Mark Menendez might want to start checking eBay for a deal on a Rolex for Terry Scroggins.
It has been 11 tournaments over seven months, and the final Angler of the Year chips have fallen in place, officially placing some anglers in — and some out — of the 2008 Bassmaster Classic.
Here are the bare bones of how the Bassmaster qualifications are dealt out: 37 go to the top 37 in the Toyota Angler of the Year standings on the Elite Series; six are split among the three leaders in the Central and Southern divisions in the Bassmaster Opens; six go to the top finisher from each of the six regions of the Federation Nation in the Federation Nation Championship; and the final spot goes to the Bassmaster Weekend Series champion.
It seems pretty straightforward, but there is one rule that would allow more Elite Series anglers into the biggest event in bass fishing — a rule that Menendez thinks is spot on.
Since the Bassmaster Opens are just that — open — anybody, including Elite Series anglers, can pay their money and fish.
BASS rules state that if an Elite Series angler qualifies for the Classic through the Opens, he enters the Classic as an Open qualifier, not as an Elite.
Terry Scroggins has won both of the Bassmaster Southern Opens, and won't need much in the final Open to finish in the top three. But since he had already qualified on the Elite Series, and since the pro schedule is a grueling stretch of 11 tournaments (14 for Scroggins, as he qualified for all three Majors), there was no guarantee that the Florida pro was even going to bother with final open.
He made his intentions clear in the Sunshine Showdown over the weekend.
"I just sent my entry fee for the last Open about an hour ago," Scroggins said the day before the start of the Sunshine Showdown, presented by Allstate Boat Insurance. "I've got a lot of friends on this tour and I know that if I was on the bubble, I'd want them to fish for me."
Menendez is sitting one spot out of the standings in 38th, and barring a disaster from Scroggins in the final Open, which is in Alabama in October — he will be fishing the Classic in February.
Behind Menendez in the AOY standings is Dave Wolak, who would be the new "first guy out" — except that he is a great position to qualify through the Central Opens. He sits in second place in the standings with the final event coming in two weeks on Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas. In the two Elite Series events fished on that lake, Wolak has finished 64th and 42nd.
If Wolak can manage to keep or better his position, that would leave Randy Howell as the first angler on the outside looking in, assuming another Elite Series angler doesn't make a big push in the final Open event for each division and move into the top three in the standings.
Notable names that made a move on Lake Toho and earned a Classic berth are: Gerald Swindle, Mike Wurm, Kotaro Kiriyama and Kevin Short. They started in 49th, 48th 46th, and 42nd, respectively, coming into the Sunshine Showdown, and all were able to move up.
Along with Howell, who started on Toho in 32nd place, there were quite a few pros falling from grace: Mark Tyler fell from 30th to 42nd, and the biggest blow was dealt over the weekend was to Jason Quinn — who fell from 35th to 46th and will most likely be watching the Classic, which will be held in his home state of South Carolina — from the shore.