As the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Toledo Bend Reservoir was winding down, I started thinking about writing this midseason report. If you've been following the action, you know it's been an interesting season for a lot of reasons — Mark Davis' historic run, the "rookies," and the usual mix of surprisingly strong starts by some and remarkably disappointing starts by others.
Then I realized, we're not actually at the halfway point at all. There are nine events that count toward the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year point standings, and although only four events are in the books, we're way more than halfway through this season.
Hear me out on this.
In addition to seven conventional tournaments on Seminole, the St. Johns, Table Rock, Toledo Bend, Dardanelle, the Delaware River and Cayuga, there's a special event on Lake Chickamauga (BASSfest in June) and an AOY championship in September — the last event of the season.
BASSfest is different for at least two reasons: (1) the Elite pros will be fishing alongside and against a small field of Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens anglers and (2) they're only fighting for money there; each Elite angler will receive 100 points in the event whether they finish first or last (as long as they participate).
The AOY championship is limited to the top 50 anglers in the AOY standings going into that last tournament, so it's a small field. That event will use the same scoring system as regular Elite tournaments — 100 for first, 99 for second ... 51 for 50th. As a result, it's actually going to stabilize the standings and make it tougher for anglers near the bottom to move up. Don't expect a big shakeup in the standings at this tournament. It's going to have exactly the opposite effect.
So the season has an extra tournament, but two of the events will serve to solidify what happened before them — not add to the mayhem.
Mark Davis is not just leading the AOY race to this point, he's been outrageously strong. His worst finish so far this season is fourth, and his lead over Jared Lintner is considerable though certainly not insurmountable. If Davis can keep it going, he'll claim his fourth AOY crown and become the oldest angler in history to win the sport's most prestigious award.
Linter has been on fire, too, ranking 11th to 18th in every event so far — a big comeback from his 78th-place finish in last year's AOY race. He made a nice run at the title in 2007, when the season started out west, before finishing fifth. This season, he's fishing relaxed and playing to his strengths. It could be his breakout year.
Todd Faircloth is currently third in the AOY race and no stranger to the season-long grind it takes to win. He's versatile, at his best when the fishing's tough and has all the tools to claim the title. It seems a foregone conclusion among students of the sport that he's going to win it one day. Maybe this will be his year.
Jacob Powroznik is largely unknown to those who follow B.A.S.S. exclusively, but he's been an AOY challenger with FLW for several years. He certainly has the skills to win on the B.A.S.S. side, too, and he just might do it as a "rookie." Currently in fourth place, he needs Davis to stumble if he's going to make up ground.
I'll never call Chad Morgenthaler a "rookie." He fished the highest level of B.A.S.S. competition back when it was called the Tour. He even qualified for a few Classics that way. He's in fifth place now and is definitely in contention for AOY.
In fact, anyone in the top nine or 10 has a shot, though that number diminishes with every passing tournament. Anyone more than 100 points behind the leader is running on fumes, though, and better start notching Top 12s at every stop from here on out. With only three regular events left, every point could be critical.
If you want to examine the greatest AOY comeback in Elite history, you only have to look back to last year. Aaron Martens was 15th at this stage. (I'll bet you thought he was a lot farther back, right?)
After a couple of bad events to start the season, the Natural righted the ship and went on a tear. He was 85th after the first tournament, 60th after the second, 39th after the third and 15th at the halfway point. More importantly, he was just 58 points back of the leader, Edwin Evers. Only two anglers are that close to Mark Davis right now, and the tournament season is even farther along as a practical matter.