AOY Playoff: Skeet's feeling the heat as he prepares to compete

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- It would take a math major to figure out the possible point permutations that could culminate Toyota Trucks Championship Week. Most of the top 12 anglers can do the simple match -- win on the river for a shot at an AOY.

"There are five, six guys that are all with striking distance, and you never know what's going to happen," Kevin VanDam said. "One thing I'll promise you here, one of those guys who is up within 10 or 15 points or so is going to catch them, and I think the guy who wins this one is going to be the Angler of the Year." KVD figures heavily in that mix after Russ Lane and Aaron Martens charged from the bottom of the field in the first event and reshuffled the standings. KVD's third on Lake Jordan put him within a fraction of his third consecutive Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. "I know a lot of guys are having a hard time figuring it out at home," he said. "What I know is I'm seven points behind the leader right now and I was 31 going in, so I feel pretty good about it."

Last year, KVD won on the river to overcome a 16-point deficit to Skeet Reese, who stumbled to sixth and wound up six points shy of his second AOY. "There's never going to be a happy feeling about last year, and this year, it's shaping up to be a tough tournament here," Reese said. "It's anybody's event right now."

After what many consider the best regular season ever, Reese is vulnerable for a repeat heartbreak. "I still have the lead, which is a great place to be," he said, "but I know I have a lot more work cut out for me. "My goal is to figure out how to win this tournament this week, and that pretty much guarantees that I'll win the title and the trophy I want." He'll also have to hold off Lane, who would make two Championship Week victories add up to an AOY. Fresh off his victory on his home lake in the Ramada Trophy Chase, he moves to his home river as the favorite.

"It'd be unbelievable," to win AOY, he said. "I really hadn't thought much about it this year until I won on Lake Jordan last week. Now, I feel like I have a legitimate shot. I'm just going to keep my head down and keep grinding it out. "I've got a lot of history here down on the river. I should do well. It's not going to easy though. The conditions are really tough. The water is about 3 foot low. About as low as I've fished a tournament in the summertime down here."

Another to factor in is Martens. He out caught everybody on Jordan but livewell issues brought about some poor decisions to cull dying fish for smaller fish that also died. He calculated he lost about five pounds, the Chase victory by 4 ounces, and a possibly AOY. "It's pretty wild how some of the guys are right there in the top four, like me and Russ, from last," he said. "It's pretty interesting. I didn't think it was possible for Skeet to stumble like that. I thought he'd be in the top four all the time. "That was the surprise and he put himself in real danger because he's really got to beat Russ. I'm going to try to win it, too, but the guy down here to beat is Russ, since he lives here in Prattville and fishes it more than anybody. Skeet has to beat him, if he doesn't, (Lane) is probably going to win it."

While KVD said Reese seems a touch nervous about his troubles multiplying, he wouldn't subtract the leader from the equation. "He doesn't have two bad tournaments in row very often."