After 10 stops that included California, Texas and New York, the Bassmaster Elite Series, the most visible and prestigious tournament trail in fishing, will wind down its season with a finale Sept. 13-16 on Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga.While fishing fans await the culmination of three points races, many anglers will look to secure qualifying spots at bass fishing's major event, the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, set for Feb. 22-24 in Greenville, S.C.
The points races, the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, the Toyota Rookie of the Year and the Toyota Moving Forward Award boast some exciting action heading into the final event.
It all comes down to this," said Skeet Reese, who leads the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings by more than 100 points. "I consider Angler of the Year the crown jewel of bass fishing, and a lot of hard work went into this season. I'm happy I put myself in position to win, but I still have a job to do."
The Angler of the Year rewards Elite anglers based on consistent finishes. Points are allocated at each Elite event according to finish and are compiled throughout the season. The winner of the award will receive $125,000, and more than $600,000 will be distributed to the top 50.
For Reese, of Auburn, Calif., to secure his first AOY title, he must hold off three-time Angler of the Year winner Kevin VanDam. Reese has scored nine top-10 finishes this season and in August posted a victory at an Elite event on the Potomac River.VanDam, of Kalamazoo, Mich., has kept pace, but trails by a significant margin heading into the final event. If VanDam is to claim his fourth title, he will need to finish in the top echelon of anglers and will need Reese to struggle at the final Elite event.VanDam would become just the second angler in BASS history to attain more than three AOY titles.The rookie points standings, which are derived from the Angler of the Year standings, have been dominated by two anglers: Derek Remitz of Madison, Ala., and Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C. Both have posted victories in the Elite Series in 2007, with Remitz striking first at the season-opening event on Texas' Lake Amistad.
Remitz, a 25-year-old who qualified for the Elite Series via his top performance on the Bassmaster Open circuit in 2006, is in control — leading Ashley by more than 60 points.The winner of the award will receive a $25,000 top prize.
Past winners have included Elite champions Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., and Dave Wolak of Wake Forrest, N.C.
"Winning this award, with this competition, would validate my strengths as an angler," said Remitz, who recently relocated to Alabama. "Both Casey and I have set a tremendous pace and it should be a fantastic final event."
Also having a solid Elite season is Fred Roumbanis, who moved midseason to Broken Arrow, Okla., and is on top of the Toyota Moving Forward standings.Roumbanis has dominated the standings thus far, based on improvement in the Angler of the Year standings from season to season. He has improved by more than 50 places in the 2007 AOY standings.
"It's been a fantastic season," said Roumbanis, who won the Bassmaster American, a Bassmaster Major in Greensboro, N.C. "The hard work I put in during the offseason has paid off and I feel like I'm in the zone at every tournament."Roumbanis would have to stumble significantly, while second-place competitor Chris Lane of Winter Haven, Fla., would need to finish in the top 10 at the Toho Elite event to have a shot at the award.
While the points races are sure to feature exciting finishes, the majority of the 108-angler Elite field will be focused on securing spots in either the 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series or the Bassmaster Classic. The top 84 finishers in the Angler of the Year standings will qualify for the following Elite season, while the top 36 in the AOY standings will qualify for the Classic.The 2007 Elite Series, which kicked off at the season-opening event on Texas' Lake Amistad in March, has awarded more than $11 million in prize money.
Five anglers crossed the $1 million mark in career BASS earnings during the 2007 season: Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., and Kelly Jordon of Mineola, Texas.