Let the All-Star voting begin

J. Todd Tucker didn’t miss a beat. He launched his campaign the day before fans were invited to begin voting June 21 at Vote.Bassmaster.com to select the final four anglers for Toyota Trucks All-Star Week.

“Voting started at midnight, so we got people interested a few hours before,” said the Bassmaster Elite Series angler from Moultrie, Ga.

His strategy included sending a broadcast email to 3,000 people on June 20 at about 7 p.m. And he’s hitting social media, every sponsor website — in fact every channel his team can think of. The pass-on multiplies the number of people reached.

“I’d say that by the end of the night, we hit 25,000 people. And we’re going to hit them again every day,” he said.

Tucker is only one of many Elite pros actively asking for the vote. Hot campaigning is expected over the next 20 days, until the polls close July 10.

The four winners will join the eight who already qualified for the July 23-31 postseason event in Alabama. The $100,000 competition will happen on Lake Jordan out of Wetumpka, Ala., for two days, then move on for a final three days on the Alabama River out of nearby Montgomery.

Each voter can cast a ballot once a day. The ballot consists of four choices, one Elite pro per geographical region.

Fans have been given a big incentive to vote often because each ballot cast is also an entry into the Toyota Trucks All-Star Week Fan Favorites Sweepstakes. Once all votes are cast, 12 voters will be randomly selected and paired with the 12 anglers. The fan who is paired with the eventual All-Star champion will win the grand prize of a Triton/Mercury bass boat rig valued at more than $30,000. All 12 sweepstakes finalists will win Berkley tackle packs.

Tucker said the All-Star election is more than a popularity contest for him or any other Elite pro.

“It’s an opportunity to build the fan base of our sport, to get the fans more involved,” he said. “For me, that’s the bottom line.”

At least one of Tucker’s fellow Elite pros is tying his campaign into his support for a charity. John Crews of Salem, Va., sent a June 21 email with the subject line of “My Pledge.”

“My pledge is that if I am voted into the All-Star Week and win, I will donate $25,000 to the Tackle the Storm Foundation. In addition, if I am voted in … I will also donate $5 per pound of bass that I weigh during the  competition. In other words, if I get in All-Star Week, the kids will benefit,” his email stated.

The objective of Tackle the Storm is to replace kids’ fishing equipment lost in the April 27 bout of tornadoes that socked the South.

Crews and Tucker are just two of the 91 Elite pros eligible to win a postseason entry via fan voting. The four voted in will join the eight who qualified by being the top points earners in the regular season.

The list is led by Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., who won his seventh Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points competition last Sunday. The other postseason qualifiers are Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., points runner-up; Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala.; Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn., who last Sunday won the 2011 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year title; Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala.; Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla.; Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C.; and — last in at the No. 8 spot — Davy Hite of Ninety Six, S.C.

The remaining four as selected by fans will be announced by July 13. The 12 randomly selected fans and their virtual pairings with pros will be announced before the postseason begins.