Bassmaster Elite Series pros have already made the first turn in the 2012 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, and Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., is in the lead. See the full listing of Angler of the Year standings.
Reese has 192 points after the first two events of the eight-tournament season. He did very well in the back-to-backs that kicked off the 2012 season in Florida: fifth in the March 15-18 St. Johns River event, and third at Lake Okeechobee in the March 22-25 Power-Pole Slam.
“If I do my job and go out there and catch them, everything else takes care of itself,” said Reese, on track to make 2012 end better than his 2011 season, when he finished 54th in points.
Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan., with 191 points, is in second place in the annual race for the title. He posted a fourth-place finish on the St. Johns and a fifth on Okeechobee.
With 187 points, Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, trails Reese by five. Faircloth was the runner-up on the St. Johns and finished 11th on Okeechobee.
“I’ve had a good two weeks here in Florida, got off to a good start and a good year, and I’m proud of that,” said Faircloth, who has ranked above 25 in the Angler of the Year standings for six consecutive years.
“It’s way, way too early to start talking about winning Angler of the Year,” he said at the conclusion of the Okeechobee event.
Faircloth’s five-point margin may seem small, but it could prove to be significant later in the season. The points system was changed for the 2012 season. A pro earns one point for every place achieved. Thus the winner in the Elite field of 99 is awarded 99 points. Second place earns 98 points, third 97 points, and so on. There are no bonus points for leading.
After two events, No. 10 in points — 2012 Classic champ Chris Lane — is 27 points out of first place. No. 20 in points — rookie Brandon Card of Caryville, Tenn. — is 54 behind Reese in first.
Card, the highest-ranking rookie in points, is in the lead for Rookie of the Year honors.
Consistency will keep an angler near the top. Alton Jones of Woodway, Texas, winner of the St. Johns event, ended in 69th place at Okeechobee, and fell from first place in points to 23rd.
In fourth place in points is Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., who was in early contention for the 2011 title won by Kevin VanDam, now a seven-time AOY winner with four consecutive titles. VanDam is now in ninth place in points, 24 ticks behind Reese.
Reese, the 2007 Angler of the Year winner, who is also the 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion, came close in 2009 and 2010 for a second AOY title. Both times it didn’t happen for him, but for VanDam. Then in 2011, Reese wasn’t in contention. He also did not qualify for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, the first he had missed since a skip in 2002.
That off year is behind him now, he said last week during the Okeechobee event.
“I feel like I’m fishing ‘normal’ again,” Reese said. “I’m fishing the way I’m supposed to fish, and I probably didn’t fish that way last year.”