers and is not official. The official standings will posted at the conclusion of the AutoZone Sooner Run.
MUSKOGEE, Okla. — With all but a dozen anglers eliminated from competition at the AutoZone Sooner Run, the fields for the two event postseason and the 2011 Bassmaster Classic can finally be talked about with some level of certainty.
While the potential existed for a substantial shakeup here this week, it appears that for most part the "haves" will continue on and the "have nots" will head home for the offseason.
Of the twelve anglers who began this tournament in the top 12 in the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year race, four -- Skeet Reese, Kevin VanDam, Cliff Pace and Gary Klein -- have all lived to fish another day on Ft. Gibson and all four will travel to Alabama for the post-season.
Reese's nearest competitor heading into this week, Edwin Evers, rose 25 places in the standings today, all the way from 38th to 13th, and while he won't be fishing tomorrow, he's maintained his position in second entering the post-season. Evers' brother-in-law Terry Butcher will also make the drive back to Talala, Okla. without fishing another day of competition, but his 20th place finish this week assured him that he'll make the post-season a year after he qualified for his first Classic. He moved up from 6th to 5th this week, with one day left for a slight shuffling.
Reese's lead over Evers had reached a season-high 258 points after the fifth tournament on the schedule, but he'd seen it dwindle to 62 points after last week's tournament at Kentucky Lake. Now it's back to 96 points.
Ten of the 12 anglers who entered this tournament in the top 12 remain there. Brian Snowden, who finished a disappointing 80th this week, is in 13th, 30 points outside the cut. Bill Lowen is in 20th. They'll stay home when 12 others goes to Alabama. John Crews, with two subpar 6 pound days this week, was seemingly saved by his 20 pound bag yesterday. After falling out of the top 12 on Day One, he seems to have found a permanent place there as a result of one good day. He now sits in 8th overall, 60 points ahead of Snowden.
Four anglers who started the week outside the top 12 in the TTBAOY race have flirted with postseason slots at least once since the tournament began. Tournament leader Tommy Biffle has risen to seventh overall from a four-way tie for 17th. He has a 64 point lead on Snowden in 13th, bolstered by the 15 bonus points he's earned by leading for three days.
Russ Lane is currently the last angler inside the post-season cutoff, 30 points ahead of Snowden. He's also in 9th in the tournament, so even if he falls three places he'll still get to fish his home waters for the AOY crown. That is unless Mike McClelland makes a big move.
McClelland's 19 pound bag on Day One temporarily moved him from 23rd to 12th in the TTBAOY race, and even though he'll be fishing tomorrow, he's 46 points behind Lane. That's a big hill to climb with only 10 places to move up. McClelland needs eight places between him and Lane when the Sooner Run standings shake out to be the last man in.
Mark Davis, currently 14th in the TTBAOY standings, had a strong week here finishing 15th, but never had the sort of big day he needed to make a charge at the top 12. With Biffle and Lane fishing so well it would have required a four-day effort for him to slide into the post-season.
Among the Classic field, there was even less movement this week than there was with the top 12. So far, one angler has moved in from outside and another has fallen out of the queue.
Even though he didn't fish today, Kelly Jordon was not ousted from his spot in the Classic. He entered the tournament on the bubble, rose to 35th and remains there tonight. Now the bubble spot (37th) is occupied by Paul Elias, who has risen seven places since the tournament began and currently finds himself 12 points ahead of the 38th place angler, Jared Lintner. Lintner started off the week in 39th place and rose to 30th after a strong Day One performance, but a small bag on Day Two and a mediocre limit on Day Three weren't enough to keep him there. Accordingly, Elias is the only pro who was outside the Classic cut when the tournament began who is likely to sneak into the field. He is counterbalanced by Clark Reehm, who started the week in 35th but as the result of a last-place finish slipped 10 spots.
Several other anglers fell within the Classic cut, but not enough to miss the big show. Jason Williamson and Greg Vinson both missed the money this week and fell eight and two spots, respectively, but both had amassed enough points heading into the Sooner Run that they still qualfied for their first trip to the Classic. Deans Rojas fell 10 places but also had enough of a cushion to prevent disaster. The closest to losing his bid was Terry Scroggins, who entered the week in 30th but finished 73rd here, one spot ahead of Williamson, and thereby fell six places to 36th. He's 5 points ahead of Elias and 17 ahead of Lintner.
Rick Morris, currently in 40th, may be the leader of the "too little, too late" team. He started this tournament in 59th in the TTBAOY race, barely in sight of the Classic cut, but after today's 20 pound bag he finds himself in 3rd in the tournament and 40th in the TTBAOY chase. Even if he were to win tomorrow, the 10 point leap plus the bonus points wouldn't be enough to bridge the 40 point gap that exists between Morris and Elias. Similarly, Bradley Roy and Davy Hite jumped 7 and 13 places respectively as a result of their performances this week.
Hite is in 12th in the tournament and will fish tomorrow. He's 53 points behind Elias, who will not fish tomorrow, so mathematically there's a chance for him to make a move but he's 8 pounds behind Biffle so it would take a super-human effort and the way Biffle, Pat Golden and the rest of the top 12 are fishing a massive leap up the scorecard doesn't seem likely.