WETUMPKA, Ala. — Forget what you know about the Elite Series this season; the Toyota Trucks Championship Week introduces new standings, new goals, new water and a new format.
Former Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Skeet Reese is enjoying his attempt to become only the second angler to couple the year-end prize with a Bassmaster Classic trophy in the same season.
"Everything is an unknown this week," Reese said. "You have to fish as hard as you can because it is a two-day tournament. I'm getting into the frame of mind that it is like going into the final 12 of a regular Elite Series event."
Reese was leading the points race at the end of the regular season until a few adjustments, including two bonus points for Kevin VanDam's victory on Smith Mountain Lake, put Reese a point behind four-time champion VanDam heading into the two Championship Week tournaments.
The 12 anglers vying for the TTBAOY prize are allowed practice days on Thursday and Friday for the Berkley Powerbait Trophy Chase kickoff tournament, fished Saturday and Sunday on Lake Jordan in Wetumpka, Ala.
Each angler is allowed to bring in a five-bass limit each day, while the heaviest two-day weight gets the win and 50 points. For a full breakdown on the points awarded for each tournament and the top 12 standings entering Toyota Trucks Championship Week, click here.
Reese has not fished Lake Jordan before, so his two days of practice will be important in developing a tournament strategy.
"I don't have any points cushion," Reese said. "I'm looking at it like I have to win both of these tournaments, and I think it's going to take 15 pounds a day or better to do that at Jordan. The two-day event means we are going to have to fish less chicken."
While Reese feels the pressure at the top of the leaderboard, anglers closer to the bottom of the standings might enter the first event on Jordan with a different mindset. Mike Iaconelli sits in 11th place, 30 points behind VanDam. He said he is approaching these tournaments with nothing to lose.
"I'm in a good place here with a good mindset," Iaconelli said. "I'm approaching this like fishing the Classic. You have a different mindset there where only first place matters. Being in 11th place also helps take the pressure and media attention off me and places it on those guys in the first few spots.
Iaconelli looks at the format as another advantage because he won't have to worry about managing fish for a four-day event.
"In these two-day events, I am going to catch everything I can rather than conserve my fish," Iaconelli said. "I'm going for broke, knowing that I need to win both events to have a shot."
He found himself in that 30-point hole thanks to a poor finish at the regular-season final on Oneida Lake, a location where he normally excels. The 54th-place finish at the Ramada Champion's Choice dropped him out of sixth place in the TTBAOY standings.
"That finish on Oneida hurt me, but I really think that this week will be exciting for the fans because, theoretically, nobody is out of it," he said.
Forecasts for the first day of practice on Thursday call for a chance of scattered thunderstorms and highs in the mid-80s. The field launches from the Lake Jordan Marina at 7:15 a.m. ET Saturday and Sunday, with weigh-ins on ESPN360 starting at 5:30 p.m. ET.
For a full rundown on all the coverage from the Toyota Trucks Championship Week, click here.