BASS Reporter’s Notebook: Faircloth Leads Unpredictable AOY Race

Category: Tournament

 May 6th, 2008 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified May 6th, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Going into the sixth of 11 events, Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, has a 27-point lead in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race over Arkansas' Mike McClelland.The AOY purse is $1 million, including $250,000 that goes to the winner. The crown is regarded as one of the highest achievements of a Bassmaster Elite Series career.Pros gain and lose points according to their finishes at each of the season's 11 events. The sixth event – the May 15-18 Carolina Clash on South Carolina's Lake Murray – is the turn into the long home stretch of the AOY race.

A three-time Elite Series event winner from Bella Vista, Ark., McClelland has ping-ponged between first and second in the AOY standings, except for a brief drop to sixth after the third event. Faircloth had been second to McClelland's top spot before last weekend's Clarks Hill Lake event in Evans, Ga., where Faircloth finished seventh.

Another pro who gained ground at Clarks Hill is the reigning AOY, California's Skeet Reese, who moved from sixth to third. Oklahoma's Kenyon Hill jumped from 12th to sixth after his Clarks Hill victory, his first Elite win.

Faircloth's lead follows his steady trend of annual improvements: In 2004 he finished 116th; in 2005 he was 42nd; in 2006 he was 23rd; and in 2007 he was sixth.

Has he been thinking a lot about the 2008 race? The question was put to him Sunday by BASS emcee Keith Alan as Faircloth weighed his day's catch.

"Not really," Faircloth said. "We're not even halfway through the season. I'm off to a really good start, and I'm excited about the year and excited about the tournaments coming up."

Later, Faircloth elaborated: "My confidence is high right now, I'm making good decisions on the water, and that rolls through. I've been on the other end as well. When you get in a slump, that rolls through, too. Ninety percent of the sport is confidence. Like any sport, when you get on a hot streak, you gain momentum, you have an added confidence in your ability. Then you try to keep it going. I like where I'm sitting and feel good about where I am."

Besides the crown and cash awards through 50th place, the final 2008 AOY standings will determine the bulk of the qualifiers for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, set for Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

A BASSMASTER.COM EXCLUSIVE. Tuesday at noon ET, Bassmaster.com will debut a play-by-play account of how Bassmaster Elite Series pro Paul Elias set a new BASS four-day heavyweight record last month at Texas' Falcon Lake.

Elias' four-day catch of 132 pounds, 8 ounces, shattered the existing record of 122 pounds, 14 ounces, achieved in 2007 by Alabama's Steve Kennedy on California's Clear Lake.

The new 132-8 record for 20 bass represents a per-fish average weight of 6.64 pounds, and a per-day average bag of 33.2 pounds.

SAME NAME, SAME GAME. Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, competed as a co-angler last week in the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Clarks Hill Lake, the Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon.

This Jones was not, of course, the reigning Bassmaster Classic champion. It was his 16-year-old son, who bears the same name.

Often referred to as "Little Alton," the new co-angler finished 57th, respectable for a first major event.

The random draw gave him pairings with two red-hot Arkansas pros: Scott Rook and Mike McClelland. Rook is fourth and McClelland is second in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.

"Big Alton" finished 11th in the pro division at Clarks Hill, putting him in seventh place in the AOY race. He was asked on the weigh-in stage how having two anglers in the family altered his routine.

"The biggest change for me was (that) usually he helps me gets my tackle ready, and he helps clean the boat. … Now I have to do it for myself because he's fishing. So it's back to the old days; I have to start working again," the Classic champ said.

TEAM PLAYERS: Anglers are invited to join the Angler Conservation Team, a BASS Federation Nation initiative in conjunction with sponsor Ramada Worldwide, participating states' natural resources departments and other conservation organizations.Entering its second year, the Angler Conservation Team works to improve fish habitat in many states. Interested volunteers can sign up at Bassmaster.com by clicking on the "Community" tab, then on "Conservation" in the drop-down menu and then on the ACT link.
During two upcoming work days – June 27 and July 21 in South Carolina – team members will introduce native aquatic plants into Lake Russell and Lake Hartwell, site of the 2008 Bassmaster Classic.

CO-ANGLER PERSPECTIVE. Women's Bassmaster Tour pro Marcia Rubin of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, elected to sit in the co-angler seat last week.

The event was the Bassmaster Elite Series' Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon on Georgia's Clarks Hill Lake. She made the cut to compete on the co-anglers' final day, when she was randomly paired with Elite pro Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla.

"Watching Jeff work was like watching an animal hunt," Rubin said. "Certain things would tip him off. Then he'd pick up a rod and cast it and boom! … a fish. He was so dialed in."

LIVE (AND FISH) FOR TODAY. "You realize that every day is a precious day and you need to take advantage of what you have. So I … fish for the day, do the best I can and leave all the worrisome, whiny stuff back at the dock." – Clarks Hill Lake winner Kenyon Hill, inspired by the courage of his terminally ill father, Dr. Loren Hill, inventor of the innovative Color-C-Lector

About BASS

For 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multi-media 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 Bassmaster.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, Women's Bassmaster Tour and the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS sanctions more than 20,000 events annually.

BASS also offers an array of services to its more than 525,000 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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