No one would blame Brent Chapman, Ott DeFoe or Todd Faircloth for wishing that the Bassmaster Elite Series season finale on New York’s Oneida Lake would just get started.
The three pros are champing at the bit to begin the Ramada Championship, Thursday-Sunday, Aug. 23-26, out of Syracuse, N.Y., because that’s where the 2012 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title will be decided, and they’re the Top 3 in contention.
The race is the tightest in years. Chapman leads, DeFoe trails by only 13 points, and Faircloth is 20 points behind Chapman. If all three choked, someone else — say, Terry Scroggins in fourth place with a 39-point deficit — could move up to take the crown and its $100,000 prize.
The AOY competition promises to be the biggest show at Oneida, but it won’t be the event’s only showdown. Bassmaster Classic berths for 2013 will be fought for, won and lost. The Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race will cross the finish line. And eight qualifiers for Toyota Trucks All-Star Week in September will be determined.
A date in September is what Dean Rojas is after. Ranked 10th in points, Rojas virtually owns a Classic spot already, but a postseason entry is iffy. Rojas goes into Oneida 18 points out of the No. 8 spot on the Angler of the Year list, the cutoff for automatic qualification for the event.
Four additional pros will be added to the All-Star roster by fans voting online at Bassmaster.com, but Rojas said he’d prefer to be among the group of eight.
“I’d rather earn my way in,” said Rojas. “I think it’s within reach.”
His Oneida credentials give him a long arm: He won the 2008 Elite event on Oneida, and finished third when the Elite field returned in 2009. He was successful in both trips with shallow-water frog and plastics patterns. Targeting the lake’s largemouth paid off big back then, but he contends that he hasn’t eliminated a smallmouth strategy from his 2012 game plan.