It's an Elite Series three-ring circus on Lake St. Clair the next three days. The year-end Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship not only wraps up a) the Angler of the Year title, and b) Elite Series qualifiers for the Bassmaster Classic, but it's also c) a 50-angler tournament with a trophy and a $25,000 check for the winner.
We'll try to help you keep your eyes on all the prizes. Of course, the AOY championship race will be the No. 1 focus. But there's a whole lot of drama at the other end of the scale, where a half-dozen or so anglers are trying to get inside the Classic cut-off of No. 42 in the AOY points standings. Here's where that race stands entering this tournament:
Rank Angler Pts.
39th Todd Auten 554 +18
40th Cliff Prince 552 +16
41st Tyler Rivet 538 + 2
42nd Paul Mueller 536 ---
43rd Jake Whitaker 534 - 2
44th Kelley Jaye 530 - 6
45th Skylar Hamilton 530 - 6
46th Derek Hudnall 522 -14
47th Chad Morgenthaler 512 -24
Every Elite Series angler will tell you if he finishes the season by earning a Bassmaster Classic qualification, he considers it a success. To put it bluntly, we’re looking at the success/failure line here, and Paul Mueller is sitting on the hot seat. He’s that last man in the Classic cut now.
“I’m fishing for a Classic spot,” Mueller said Saturday. “I don’t know what I need to catch per day. Well, 19 or 20 pounds will do it, but anything less than that and you’re jeopardizing your whole season.”
Mueller said he had one good day of the three-day practice period, where he could have weighed about 19 pounds. But the strong winds that churned Lake St. Clair every day of practice limited just how much of a game plan Mueller could put together.
“You always want to have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C,” he said. “I really don’t have a Plan B, and I certainly don’t have a Plan C.”