The Ultimate Angler

A Frankenstein creation taking from the best, and creating the ultimate

Inspired by Mary Shelley (and a little Mel Brooks) ESPNOutdoors.com decided to create what we believe is the unbeatable, unshakable, brilliantly talented, funny, quick-witted, jig-droppin', power-finesse throwin', swimbaitin', patiently-quick and in a word, perfect, angler.It was suggested that we post a photo of Kevin VanDam and be done with it, but our creativity would not — could not — be stifled.

 For suggestions on which anglers to chop up and reorder in our basement laboratory, where we will create an angler that has a shot at making more money than Boyd Duckett, we went straight to the source. With the Elite Series anglers' support, here are the pieces of our perfect angler:

 Aaron Martens' adjustment of baits

 For this, we'll turn the floor over to your 2006 Angler of the Year, Mr. Michael Iaconelli: "When you see Aaron practice, nine times out of 10, he's not even fishing. He's got his hatch open and he's fiddling. He's probably the best fisherman I've ever seen when it comes to modifying baits on the fly. And here's the interesting thing about it: He's colorblind! But he's able to put together baits to find the perfect pattern, the perfect size, shape. You can ask anybody out here. He's the best at doing it. It's just that weird sixth sense intuition. It's creepy."

 Peter Thliveros' patience

 Thliveros is the consummate Floridian when it comes to pacing himself. At times, he appears to have already retired, fishing with nowhere else to be. "I've seen him work a Carolina rig in one spot," Iaconelli says. "It looks like he's growing mold on it, he's working so slow." For the power fishermen like VanDam and Iaconelli, who try to hit as many targets as possible in a given day, there must be something hypnotic in watching a methodical angler like Thliveros pick apart a given spot. The $500,000 Thliveros earned by winning two Major tournaments over the past two seasons is equally mesmerizing.

 Skeet Reese's versatility

 Reese, in 2007, caught bass in the bottom of Texas, in the redwood forests around his native California, and in a lake between New York and Vermont. He caught them in February in Alabama, and caught the heck out of them in August in Maryland. "He's done well at everything, and if you look back at his years, he's always done well," fellow Elite Series angler Greg Gutierrez said. "It's just this year, he's stuck in the limelight, and it forces people to look at him." He needs to catch just a few more, in Florida, to win his first Angler of the Year title.

 Rick Clunn's logical spirituality

 Like VanDam, it's hard to know even where to begin (or stop) plucking traits from Clunn. Everyone agrees that his perception is different from any other angler's. Here's how Skeet Reese tries to explain it: "He's the master of understanding emotions and life and being able to incorporate the human emotion with natural emotions." Kevin Short flanks Clunn from the other side: "He's a very logical individual, and that's a good quality in this business, because you do have to pay attention to what's going on out there. Not just what's physically, but what's going on in your head." Where does the mind end and the body begin? Where does one being end and another begin? Clunn may not have the answers to these questions, but he has pondered them more than any other angler on this tour, guaranteed.

 Greg Hackney's perseverance

 Born and reared in the oppressive, sticky heat of the lower Arkansas River delta, Hackney is the man you'd want in the boat if your life depended on catching a single fish.

 "He's very methodical when it's tough and you've got to grind it out," Short says. "He's maybe the best grinder. Pour out a five-gallon bucket in the parking lot, and if anyone's going to catch a fish out of it, it'd be him."

 Terry Scroggins' mat-flipping
Another Floridian, Scroggins is accustomed to targeting bass lurking in thick vegetation. Partly as a result, other anglers are accustomed to seeing him excel any time a lake is stocked with plants. "He's the king," says VanDam. "There's a lot more to flipping mats than tying on a big sinker and punching it through there, and there's nobody who does it better."

 Mike McClelland's jig
The Arkansas native is the one of only two anglers — the other being VanDam — to win two Elite Series events, and both times he did it throwing a jig. The first, at Grand Lake last season, was a runaway; the second, this year at Clarks Hill, required him to erase a 6-pound deficit on the final afternoon. "I wish that I had the year-round confidence that Mike McClelland does in a jig," VanDam says. "Sometimes that's good and bad, but he's going to try to make it happen no matter where he goes in the country, no matter what time of year."

 VanDam's efficiency
It's not just that the guy can make a hundred casts using the same number of motions it takes a normal angler to make 15 — though he can do that; it's that he never seems to have two bad days in a row (or even one, come to think of it). He has a remarkable ability "to make the right decisions and do the job at hand," says fellow angler Skeet Reese. With KVD, there's no wasted motion or emotion. Says Short: "He's a damn Frankenstein in his own right. Whatever there is to be done, he just does it."

 Fred Roumbanis' use of swimbaits
The California kids may be moving East (Aaron Martens to Alabama, Roumbanis to Oklahoma) but they're bringing with them techniques and baits from perhaps the most geographically diverse state in the union. The big swimbaits Roumbanis has been slinging are a big reason why he's the most improved angler in the points this season, and why he more than doubled his career earnings with a win in the Bassmaster American this year. Not convinced? Roumbanis' URL says it all: swimbaitfred.com.

 Iaconelli's passion
The yelling, the cussing, the celebrating — to other anglers and to fans of the sport, they make him either a hero or a villain. In 2006, they were both, as the wiry New Jersey angler threw a tantrum that earned him a Day One disqualification at the Classic, then buckled down during the season to wind up with his first Angler of the Year title. Saying so may be cliché, but in this case, it may even be true: No one wanted it more.

 John Murray's dropshot
Murray quietly enjoyed a season that could be described as Skeet-Lite. The Arizona angler racked up a half-dozen top 12 finishes, including two top-3 finishes in eight days in New York State — not bad for a guy from Arizona. "Day in, day out, the guy's so good with a dropshot, it's unbelievable," VanDam says.

 Steve Kennedy's joie de vivre
Where's he going? We don't know. What's he going to do when he gets there? No one has the faintest clue. But somehow, Kennedy opens his mind to each new day in a way that allows him to catch terrific amounts of fish. "It's almost childlike," fellow angler Short says, in a good way. "When he's like that, he's making every cast like it's his first one, and every fish is like the first one he caught in his life." How many times has Kennedy been so thrilled with a fish that all he can say is, "It was awesome"? Plenty.

 Kenyon Hill's sense of humor
This is the guy who, at Lake Erie, said he'd round up the anglers with a bullhorn for a lunch break if they were forced to fish in the Niagara River, and the guy who managed to trim and rev his motor, absolutely drenching emcee Keith Alan on Lake Dardanelle last month. By our count, that makes him a formidable presence in both verbal and physical comedy, a rare two-fer.

 Gerald Swindle's mouth
To get a sense of Swindle's locution, envision Bassmaster's answer to "King of the Hill's" Boomhauer, plus about 10,000 volts and a side of Eminem. And it's not just that he talks at the speed of sound; he also has a quiver of analogies and one-liners fit for late night TV. One of his greatest hits from this year came in Greensboro, N.C., after bombing on its Lake Townsend. "I feel like I got double-dipped in peanut butter and rolled down a dirt road," he said at the weigh-in. "I don't want to go back out there. I don't care if I ever see Townsend. If I had a house there, I'd burn it down and move back to Alabama." You've never heard such applause for an angler who just ripped the hometown lake.

 And thus, there lies our creation.

 Like most of the baits the pros are catching their fish on, we are still trying to perfect it, but it should be on the market next year. If you feel we were off — or have another suggestion — be sure and comment at the bottom of this page.

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