LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – After an opening day when only 28 anglers in the Bassmaster Elite Series Diamond Drive caught five-fish limits, there’s still a lot of opportunity to rise or fall in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. However, today’s weigh-in will add significant clarity to the AOY race.
“If none of the other contenders make the top 50, and Kevin (VanDam) is in the top 12, it’s going to be pretty hard to catch him,” said Alton Jones, who entered this tournament tied with VanDam, 19 points behind AOY leader Terry Scroggins. “But I’m not ready to make that determination yet. All I’ve got to do is go out and have a good day fishing.”
As Jones mentioned, the field will be cut to the top 50 after today’s weigh-in. Going into today, VanDam was sixth with 12 pounds, 12 ounces. Based on theoretical points from Thursday’s competition, VanDam moved into first place in the AOY race by over 100 points. But that’s the point – until today’s weigh-in cuts the field in half and establishes a definite order for those not advancing to fish Saturday – this is all theory, not fact.
“That story will be a lot closer to being told tonight,” said Jones, who lost fishing time Thursday due to a blown engine powerhead. “These are multi-day tournaments. They don’t accumulate points until tonight, and there’s going to be a lot of changes on the leaderboard.”
VanDam, the six-time Angler of the Year champion, isn’t ready to claim an edge in the race for another title.
“The thing is, it doesn’t take a lot of weight to move up a lot in the standings,” VanDam said. “Those guys had a tough day yesterday and I had a really good day. It could easily swap.
“It’s hard to catch them here.”
There is no room for error in this event where the Arkansas River isn’t giving up keeper-size largemouth bass (15-inch minimum) in abundance. VanDam said he caught a total of seven keepers Thursday, so he had very little culling to do in putting together his 12-12 total.
“I think I can get five keeper bites today, but you lose one or two and it changes everything,” VanDam said. “I’m going to fish the best areas I know, and hopefully get them to bite. But it ain’t easy.”
Chris Lane serves as an example of just how tough the fishing is on the Arkansas River this week. Lane, who entered this event in 10th place in the AOY standings, abandoned plans to compete for that title after weathering a tough three days of practice. He weighed-in only one bass Thursday; that left him in 89th place with 1-5. But he was relieved to be there instead of at zero going into today.
“When I got here and saw the way practice went, my game plan shifted from going for Angler of the Year to catching a fish and making the (Bassmasters) Classic,” Lane said. “After catching that fish yesterday, it kind of took a lot of pressure off of me for today. I’ll at least get some points here.
“There are a lot of guys (six) that zeroed. The pressure that they are under today is a whole different ballgame. It’s 10 times more than it was yesterday.”
In other words, no matter where an angler stands in the AOY race, these five pools where the tourney is being held on the Arkansas River will be a high pressure zone today.