Deep dive into AOY stats

While Kevin VanDam is the undisputed “Greatest of All-Time” (G.O.A.T.) in professional bass fishing, when it comes to the Bassmaster Elite Series, Aaron Martens is the consistency king, at least for now.

Some of the trends are surprising in the following glance inside the numbers of the Elite Series 12-year history. In looking strictly at the season-by-season Toyota Angler of the Year final point standings, you get a snapshot of consistency. Tournament victories, Top 12 finishes and dollars earned aren’t part of this picture. It’s solely a look at average AOY final rankings over the past dozen years. Closer looks at the past 5- and 3-year periods provide another snapshot of who’s been hot lately. Finally, there’s last year’s Top 12 as a reminder about momentum heading into 2018.

While VanDam would be the obvious guess for overall consistency in Elite Series history, it’s not exactly shocking that Martens has the best average when it comes to AOY finishes. Martens’ AOY “batting average” is 10th, one place better than VanDam and two better than Edwin Evers, who are second and third respectively in AOY average.

Martens’ history of AOY finishes is as follows: 4th, 3rd, 13th, 16th, 12th, 16th, 10th, 1st, 4th, 1st, 22nd and 16th.

Thirty-seven anglers have competed all 12 years. That number in itself gives you some idea about the turnover among Elite Series anglers, as the field annually has about 110 competitors. In the final chart below, you’ll see the Top 25 AOY averages from those that have been here since the beginning. 

In the search for rising stars and trends on the circuit, the last five years of AOY finishes were also tabulated. No. 1 with a bullet is Keith Combs with an average AOY finish of 7th from 2013-17. Combs has a solid seven-year track record on the Elite Series, as follows: 15th, 41st, 5th, 6th, 14th, 2nd and 9th. But he’s really been on a roll the last five seasons.

It’s in the five-year average, but actually the last four seasons, where you can see VanDam’s decline vs. the competition. Here are his 12 AOY finishes, from first to last: 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 7th, 3rd, 53rd, 24th, 30th and 10th. That computes to an otherworldly 2nd-place AOY average over the first eight Elite seasons, and 29th-place over the last four. 

KVD’s most recent four-year AOY average provides the perfect opportunity to inject the old adage, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Keep that in mind for all these trends, with VanDam as the top example. He was in contention late last season for another AOY title. Who wants to bet he won’t reverse his recent drift and win another one?

Narrowing the focus even more, a glance at the past three seasons offers a few gems. The rising star is Jordan Lee with consecutive AOY finishes of 9th, 6th and 4th – an average of 6th. (Plus, of course, Lee has the 2017 Bassmaster Classic title.) But nestled in there just under the radar, as usual, is Evers. His 12-year AOY average finish is 12th, the last five years his average is 9th and the last three years it’s 7th. Hackney is the only other angler who has a similar positive trend in the 12-year, 5-year and 3-year AOY averages: 16th, 13th, 7th.

Finally, there’s a list of the Top 12 in last year’s AOY standings. Two names standout: Jacob Wheeler, 3rd, and Dustin Connell, 12th. It was the first year for both on the Elite Series. It’s hard to ignore that kind of momentum.

In closing, there is one statistic that makes you question any trend in AOY standings: There are two prominent instances of a seemingly inexplicable year-four hiccup. Example 1-A would be Jacob Powroznik – 3rd, 5th and 4th in his first three years on the Elite Series, then 47th last year. Example 1-B is Justin Lucas – 11th, 2nd and 8th in his first three seasons, then 64th last year.

So should Jordan Lee be afraid – be very, very afraid?

As the wise man said, “We’ll see.”

(Special thanks to Ronnie Moore for compiling the 12-year history of Elite Series AOY finishes and averages.)

AOY 12-year average

1. Aaron Martens            10

2. Kevin VanDam             11

3. Edwin Evers                12

4. Todd Faircloth             14

5 Skeet Reese                  15

6, Greg Hackney              16

7. Gerald Swindle            22

8, Alton Jones                   23

(tie) Dean Rojas              23

10. Randy Howell            24

(tie) Mike Iaconelli          24

12. Steve Kennedy          25

13. Bill Lowen                  31

14. Brent Chapman        34

(tie) John Crews              34

16. Terry Scroggins         38

17. Jeff Kriet                    39

18. Mike McClelland       40

19. Jared Lintner             41

(tie) Ish Monroe              41

(tie) Takahiro Omori      41

(tie) Chris Lane               41

23. Tommy Biffle             42

24. Gary Klein                43

(tie) Russ Lane                43

AOY Average Last 5 Years

1. Keith Combs                  7

2. Edwin Evers                  9

(tie) Aaron Martens          9

4. Greg Hackney              13

5. Todd Faircloth             18

6. Bobby Lane                  19

(tie) Skeet Reese             19

8. Gerald Swindle            20

9. Brandon Palaniuk       23

10. Alton Jones                24

(tie) Kevin VanDam        24

12. Dean Rojas                 25

13. Casey Ashley             29

(tie) Randy Howell          29

15, John Crews                31

(tie) Chris Zaldain           31

17. Bill Lowen                  32

(tie) Mark Davis              32

19. Mike Iaconelli            33

20. Matt Herren              36

21. David Walker            38

22. Cliff Pace                    39

23. Chris Lane                 41

24. Ish Monroe                43

25. Tahahiro Omori        48

AOY Average Last 3 Years

1. Jordan Lee               6

2. Edwin Evers            7

(tie) Greg Hackney      7

4. Jason Christie          8

(tie) Keith Combs       8

6. Brandon Palaniuk   9

7. Aaron Martens      13

8. Ott Defoe                15

9. Bobby Lane            19

10. Gerald Swindle    20

11. Kevin VanDam    21

12. Alton Jones          22

AOY 2017 Final Standings

1. Brandon Palaniuk             902

2. Jason Christie        888

3. Jacob Wheeler       865

4. Jordan Lee             823

5. Edwin Evers          817

6. Casey Ashley          814

7. Ott Defoe                810

8. Greg Hackney        794

9. Keith Combs          771

10. Kevin VanDam    769

11. Brent Ehler          766

12. Dustin Connell    765