CELEBRATION, Fla. — Fishing fans will turn their full attention on Sept. 13-16 to the 11th and final event of the Bassmaster Elite Series season, the Sunshine Showdown presented by Allstate Boat Insurance on Lake Tohopekaliga out of Kissimmee, Fla.In addition to crowning the final Elite Series event winner of 2007, one angler will emerge as the winner of the season-long points competition for bass fishing's highest honor: the $125,000 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.All the drama of the Sunshine Showdown can be viewed on The Bassmasters on ESPN2 at 9 a.m. ET, Saturday, Sept. 29.
Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., is in the best position to sew up the prestigious annual AOY award, but three-time winner Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., isn't far behind. The outcome of the AOY race hinges on how many points Reese and VanDam are able to rack up at Toho.
Elite anglers no longer in contention for the AOY title still are very focused on the points, as 36 Bassmaster Classic berths are awarded to the Elite anglers with the highest number of points. The Sunshine Showdown is the pros' last chance to build point totals high enough to qualify for the 2008 Classic, Feb. 22-24 on Lake Hartwell out of Greenville, S.C.
The Lake Toho event will be decisive in who wins this season's Toyota Rookie of the Year title, the Toyota Moving Forward Award, and who qualifies for the 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series season. The top 84 anglers in the AOY standings will qualify for the 2008 season.
The pros will launch their boats at Lake Toho at 6:50 a.m. ET, Sept. 13-16, from Kissimmee Lakefront Park in the city of Kissimmee. Daily weigh-ins at the park are set for 3 p.m. ET.
Pros will begin and end on Lake Toho, but the bass of the other lakes of the Kissimmee chain are fair game. Two Elite pros from Florida — Terry Scroggins of San Mateo and Chris Lane of Winter Haven — expect much of the field to spread out into Cypress, Hatchineha and Kissimmee, the chain's other three main lakes.
"I believe whoever wins this event will have to run patterns throughout the whole chain," said Scroggins, winner of the 2005 and 2007 Bassmaster Open-level events on the Kissimmee chain, and fifth in the current AOY standings. "You're going to see multiple patterns: schooling fish are going to be important; there will be a topwater bite; and flipping to matted grass will play a role as well."
Lane, who has fished the Kissimmee chain since he was a child, said he did not have time to scout the lakes before they were off limits to Elite anglers, which started on Aug. 12.
"I will burn a lot of gas in practice, I promise you that," said Lane, now 15th in the AOY standings. "Any of the four lakes could produce a winning bag."He said working a soft-plastic swimming frog in grass will be one of his main patterns.
According to Kissimmee lakes expert and Kissimmee resident Terry Segraves, Elite anglers will encounter a lot of grass. He noted that the pros will have to be extra sharp at the wheel as they navigate the skinny-water fishery, even in the boat trails. Vegetation, especially hydrilla, has proliferated during the long growing season, he said, and is now topped out in areas of Toho.
Live, streaming video of the Sunshine Showdown's daily weigh-ins begins at 3 p.m. ET at ESPNOutdoors.com. Live on ESPNOutdoors.com, the pre-show "Hooked Up" will preview Sunday's final weigh-in. ESPN2 Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders return as the show's hosts.