BASS Reporter’s Notebook: After Strong Moves by Several Elite Pros, the Bassmaster Angler of the Year Race Tightens Up

Category: press release

 May 12th, 2009 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified May 12th, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Winner Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., isn’t the only Bassmaster Elite Series pro who went home happy Sunday, May 10, after the Marine Formula STA-BIL Southern Challenge in Guntersville, Ala.

Triton/Mercury Pro Aaron Martens(Photo Courtesy of BASS)

Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., also has good reason to celebrate. He gained considerable ground on Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., in the all-important Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.

Because of Reese’s second-place finish on Guntersville to VanDam’s 20th, Reese now sits a mere five points back of VanDam, the 2008 AOY title-holder who last month recaptured the lead in the race for this season’s title. Reese, the 2007 AOY as well as the 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion, now has 1,293 points to VanDam’s 1,298.

Martens, the 2005 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, was a winner twice over last Sunday. Boosted by the 315 points earned with his win, he moved up five places in the AOY standings, into fourth. Now only 74 points away from VanDam, Martens certainly added some insurance to his standing within the top 12.

Another pro who can feel like he gained significant ground is Michael Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J., who captured the AOY crown in 2006. His fourth-place finish at Guntersville did him a world of good in the AOY standings. Iaconelli made a big move of 13 ticks up the AOY leaderboard into ninth place.

Iaconelli’s ranking in the top 12 is a position he hasn’t enjoyed since mid-March. That’s when he finished sixth in the season’s first tournament, thus placing sixth in the points standings.

Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky., rose to eighth place from 14th, an important move because it again puts him in a top-12 position.

The magic number this season is indeed 12. Only the top 12 will qualify for the inaugural Bassmaster Elite Series Postseason in Alabama, with the Trophy Chase on Lake Jordan, Sept. 12-13, out of Wetumpka, to be followed by the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph on the Alabama River, Sept. 17-18, out of Montgomery. The Toyota Trucks Championship Week will determine which pro will claim the top AOY prize of $200,000.

If the regular season ended today, the top 12 in the standings would include a star-studded field including five previous Angler of the Year champions.

But it’s still too early for anyone to feel secure in their position. A lot can change over the course of the regular season’s final three tournaments. Next up is the June 3-6 SpongeTech Tennessee Triumph on Kentucky Lake out of Paris, Tenn.

Complete AOY standings are available at Bassmaster.com.

GOOD GUESSERS: With three new winners from Ohio and California, the Ramada Worldwide Winning Weight Game at Bassmaster.com has been a big a hit with Bassmaster Elite Series fans for the first five events of the season.

Anna Edwards of Oroville, Calif., correctly guessed the 55-pound, 7-ounce winning weight of the March 26-29 Toyota Trucks Diamond Drive on Arkansas’ Lake Dardanelle. That Elite win was by Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky.

John Popovich of Olmsted Township, Ohio, came within 1 ounce of guessing the 50-pound, 13-ounce winning weight of the April 2-5 Evan Williams Bourbon Dixie Duel on Alabama’s Wheeler Lake. As the closest guesser of Elite winner Tommy Biffle’s four-day total, Popovich was awarded the prize.

And, in the most recent round of the weight-guessing game, Tommy Lee Thompson of Modesto, Calif., hit the nail on the head: 61 pounds, 13 ounces, Kevin VanDam’s winning weight at the April 23-26 Advance Auto Parts Blue Ridge Brawl on Smith Mountain Lake.

Each Ramada Worldwide Winning Weight Game winner received a big bag of Elite Series autographed items, a Ramada fleece pullover, 5,000 Wyndham Rewards points, a collection of tackle, outdoor gear, and a chance to win the grand prize, a $1,000 shopping spree from Bass Pro Shops.

The game will continue for the three remaining regular-season Elite events. Entries are accepted at Bassmaster.com or by texting to 4ESPN (43776).

After all eight Winning Weight winners are determined, one will be randomly selected at the end of the Elite season to win the grand prize.

ZONA A-TWITTER: Twittering from a boat on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, ESPN Outdoors personality Mark Zona followed the leaders during last weekend’s final rounds of the Marine Formula STA-BIL Southern Challenge.

Zona tweeted on Sunday, May 10 as he watched Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., the pro who ended up winning with 107 pounds, 8 ounces. Zona, an admitted newbie to social media and Twitter, has gained more than 400 followers and has vowed to use the medium at each Elite event.

“It’s just another way to get fans more information,” said Zona, who serves as analyst on The Bassmasters. “It takes them behind the scenes and that is what most of our fans are looking for.”

A MOST UNUSUAL 6 1/2-POUNDER: Pro Audrey McQueen appeared at last month’s Academy Sports + Outdoors Women’s Bassmaster Tour event with a new tournament jersey and boat wrap that showed off her recently acquired sponsor, technical clothing maker She Safari.

She also brought her then-6-week-old baby, Taylor, who was cared for by Dad and Aunt when Mom was competing on the Ouachita River.

On stage, McQueen was asked by emcee Don Day how much the baby weighed.

“About 6 1/2 pounds,” McQueen answered. “She’s sure been the catch of the week for me.”

It was McQueen’s way of acknowledging her disappointing tournament performance. She ended in 44th place, and she isn’t used to that. Now in her third WBT season, the Arizona pro has a record that includes six top-10 finishes and two WBT Championship qualifications. She’s also a professional elk hunting guide and world-class elk-calling champion.

GEARUP WINNER IN WISCONSIN: Brian S. Saeger of Stoughton, Wis., is the big winner in the 2009 ESPN Outdoors Saltwater GearUp Giveaway, an online sweepstakes at ESPNOutdoors.com.

Saeger, 44, won $2,716 worth of prizes from a wide array of top outdoor gear manufacturers. They included Optima Batteries, Costa Del Mar, Mustang Survival, SpongeTech, Roy’s Ruler, Frabill, Quantum, Mercury, Gil North America, Berkley and MotorGuide.

More than 47,000 entries were received by ESPN Outdoors Saltwater GearUp Giveaway players which generated 109,000 page views at ESPNOutdoors.com. The sweepstakes helped promote the introduction of a new publication, ESPN Outdoors Saltwater magazine.

GUNTERSVILLE GAB: “I have seen other lakes that have bigger fish but nowhere else can you find this many spots that hold that many quality fish.” – Aaron Martens on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville after winning the May 7-10 Bassmaster Elite Series event, the Marine Formula STA-BIL Southern Challenge.

About BASS

For more than 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multimedia platforms and expansive tournament trail, BASS is guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer and comprehensive Web properties in ESPN360.com, ESPN’s broadband sports network, Bassmaster.com, BASSInsider.com and ESPNOutdoors.com, the organization is committed to delivering content true to the lifestyle. Additionally, television programming on ESPN2 continues to provide relevant content – from tips and techniques to in-depth tournament coverage – to passionate audiences.

The organization oversees the prestigious Bassmaster tournament trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Academy Sports + Outdoors Women’s Bassmaster Tour and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS annually sanctions more than 20,000 events.

BASS also offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.


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