BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The fans have spoken, and democracy ruled in determining the final four Bassmaster Elite Series anglers who may be served a slice of the $100,000 pie during Toyota All-Star Week and the Evan Williams Bourbon Championship, Sept. 27-29, out of Muskegon, Mich.
The championship is an Elite Series postseason competition among the top performers from the 2013 tour, along with four pros whose avid fan support catapulted them into the postseason battle on Muskegon and White lakes.
Perhaps Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., one of the elected four, put it best when learning he’d earned the votes: “To me, the whole idea of being voted in by the fans is more flattering than anything. It almost means more than to win a tournament. Fans speak the loudest, and I listen to them. It’s very satisfying to be part of that many lives.”
The other three Fan Favorites are Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho; Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J.; and Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif.
They join Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., who earned a postseason spot as the 2013 Bassmaster Classic champ, and Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C., who, as the 2013 Rookie of the Year, also qualified.
The other anglers in the field are the pros who ranked as the Top 8 in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points: Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala.; Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla.; Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.; Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla.; Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas; Alton Jones of Lorena, Texas; John Crews of Salem, Va.; and Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif.
The 14 All-Star pros will compete in the fifth Elite Series postseason. The original postseasons in 2009 and 2010 in Montgomery, Ala., were much different than the current All-Star Week format. Anglers qualified on points alone, and the competition determined the Angler of the Year winner. Both years, Reese led the AOY competition going into the postseason, and both times VanDam came from behind to win the title. VanDam and Reese are the only anglers to fish every postseason since its inception.
In 2011, Toyota All-Star Week took on something very similar to its current form. That year, Rookie of the Year Ott DeFoe outlasted Edwin Evers to take the title, also on waters in and around Montgomery.
The 2012 All-Star battle in Decatur, Ill., shaped up much like this year’s Toyota Angler of the Year Race. Evers and Martens went to the wire, with Martens pulling off the win and taking home the All-Star trophy. With both having earned their postseason spots through their places in No. 1 and No. 2 in AOY points, this year could well be a rematch on many levels.