Look at the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings and you'll see some interesting changes from last year at this time. No one in the current top 10 was in the top 10 after two events last year.
That's never happened from one year to the next in the history of the Elite Series. There are some things, after all, that you can count on ... though maybe not so much in 2011.
Sure, there are some usual suspects at the top of the AOY leaderboard Alton Jones, leading the way this year, was 46th at this time last year and finished a disappointing 56th; Terry Scroggins, now second, was 69th after two in 2010; Kevin VanDam, in third, was 42nd at this stage last year; Steve Kennedy, J. Todd Tucker, Casey Ashley and Cliff Crochet were all in the bottom half of the field at this time in 2010.
So what does that mean for these anglers? Well, without the postseason to make up lots of ground in the AOY race this year, it almost certainly means that one of those 10 anglers will be our 2011 Angler of the Year.
In fact, in the brief five-year history of the Elites, no angler has either won the title or led the race going into the postseason without ranking fifth or better after two tournaments.
Here's how they stood after two events:
If history will repeat itself (and it usually does for things like this), then AOY will come down to Jones, Scroggins, VanDam, Edwin Evers or Pat Golden. It's not a bad bet. With all due respect to the other perennial contenders Skeet Reese (currently 52nd), Aaron Martens (26th), Gary Klein (31st), Mike Iaconelli (33rd), Cliff Pace (37th), Greg Hackney (38th) and Tommy Biffle (67th) it's time to stop digging. They're in a hole and need to start climbing out right away.
Even Todd Faircloth (currently ninth and certainly one of the best anglers in the Series) has his work cut out for him. It's not merely catching the leader (Jones), you have to do it and hope that no one else between you and the top is going just as strong. It's the "leapfrog factor." And when those guys between you and the lead include Big Show, KVD and Evers, your chances don't look so good.
Here's a sobering stat for the anglers who still have hopes and dreams of being the 2011 AOY: In the history of the Elite Series, no one ranked worse than 46th after two tournaments has ever climbed into the top five by the end of the eighth event. It happened last year. Cliff Pace was 46th after two and jumped all the way up to third.
But third place isn't first place, and there's no postseason to mount a big comeback.
In the final analysis, it's not too late for the AOY leaderboard to get shaken up quite a bit, but the top guys are there for a reason, and they look pretty comfortable.
Ken Duke is the editor of Bassmaster.com and the author of two books on bass fishing: Bass Forever with Glen Lau (www.whitefishpress.com) and The Bass Fishing Vault (www.WhitmanVaultBooks.com). Look for new installments of "The Final Analysis" every Tuesday and Thursday on Bassmaster.com.