Elite

Bassmaster AOY update after Chickamauga

Four tournaments into the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series season, John Cox finally didn’t fish with the Top 10 on the final day. Cox finished 36th at Chickamauga Lake. But when you’ve placed fourth, seventh and seventh in the previous three, it’s no surprise that Cox remains No. 1 in the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.

While we’re only four tournaments into a nine-tournament season, the Chickamauga event felt like one that will carry extra weight at the end of the year. The unseasonably cool temperatures and the wide variations in weather over four days made this one a scramble. When Buddy Gross finishes 61st at Chickamauga in April, you know the lake is throwing everyone a curveball.

No one handled the curveball better than Jason Christie, of course. Coming off a next-to-last, 93rd-place finish at Santee Cooper Lakes, with his victory at Chickamauga the reigning Bassmaster Classic champion jumped further up the AOY standings than anyone, moving 31 places from 68th to 37th. As the Classic champ, Christie is already qualified for the 2023 Classic. The top 39 in the final AOY points standings qualify for the 2023 Classic, so Christie would be double-qualified and extend the AOY qualifying list down a place to 40th. But there’s a long way to go before that comes into play.

Brock Mosley’s second-place finish threw a life preserver to his previously uncharacteristic 2022 season. Mosley jumped 28 places in the AOY standings – from 82nd to 54th. His previous performances this year were 63rd at the St. Johns River, 65th at the Harris Chain and 74th at Santee Cooper.

Matt Robertson posted a similar recovery. His fourth-place finish at Chickamauga vaulted him 27 places – from 75th to 48th.

At the top of the AOY standings, Brandon Palaniuk, who won the AOY title in 2017, and Clifford Pirch have almost matched Cox for consistency. Palaniuk is only 10 points behind Cox after placing 20th at the St. Johns, 26th at the Harris Chain, third at Santee Cooper and 12th at Chickamauga. Pirch is 15 points behind Cox after finishes of 38th at St. Johns, eighth at the Harris Chain, 11th at Santee Cooper and ninth at Chickamauga.

It will be interesting to see if the seeming importance of Chickamauga shows up at the end of the season. Just how important can these standings be after four tournaments in a nine-event season? Consider this: Bassmaster Angler of the Year Seth Feider was first in the AOY standings after four tournaments in 2021, and 2020 AOY champ Clark Wendlandt was tied for fifth after four tournaments that year.

Clearly, it helps to be among the leaders at this point in the season if you’re going to have a title shot at the end.