As the season progresses, more and more of the field becomes effectively eliminated from qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic on points. They’ve just fallen too far behind to get it done. For them, the only route to the Classic is to win an Elite tournament.


Last year, win-and-you’re in (WAYI) was the salvation of six anglers! That’s astounding. Never before had so many event winners come from so far back in the AOY standings. Boyd Duckett, Ish Monroe, Alton Jones, Brandon Palaniuk, Jeremy Starks and Jonathon VanDam all made it to the 2013 Classic because they won a 2012 Elite event. Without WAYI, they’d have been following the championship from a sponsor booth at the Classic Expo.


This year, I doubt it will be so many. Three of the four winners so far (Todd Faircloth, Keith Combs and Skeet Reese) are solidly near the top in the AOY race. The other (Jason Christie) is having a roller coaster season, but could still double qualify on points.


That brings us to the anglers who really need a win in one of the four remaining Elite if they hope to fish the 2014 Classic on Lake Guntersville. Basically, that includes anyone ranked worse than about 65th in AOY points going into the Alabama River tournament. Technically, they’re not mathematically precluded from qualifying on points, but as a practical matter, they have a better chance of winning a tournament than they do of making it on points.


Three anglers in the top 12 after Day 1 are making their run right now.


Kelley Jaye needs to win if he wants to fish the 2014 Classic his home state — ditto for Randy Howell. They’re tied for seventh and tied for 10th after the first day. Similarly, J Todd Tucker is tied for 10th and needs to win a blue trophy if he hopes to make it to the Classic next year.


The stakes are high for all the Elite anglers this week, but they’re somehow even higher for those who need nothing short of a victory to turn their season around.

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