With the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series season halfway finished, it's time to take a close look at the way things are going. Before this, we simply didn't have enough tournaments in the books. Now the season is taking shape, and we can make some educated guesses about where it's going.
To start, let's all marvel at the season that Skeet Reese is putting together. After four events, his worst finish is fifth place. That's nothing short of remarkable. If he were a baseball player, we'd be calling him Ruthian. Reese is on a pace to post the best regular season record since Larry Nixon in 1982.
Right now, Reese has the biggest lead in Elite Series history — 153 points. It took Mike Iaconelli 11 events to build a 118-point lead in 2007. If his pace holds, Reese might not even need to fish the two postseason events to claim his second Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year crown.
While Reese soars, several Elite pros have uncharacteristically struggled this year. Tops on that list would have to be five-time AOY and three-time Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam. The best to ever fish professionally is currently 38th in the AOY standings and in bad need of several top 12 finishes if he hopes to make this year's postseason.
Lagging even further behind KVD are a quartet of pros who participated in BASS' inaugural postseason last year: Gerald Swindle (44th), Randy Howell (45th), Alton Jones (49th) and Mark Menendez (62nd). Except for VanDam, who is qualified for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic as the defending champion, all of these guys are on the outside looking in as far as qualifying is concerned.
The only members of last year's Toyota 12 currently in the top 12 are Reese (first), Iaconelli (seventh) and Cliff Pace (11th). The rest of the group is scattered between 15th and 34th.
The farthest back in the standings that any AOY has been at this stage of the Elite season (four events to go) is second! Reese in 2007 and VanDam in 2008 were both in second place with four to play. Absolutely no one has come from farther back. And as Skeet Reese adds to his lead tournament after tournament, it becomes more and more unlikely that anyone will challenge him.
With four to go, the lowest anyone has ever ranked and still finished in the top 12 is 39th place. That's where Gerald Swindle was last year at this point. He came on strong as the season wound down and ended up 12th going into Toyota Trucks Championship Week.
So there's hope for those who have been less than stellar thus far, but time is running out. Another bad tournament and their season could be all but over.
As for the anglers currently residing in the top dozen, history is on their side. We can anticipate that eight of them will make it to Montgomery, Ala., and the postseason. The highest ranked angler to fall out of the top 12 after this point was John Crews in 2006. He was third with four to go that year but dropped all the way to 20th.