The post-tournament standings aren't nearly finalized yet, but after the first day of the Toledo Bend Battle, the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year and Bassmaster Classic races are gaining definition. While we might hope any struggling favorites will bounce back from a tough first day, it rarely happens. The anglers who are "on fish" caught them on Thursday and will likely do it again today (Friday). The anglers who struggled on the first day are probably going to struggle again.
Here are the takeaways from Day One.
After a tough opening round for Randy Howell (he's 65th after the first round), Brent Chapman finds himself leading the AOY race on the strength of his 11th place standing. Howell dropped to third and is still very much in the hunt, especially if he can bounce back with a decent string and make the cut to the top 50.
Look out for Brandon Card! The young angler seems to be for real. He's 16th after the first round and has moved up into second place in the AOY derby. No rookie has won the title since Tim Horton did it in 2000, and you'd have to bet against Card, but he hasn't blinked and we're now past the halfway point of the season.
Kevin VanDam is currently in 40th place. If he can stay inside the top 50, he'll make the cut for the 17th consecutive Elite event — a new record. Who had the top mark before? Duh, that was also KVD, who put together a streak of 16 that stretched from 2008 to 2010.
Perhaps more importantly, though, a slow start here at Toledo Bend is hurting VanDam's chances for a fifth consecutive AOY title. He came into the tournament in 11th place and is now 15th. He needs to pick up the pace if he wants hardware at the end of the season.
Chris Lane has hogged the headlines for the Lane family this year, but Bobby continues to do what he does so well — catch limits. On Thursday, he limited for the 34th consecutive competition day. That's not the record (KVD owns that with 57), but it's impressive. Lane already has the second longest streak in Elite history with 47.
There have only been eight streaks of 40 or more competition days. VanDam has two of them.
No angler currently in the top nine of the AOY race has ever won the title before. Still, there are plenty of capable anglers in the mix who can get it done and take down the title.
Everyone's waiting for KVD to make his charge, but if history teaches us anything about the race, it's that we should look to the top of the leaderboard. At this stage of the season, the farthest back anyone has ever been and gone on to win AOY was third place. That's where VanDam was last season before he kicked in that special gear no one else seems to have.
But just for the sake of conversation let's open things up a bit more and say that the top eight or so have a legit shot to win this year. I wouldn't drop any further than that, though. The guys in ninth place or worse are pretty far back and would have to leapfrog over too many other quality anglers to win
To make the 2013 Classic, an angler is probably going to need to rank in the top 37 of the AOY race ... or win an Elite tournament.
How far back is too far back at this stage of the season? Well, the lowest anyone has ever ranked at this point and still made the Classic came in 2007 when Kotaro Kiriyama was 61st and roared back to end the year in 37th.
That means the Classic hopes of Davy Hite (77th), Boyd Duckett (76th), Gary Klein (75th), Tim Horton (67th), Steve Kennedy (63rd) and Denny Brauer (61st) are on life support. Brauer's doing something about it, though. He's currently in second place at Toledo Bend, just 10 ounces behind Cliff Pace. If he can win, he's in.