Who says there’s not much on the line at Sturgeon Bay?
Yeah, Aaron Martens spoiled the surprise of the Toyota Angler of the Year by barging through the door at St. Clair, but there is plenty at stake in the AOY Championship.
First, the top 40 in the point standings advance to fish the Classic. Woohoo. (We’ll get to Thursday’s movers, both up and down, later.)
But for some, it’s a chance to cash in. Cha-ching had to be going through Jacob Powroznik’s mind Thursday. The Virginia pro, who’s excelled in smallmouth venues, began the event fourth in the standings but jumped two anglers after Day 1.
That move could increase his chunk of the event’s $1 million payout by $15,000. Martens takes the lion’s share with a cool $100,000, though he’s on the record saying AOY should be closer to Classic money, and at least $200,000.
The second-place finisher in points stands to earn $55,000, and it falls another 10 grand to third ($45,000) and another $5,000 the next three spots. From sixth ($29,000) to 14th, there’s a grand difference. Everyone from 16th-20th earns $20,000, while 21st-25th drops to $14,000 and the final 25 anglers get a check of $12,000.
Sometimes it's personal
The question was raised why an angler would feel the need to fish hard if he had a Classic spot secured. Kevin VanDam offered a sound reason in his latest column.
“For some anglers, the mere fact of how well they perform could dictate their renewed sponsorships and perhaps make them more attractive to new sponsors next year.”
There’s that. Another facet is that most of these guys simply love to compete.
And sometimes, it’s just personal. Powroznik said so to Bassmaster LIVE host Mark Zona before the event. Powroznik had Edwin Evers and Brett Erhler hot on his tail, and he sure didn’t want the latter to pass him.
“I will not let Brett Erhler pass me in the standings,” he vowed.
Second B.A.S.S. member passes
B.A.S.S. lost one of its pioneers when Harold Sharp passed Thursday after a brief illness. He was 88.
“Thousands of fishermen who never knew his name have Harold to thank for what they’re doing right now,” said his daughter, Ann Ball.
Check out Dave Precht’s report on the second member of B.A.S.S.
Winners and losers
Beyond Powroznik, Todd Faircloth, Mike Iaconelli and Ott DeFoe are among the day’s biggest winners in the quest to qualify for the Classic.
Faircloth, who won the last event, was 81st in the standings just two events ago thinking it would be a lost season, but now sits 33rd. DeFoe, who started the event 43rd, is now 36th. Ike jumped from 45th to 38th.
Ish Monroe is knocking on the door as well. As 50th and last in to the championship, he’s climbed to 41st, first out of the Classic. Monroe could actually leave Sturgeon Bay in 41st and get into the Classic later dependent on the three remaining Opens.
On the losers side, Scott Rook, Brett Hite and Brandon Card are in peril. Rook dropped from 38th to 46th and Hite plummeted from 31st to 39th, right on the brink.
Card didn’t weigh a fish, dropping like a rock from 33rd to 50th. And while one fish would give him 51 points, he’d need to climb a few more spots than last to avoid missing the Classic.
See the complete AOY standings.
Let's talk food
On LIVE, Ike was asked about Martens and the superlatives flowed, though later in the day, Martens would not reciprocate.
“Aaron’s probably the single best mental fisherman out there,” Ike said. “He understands the fish behavior. This year proved it. He’s a different character. He thinks like a fish. He’s The Natural, has a habit of just dialing into the fish.”
Ike went on to say he thinks Martens will win another AOY in the future, but Martens found the question odd when asked to assess Ike.
“Ike as a fisherman?” Martens questioned the request. “Talking about other people, that’s something I don’t usually do.”
So he didn’t. But he did go on and on about his peanut butter and jelly sandwich … with cayenne. “It’s good for you.” Then we got a rundown of all the ingredients in one of Martens’ power shakes.
- Iaconelli has a poor start due to mechanical failure. He went in twice early in the day for work on his lower unit. “I lost about an hour and half of fishing. That’s unfortunate. What I have to do is focus on and get four more bites.” He got three but is in the hunt.
- Iaconelli said he doesn’t have the natural fishing talents of guys like KVD, Martens and tournament leader Greg Hackney. “I have to work to be where I am.”
- Todd Faircloth isn’t one to show much emotion. Zona recalls walking the Top 12 line of boats during his Elite win on Amistad in 2008. “I’ll never forget this, ‘Todd, you get ’em?’ He said, ‘Awww, not real good.’ He ends up winning the tournament and we didn’t have any baits from him.”
- Zona said the fishing isn’t stacking up like it usually does on Sturgeon Bay each fall. He said a late arriving summer pushed everything back and only one cold snap hasn’t moved the fish to their usual shallow haunts where they feed before winter. “The big fall wolfpacks are not up there,” he said.
- KVD has told Zona there is no momentum in fishing. “You keep going, you keep going,” Zona said of KVD’s outlook. Zona added that his fans might have been sad last year when he missed his first Classic in a quarter century, but “a few guys in the Elite series were loving it.”