WETUMPKA, Ala. — While Tommy Biffle kicked it into high gear in the first leg of Toyota Trucks Championship Week, two anglers known for their clutch performances, Kevin VanDam and Skeet Reese, uncharacteristically struggled.
The duo headed into the Berkley Powerbait Trophy Chase neck-and-neck in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, but the door swung wide open for the entire field following a tough Saturday, the first day of the inaugural Bassmaster Elite Series Postseason.
Still, Reese did just enough to overtake VanDam and take a six-point advantage in the AOY standings over the hard-charging Biffle, who pushed himself into a tie with VanDam for second with 230 points. Biffle put himself near the head of the class with his Saturday limit of 15 pounds, 0 ounces, which led the 12-angler field. The AOY standings reflect what happened Saturday but Sunday could, once again, shake the leaderboard up.
Saturday was more about the success of Biffle than the other anglers' struggles. Lake Jordan plays to Biffle's strengths and while he didn't divulge specifics of his pattern, astute fishing fans know that the Wagoner, Okla., pro was using the flipping stick.
"I'm definitely fishing like I like to," said Biffle, 51. "My goal is to win this tournament and win the next one and hope that a few other guys struggle. I have a chance and that is all you can ask for."
Fishing fans can catch all of the on-the-water action from Toyota Trucks Championship Week on The Bassmasters, which will air for three hours on Sunday, Sept. 27 from 4-7 p.m. ET.
Also, the daily weigh-ins for two Elite Series postseason events will air live on ESPN360.com, ESPN's broadband sports network, while a wealth of unique content will also be available at Bassmaster.com throughout Championship week.
Despite the lead, Biffle said he didn't do as well as he had expected. His practice was productive and Biffle was confident that he could weigh a limit in the 20-pound range. Though his total could have been more — his largest fish came unbuttoned — he wasn't catching them nearly as well as he had in practice.
Right behind Biffle in the Jordan competition was 2006 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Mike Iaconelli. Iaconelli, who trailed Biffle by just 4 ounces, entered the tournament in 11th in the AOY standings but shot to fourth after Saturday. The postseason format also supremely benefited Gerald Swindle, who entered the tournament 12th in the AOY standings but moved to seventh after a nice day.
"There is not a lot of pressure on me and that is a good thing," said Iaconelli, who has five BASS wins. "I honestly think it settles me down. There is no reason to be conservative and to know you can fish for everything you have is a good feeling. I'm shooting for the AOY and I know I have nothing to lose."
Cliff Pace was third after Saturday in the Jordan competition and moved up to fifth in the AOY standings. The complete AOY standings can be found below.
While the AOY leaderboard shuffled and Reese struggled, he still picked up a spot and leapfrogged VanDam. Considering the two have been battling for supremacy over the last few years, Reese was excited to take the lead. But his bite on Jordan is not as solid as he would have liked and Sunday will serve as a quasi practice day during which, he said, he will try to develop something new.
"No doubt, I'm going to have to change things up," said Reese, the 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion. "I'm indifferent about today. I look at it like I shoot par. If you would tell me that I could take this lead into the Alabama River, I might take it."
Many anglers compared the Postseason competition to a football game. Saturday was the first quarter of competition and Sunday will represent the second quarter. After a brief halftime — anglers will take Monday off and fish a two-day practice period on the Alabama River on Tuesday and Wednesday — the postseason competition picks up with the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph, set for Montgomery, Ala., and the Alabama River, on Sept. 17-18.
The field qualified for the Postseason through their regular-season performances on the Bassmaster Elite Series. The top 12 anglers in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings after the regular season had their points recalculated and took those scores into the Postseason. Each leg of the Postseason will be scored on a 50-point sliding scale.