After six of eight regular season events on the Bassmaster Elite Series trail, the race to win the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year award is over for all but a few anglers.
And for the first time ever, BASS will have a "postseason" for the Angler of the Year finalists. The top 12 will be invited to fish two events in September on Alabama's Lake Jordan and the Alabama River. At the end of these two tournaments, the 2009 Angler of the Year will be crowned.
History is often the greatest tool when it comes to predicting future events. With that in mind, let's take a look at what it teaches us from previous Elite seasons.
In three previous Elite seasons (2006-2008), the winner of the AOY award never ranked lower than second with just four tournaments left to fish. In 2006, eventual AOY Michael Iaconelli was first; in 2007, Skeet Reese trailed only Kevin VanDam; and in 2008, KVD trailed only Todd Faircloth at that point.
Of course, the two postseason events this year throw a new dynamic into the mix. With a different scoring system for those tournaments that allows for more movement, the leader going into those events will be far from safe, and it's likely that he'll be passed by at least one competitor who gets hot in Alabama.
The Classic Cut
Let's take a look at another race utilizing the same points system — the race to qualify for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake in Alabama.
As the defending Classic champ, Skeet Reese is already "in." He knows that he'll be defending his title next February. The rest of the field has yet to be determined, but we know that 36 additional anglers will come from the Elite Series, six will come from the Opens, six will come from the BASS Federation Nation, one will come from the Weekend Series and one from the Women's Bassmaster Tour, for a total of 51 anglers.
Of the anglers coming from the Elite Series, only the top 12 will be invited to the postseason. They'll fish a total of 10 events. The rest of the Elite field only has eight tournaments to fish before their season ends and they find themselves either Classic bound or headed home for a long offseason.
So, with just two tournaments left for all but 12 of the Elites, who's in good shape and who's in big trouble?
Well, the guys in the top 23 in the current AOY standings are pretty safe. They can probably go ahead and make their plans to be in Birmingham next February. In three previous Elite seasons, no angler has fallen out of Classic contention if he was in the top 23 with just two events left to fish.
The biggest collapse in Elite history with two tournaments to go belongs to Davy Hite. With two left in 2006, Hite fell from 24th all the way to 40th and out of the Bassmaster Classic. Last year, Morizo Shimizu dropped from 25th to 44th and out of the championship.
But what about the guys on the other end — the ones who are struggling and need a good couple of finishes as the season closes in order to make it to the Classic? Do we have any history or guidelines for them?
Absolutely! In fact, we can look back and see that the biggest comeback by an angler with two events to go in the Elite season happened in 2007 when Mike Wurm jumped from 55th place up to 35th to squeeze into the championship. Greg Hackney made it in from 54th last year. In all, however, only four anglers ranked 50th or worse have worked their way into the Classic field with two tournaments to go. Apart from Wurm and Hackney, it was Ish Monroe (2006) and Boyd Duckett (2008).
So if being ranked in the 50s at this point in the season makes it tough to qualify for the Classic, what big names are in trouble this year?
Let's start with Edwin Evers. After qualifying for eight straight Classics, Double E is cutting it close this year. He's currently 49th.
Terry Scroggins (5 straight Classics) is currently 52nd in AOY, but that's an improvement over where he was earlier in the season. He's been fishing better lately and looks poised to make a run at the Classic.
Some other notables are in even more dire circumstances. Mark Davis (three AOY awards and 14 Classic appearances) is 65th; Rick Clunn (4 Classic titles and 32 career Classics) is 69th; Ish Monroe (5 straight Classics) is 76th; Peter Thliveros (13 career Classics) is 83rd; Scott Rook (7 career Classics) is 85th; and Zell Rowland (16 career Classics) is a dismal 97th.
For them, the fat lady is already singing.