MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Can it get any closer? Well, yes it could, actually. But it's darn close now, and the drama is filled with some compelling characters.
Let's start with where things stand -- right now, as if the season ended after today's weigh-in. This would be your Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings:
1. Skeet Reese 277
2. Kevin VanDam 275
3. Aaron Martens 262
4. Edwin Evers 256
5. Russ Lane 252
6. Greg Hackney 245
7. Cliff Pace 240
8. Terry Butcher 234
9. Gary Klein 219
10. John Crews 216
11. Derek Remitz 215.5
12. Tommy Biffle 209.5
Don't put too much stock in those totals. A lot of those points haven't been earned yet.
Here's what has to happen for each of these pros to win AOY.
Skeet Reese: He's still driving the bus here. If Skeet wins, he's the AOY. If he finishes second, he's the AOY unless Russ Lane wins, in which case Lane would be AOY. With 12-4 on Day One, it seems unlikely that Skeet could fall below seventh or eight in this event, but that won't be good enough. He needs another decent limit tomorrow.
Kevin VanDam: For KVD to three-peat, he needs to finish high in the standings and Reese needs to finish at least two places below him. It could happen. KVD has a three-pound lead on the rest of the field and his competition starts to bunch up behind him. Little more than a pound separates Reese, Martens, Evers and Hackney, and we know from experience that VanDam will do all he can to help the other three pass Reese.
Aaron Martens: Realistically, Martens needs to win on the Alabama River and have Reese and VanDam struggle on Day Two, with Reese falling to no better than third and VanDam to second. Martens lost a good fish on the first day. He'll need that one and a couple more like it to make up the nearly 3 1/2-pound deficit he has to KVD. He's fishing well, but exactly the two wrong guys are beating him now.
Edwin Evers: The best way to characterize Evers' chances is to say that they're decidedly worse than Martens' chances. Like Martens, the wrong guys are leading Evers in this tournament and there are probably too many of them to jump over in the standings.
Russ Lane: With his 8-1 limit on Day One, Russ Lane has all but taken himself out of the AOY race. He'll need better than 20 pounds tomorrow to have any chance at all of winning, and nothing less gives him a real chance at the title.
The rest of the field is fishing for points and AOY money. They have no real chance at the title itself.
So, for the second year in a row in the postseason's second incarnation, it's coming down to the same two anglers -- Reese and VanDam. One (Reese) controls his own destiny, while the other (VanDam) seems to have destiny on his side.
May the best angler win.