Just as the eventual Toyota AOYs started the season on the right foot, all of them were pretty strong in the finale, too. In fact, none of them missed the first cut in the final tournament of the season. The worst finish was 41st out of 101 anglers by Michael Iaconelli in 2006. KVD was 38th out of 106 in 2008 — again, not bad at all. Three of the seven AOYs were in the top six and five were in the top 14.
KVD has culled twice in 2 cast for a 3lb upgrade. Photo by Marshal Billy Black.
Realistically, even a Toyota AOY is going to have a letdown somewhere along the way. A key seems to be when he has it. Have it too early and it gets the entire season off on the wrong foot. Bomb in the first tournament and you may find yourself pressing in the next. Pretty soon, one bad tournament snowballs into three … or four … or a full season. Have the bad tournament late and you get run down from behind. There are almost always a few competitors within striking distance if the leader has a bad day at the last event.
Kevin Ledoux with a 2 fish flurry resulting in keepers 7 and 8. Both fish were over 2 pounds and culled one pounders. Photo by Mark Keith
Five of the seven AOYs in the Elite era won at least one tournament in the season they captured the crown. VanDam won twice in 2008 and Reese did the same in 2010. Only Reese in 2009 and VanDam in 2011 finished the season without a trophy, and both of them had a second place finish that year.
Remitz upgrades and is now around 15 lbs. Photo by Marshal Chris Reeves.
Jeremy Starks hand lands a nice Alabama River bass. Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Wesley Seal.