After a 59th place finish at Clarks Hill, Skeet Reese's season for the ages is over. It doesn't take much to spoil a no-hitter or a nearly perfect Elite Series season. A bloop single or a bad tournament is enough. With that disappointing finish, Reese went from the third best season in Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year history to the 27th best just a little worse than his 2007 season. That year, in an 11-tournament season, Reese was in the top 14 on nine different occasions.
Nevertheless, he's having almost as good a season in 2010 and has actually amassed more points at this stage of the season than any angler in Elite history with 1,642. To put that number in perspective, it usually takes about 1,480 points to finish 36th and qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. If Reese doesn't catch another bass all year, he'll probably finish in the top 20.
There are now just two events left in the regular season, so the points race has already taken shape and is starting to solidify. If you're an Elite angler with hopes of finishing in the top 12 and going to the postseason or making the top 37 and earning a berth in the Bassmaster Classic, you'd better be the in the top half of the standings right now.
Only three members of last season's Toyota 12 are in the mix. Skeet Reese leads the way in first place, Gary Klein is fourth and Cliff Pace is fifth. Michael Iaconelli and Tommy Biffle are close behind in 13th and 16th, respectively. Biffle has a history of making up the ground in the last tournament or two, so expect to see him in Montgomery in July.
The rest of last year's Toyota 12 is scattered between 25th (Todd Faircloth) and 59th (Mark Menendez).
With two to go, the lowest anyone has ever ranked and still finished in the top 12 is 26th place. That's where Iaconelli was in 2008. He ended that season in 10th place. That's encouraging for Kevin VanDam this year, since he's currently 26th in the AOY rankings.
As for the anglers currently in the top dozen, we can anticipate that at least eight of them will make it to Montgomery, Ala., and the postseason. The highest ranked angler to fall out of the top 12 after this point was Aaron Martens in 2009. He was fourth with two to go last year, but dropped all the way to 16th.
Iaconelli (currently 13th) and Martens (currently 15th) are two anglers with the résumés and talent we can expect to move up in the last two events.
If 26th is as far back as anyone has come to get into the top 12, how far back can you be at this stage and still have a realistic chance to qualify for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans? Billy McCaghren, who was 56th at this point last year but jumped all the way to 27th in the final two events, holds that record. In 2008, Greg Hackney qualified for the Classic despite being in 54th place at this stage.
Those, of course, are the exceptions. Historically, you'd better be in the top 50 by now or you'll be a Classic spectator. Perennial Classic qualifiers Alton Jones (45th), Davy Hite (48th), Kelly Jordon (50th) and Randy Howell (57th) are in real trouble. It's almost certainly too late for Jason Quinn (60th), Tim Horton (61st) and Kevin Short (63rd). And if you rank lower than that, you might want to check your torso for forks because you're done!
A handful of anglers who have never fished a Classic are looking good to make the 2011 field. They're led by Morizo Shimizu, currently in 20th place. Only one angler has ever ranked so high at this point in the season and failed to qualify. Bradley Hallman was 18th with six down and two to go last year before falling all the way to 44th and out of the Classic. Others who look like good bets to fish their first championship are a couple of extreme examples from Clarks Hill. Jason Williamson won the event and jumped from 46th to 24th. Greg Vinson, on the flip side, finished 91st and fell from 10th to 31st, but is still looking good to make his first Classic.
Of course, we'll know even more after Kentucky Lake, but if you happen to be an Elite Series pro and are wondering about your chances, know that you'll need to be in the top 20 to have a shot at the postseason. And if you're outside the top 50 after the next event, you have almost no chance of making it up in the last tournament and going to the Classic.