With two regular season events down and six to go in the Bassmaster Elite Series season, things are starting to take shape in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.
Leading the way, of course, is Skeet Reese, the 2007 AOY. He's two places better off than he was at this point in 2007 (Derek Remitz was leading after two tournaments that year) and would have to be the clear favorite to win the award again this year, though it's still pretty early. It's not that he can't be caught, but that Reese did exactly what he needed to do on the California swing -- have two strong tournaments to put some distance between himself and other likely challengers -- and that's bad news for the rest of the field.
Reese's 37-point lead is the second largest in Elite history after two tournaments. Remitz led by 54 in 2007.
Closest behind Reese is Greg Hackney, the 2004 Rookie of the Year who hasn't been much of a factor in the AOY race since he debuted. Look out this year, though. The rest of the schedule should play even better to Hackney's strengths, and after winning half a million dollars in the 2009 FLW Championship, he's likely fishing with greater confidence and freedom than ever before.
How far back can you be after two events and still win AOY? Well, no one has come back from further than fifth place in the four previous Elite seasons. That happened twice. Michael Iaconelli was fifth after two events in the inaugural Elite season, and Kevin VanDam was fifth in 2008 when he won his fourth AOY title.
It turns out that professional bass fishing is not a sport of great comebacks -- not very often, anyway. If you had to put money on who's going to win AOY this year, don't bet on anyone who's outside the top 20. In the history of the Elite Series, no angler ranked worse than 20th after two events has ever finished in the top three in AOY.
Steve Kennedy made the biggest comeback in 2006. After the first two tournaments he was 17th but came on strong to finish second that year. Only one other time has one of the top three finishers been outside the top 10 after two tournaments (Aaron Martens in 2007 was 12th).
And if your goal is to be one of the Toyota 12, fishing for a shot at the AOY trophy and cash in the postseason, you've definitely got your work cut out for you if you're outside the top 40 right now. Only four anglers have clawed their way into the top 12 after being ranked so low after two tournaments, and twice it was Mike Iaconelli. Ike was 46th last year after two events, but wound up 11th going into the postseason. And the year before, he was a dismal 60th before turning it on and finishing 10th.
So for all you Kevin VanDam fans out there, his tough start (42nd place) is not a death sentence. Though no one's come from so far back to win AOY before, the postseason format will give KVD a fighting chance to get back in the race if he can get into the top 12. He definitely has his work cut out for him.