AOY Final - 16 things you need to know

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Garrick Dixon

ONAMIA, Minn. — There are dozens and dozens of questions that will be answered on Sunday’s final day of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship. They range from subjects like the AOY champion to Bassmaster Classic berths to next week’s Bassmaster Classic Bracket event. And with one day left in the season, there remains a plethora of possibilities.

The following is an attempt clarify the probabilities of the many possibilities:

1. Brandon Palaniuk wins Angler of the Year

The daily updated AOY point totals during a tournament can be confusing. It appears that Palaniuk’s lead, which was 15 points over Jason Christie and 33 points over Jacob Wheeler coming into this event, has shrunk to 12 over Christie and 17 over Wheeler. However, no points are awarded during a tournament. AOY points accumulate solely from the final tournament standings. The daily updates simply reflect what the totals would be if the tournament ended that day.

Essentially, Palaniuk still has a comfortable but not insurmountable lead over the only two anglers that can catch him. No matter where Palaniuk finishes in this tournament, if he’s less than 15 places behind Christie and less than 33 places behind Wheeler, he wins AOY. Palaniuk is in 20th place after two days. If he hadn’t caught that 6-pound big bass of Day 2 on his final cast and culled up 3 pounds, he’d be in 28th place and have little room for error Sunday. But he did do that, and if he catches another 20-pound bag Sunday, he’s probably the AOY champion – no matter what Christie and Wheeler do.

2. Jason Christie wins Angler of the Year

Christie is 17th after two days, only three spots higher than Palaniuk in the standings. To get 15 places of separation between them, Christie must have a big day, like 25 or, more likely, 26 pounds, AND Palaniuk must have a poor day, like 16 or 17 pounds.

Even that might not be enough because the final standings depend on the performances of all 50 anglers. For example, Christie has a two-day total of 43 pounds, 1 ounce. Just ahead of him are four anglers with less than 44 pounds. So he could reasonably pass them on a good day. But he’s almost 4 pounds out of 7th place
in the standings. It’s difficult to jump far in the standings after two days when there have been 29 bags of 20 pounds or more weighed-in each day.

3. Jacob Wheeler wins Angler of the Year

Wheeler is having by far the best tournament of the AOY contenders. He enters the final day in 4th place with 46-15. Actually, he’s tied for 4th, 5th and 6th place with Jonathon VanDam and Matt Lee, but is 4th in the standings due to the tiebreaker, which is biggest bag. Wheeler’s 24-5 on Day 2 is better than VanDam’s best of 24-2 on Day 1 and Lee’s best of 23-4 on Day 1.

Wheeler has helped himself, certainly, the first two days at Mille Lacs. But he still faces long odds. For example, if Wheeler won, it would add 110 points to his AOY season total of 778 points, giving him a maximum possibility of 888 points. Brandon Palaniuk’s total coming in was 811 points. If Palaniuk finishes 33rd Sunday that’s worth 78 points for a total of 889 and, obviously, one point better than Wheeler can possibly earn. For every place further down in the standings that Wheeler finishes, Palaniuk can as well. For instance, if Wheeler finishes 5th (106 points), Palaniuk can finish 37th (74 points) and still top Wheeler’s season total by one point.

Wheeler has to contend with Christie as well. If Wheeler wins and Christie finishes 18th or higher, Christie would have a higher season total than Wheeler.

4. Jamie Hartman wins Rookie of the Year

Hartman came to Mille Lacs with a 23-point lead over Dustin Connell in what has been a back-and-forth battle between those two all season. They were 9th and 10th, respectively, in the AOY race before Mille Lacs, and both have secured Bassmaster Classic berths.

Hartman had a horrible Day 1 here, finishing in 48th place. But he finally figured out Mille Lacs on Day 2 and jumped up to 36th place with a 23-10 bag. Connell is in 19th place entering the final day. Based on those standings, Hartman has a 6-point lead over Connell for Rookie of the Year. If Hartman has another day anywhere close to his 23-10 Friday, he’ll win the title.

5. Dustin Connell wins Rookie of the Year

Connell has a better chance to win ROY, for example, than Jason Christie does of winning AOY. That’s because he’s gained more ground on Hartman than Christie has on Palaniuk during the first two days of the tournament. But, again, nothing counts until the standings are final. Like in Christie’s situation, Connell has to catch ‘em and hope Hartman doesn’t. For example, if Connell finished 15th and Hartman dropped to 38th, Connell would win ROY by one point, 775 to 774.

6. The tiebreaker comes into play

The tiebreaker in the AOY point standings is total weight caught on full field days during the season. In other words, what an angler catches on Days 1 and 2 during the regular season events and on all three days at Mille Lacs. For instance, if Jacob Wheeler were to tie either Brandon Palaniuk or Jason Christie for the AOY title, Wheeler would probably win the tiebreaker. So far this season on full field days, Wheeler has weighed-in 352 pounds, 4 ounces; Palaniuk has 345-3 and Christie has 337-2. The tiebreaker is why Jesse Wiggins is listed as 38th currently in the AOY standings and Steve Kennedy is 39th. Both have 652 AOY points, based on the Day 2 standings at Mille Lacs, but Wiggins’ total weight for the season is 308-2 and Kennedy’s is 303-10. The tiebreaker is more likely to come into play for the final Classic berths than it is AOY or ROY, but you never know. It’s not called a tiebreaker for nothing.

7. Steve Kennedy qualifies for the Classic

Kennedy came to Mille Lacs on the Classic bubble in 37th place in the AOY standings. And he’s stayed on the bubble after two days, actually dropping a spot into a tie with Jesse Wiggins for 38th in the AOY standings based on the Day 2 results. Kennedy is in 33rd place at Mille Lacs going into Sunday. One pound separates Kennedy from four places above him and five below him in the standings. Kennedy needs a strong finish Sunday to guarantee his Classic berth.

8. Jesse Wiggins is on the AOY bubble, but in the Classic

With Wiggins among the Elite Series qualifiers, like he is now, the list of Classic qualifiers extends down the AOY points list to 39. If he drops out, the list is 38, but Wiggins is Classic qualified no matter what. It’s complicated. Wiggins is in the Classic because he won the Southern Open on the Harris Chain. If he stays in the Classic ranks on the Elites, it will put another Elite into the Classic because he is double-qualified.

9. Jonathon VanDam makes the Classic, but not this week

After a strong finish at St. Clair to get into the AOY event, VanDam faced having an equally strong event here to get into the Classic Bracket. A surprising 69th finish at Lake Champlain has left him too far out of the points to make the Classic in this event, even if he were to win. JVD, who is currently 5th at Mille Lacs, will easily qualify for the Classic Bracket event next week, unless he falls dramatically on the final day at Mille Lacs.

10. Kelly Jaye qualifies for the Classic

Jaye is actually tied in AOY points with JVD, but unlike the younger VanDam, he could make a run at getting into the Classic on the final day. He’s sitting in 35th place at Mille Lacs, but needs an estimated 15 more points or places to get into the Classic this week. A top 20 finish for him could do it. In terms of making that move, it means he will likely have to produce a 23-pound bag or better.

11. Jason Williamson qualifies for the Classic

After an incredibly strong start to the season, when he was at the top of the AOY standings, Williamson finds himself looking at finishing the season in what promises to be a rough-and-tumble Classic Bracket. He can still make the Classic this week. But he’s sitting in 41st place at Mille Lacs, and he’s approximately 30 points away from being in the Classic. That means a top 10 here, which also translates to a lot of help from those above him while catching the event’s largest stringer thus far.

12. Dave Lefebre qualifies for the Classic

Lefebre is a bouncing ball in this event. He started Mille Lacs strong with a 23-pound plus stringer and a third place standing. That actually put him in the Classic, but on the bubble. Friday he dropped to 28th place and has left himself a steep hill to climb. He needs to be in at least the top 5, and possibly top 3. That translates to a 25-pound stringer or better, depending on how the fishing goes for the rest of the field.

13. Ish Monroe qualifies for the Classic

He certainly has a contentious relationship with Mille Lacs. This is the second year in a row that he has had to scratch and claw to gain points from a lake that has not treated him very well. Monroe is last place (50th) after two days at Mille Lacs, and things would have to turn exceptionally good for him and really bad for the rest of the field for him to move up more than a few places. He’s likely booked his travel to the Classic Bracket at this point.

14. Michael Iaconelli qualifies for the Classic

Ike is fishing this event to win (like he does every event) with an intensity that has come to define his career. But even if Iaconelli were to win, it’s unlikely he would get in the Classic this week. And his chances are practically non-existent considering he starts Day 3 at Mille Lacs in 22nd place. Iaconelli is 45th in AOY points based on the Day 2 standings, and he needs to catch ‘em Sunday to remain inside the Classic Bracket qualifiers.

15. Adrian Avena makes the Classic Bracket

He is currently sitting in 15th in the derby and firmly locked into the Classic Bracket. He has no shot at making the Classic this week. But a poor finish on the final day, could keep him out of the Bracket. He can’t afford to drop 10 or 15 places, no easy feat in an event where one big fish changes the complexion for every angler below him. Plus, there’s the fact that those below him in the standings are fighting for their Classic lives on the final day.

16. Jacob Powroznik makes the Classic Bracket

J-Pow is in a position for the first time in his career of not making the Classic. He’s struggling in this event, sitting in 49th, a standing that has him on the bubble for making the bracket. He can’t make the Classic this week. But he knows he can’t lose any more points. He’s at the low-end of the quota. He still needs to catch them on Sunday if he wants to stay in the Bracket.