BASS Reporter’s Notebook: Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Race Hits Midway Point with Big Names Up Top

Category: press release

 May 5th, 2009 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified May 5th, 2009 at 12:00 AM

It’s far too early to call it a face-off or even a three-man race, but the 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year competition is being led by three of the biggest names in competitive fishing.

Nitro/Mercury Pro Kevin VanDam leads the AOY race with 1,063 points, a mere 65 points over Classic Champ Skeet Reese (Photo Courtesy of BASS)

Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., with 1,063 points, Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., with 998 and Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, with 986, respectively. That’s the 2008 AOY leading the 2009 Bassmaster Classic winner and the 2008 Classic champ.

The fishing world is already speculating about whether four-time AOY winner VanDam can make it five. That would put him four titles behind Roland Martin, who holds the career record with nine AOY trophies. Jones is looking for his first AOY title and Reese is trying to pull off the rare feat of being Classic champ and AOY in the same year. In 1995, Mark Davis became the only pro to claim both titles in a season.

This week the AOY race will continue when the fifth event of the Elite season opens Thursday, May 7, on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville. The finale of that tournament – the Marine Formula STA-BIL Southern Challenge – will be Sunday, May 10.

After the eighth regular-season event, the top 12 pros in AOY standings will qualify for two post-season tournaments. From those events, the winner of the AOY crown and its $200,000 prize will emerge.

2009 Classic Champ Skeet Reese is tight on four-time AOY Kevin VanDam shoes with 998 points (Photo Courtesy of BASS)

Complete 2009 Angler of the Year standings are available at Bassmaster.com

A ROOKIE’S RUN ON AOY: Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., has enjoyed top billing among the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series rookies for several weeks now.

He’s also holding seventh place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race – the only rookie who has made it into the top 10 this season.

Can a rookie win the 2009 AOY title?

“It would be nice if that became an achievable goal,” said Herren, who is 142 points behind leader Kevin VanDam. “Anything’s possible. I’m going to work really hard. I’d at least like to be in those final two tournaments of the year. I want to keep focused on that. Whatever happens from there, happens.”

By “final two tournaments,” Herren meant the Bassmaster Elite Series postseason. Only the top 12 in the standings will qualify for those tournaments; one of the 12 will win the AOY crown and the $200,000 prize.

Finishing the regular season within the top 36 would earn Herren a ticket to the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, set for Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala., just a few miles from his hometown.

Qualifying for the Classic and the two postseason events certainly are goals for Herren, but he’s more concerned right now with the four remaining regular-season tournaments. First up is The Marine Formula STA-BIL Southern Challenge on Lake Guntersville, this Thursday-Sunday, May 7-10.

Guntersville holds good karma for Herren. The huge impoundment is where he wrapped up his bid to qualify for the Elite Series and his first Classic entry by winning the points race in the 2008 Bassmaster Southern Open division.

But that was in the fall, and Guntersville fishes differently in the spring, Herren pointed out.

“Guntersville could go either way for me. I like it in the fall, when the grass is topped out,” he said.

“The last three (tournaments) are really going to be a challenge. I’ve fished Kentucky Lake, but never in June. I’ve never seen the Mississippi River, and I’ve never been on Oneida. But I’d never been on Smith Mountain Lake before, either.”

Herren finished second at the April 23-26 Elite event on Smith Mountain Lake.

“I tend to have my better tournaments the first time I see a body of water,” he said. “You fish current conditions, you don’t get hung up on fishing the past, you’re more open-minded, you take what the lake will give you. On the flip side of that, if conditions are really, really tough, past experience will help.”

JORDON MAKES UNUSUAL TV APPEARANCE: Elite pro Kelly Jordon of Mineola, Texas, was the good guy in a video featured in the May 3 episode of ABC’s America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Jordon happened to be part of a dock mishap caught on film by fan Craig Wallis of Modesto, Calif., at the 2003 Bassmaster Tour event on the San Joaquin Delta.

After a day of fishing, Jordon stepped onto the dock when his co-angler, Jim Valladares of West Covina, Calif., “got hung up from the boat to the dock and fell between the two of them,” Wallis related.

“His fish made it to the dock, but he went in the water,” Wallis said. “Slowly, his fish slid out of the bag; two of them went into the water. Kelly Jordon grabbed for the bag of fish and he and a few BASS (staff members) assisted Jim.”

Valladares wasn’t hurt, and Jordon was able to save three of the co-angler’s five fish. Thanks to his pro’s quick reflexes, Valladares finished 40th and took home $700. Jordon, who ended up 16th among the Elite pros, also finished in the money.

Wallis recently unearthed the old video and decided it would be fun to send it to the TV show’s producers. They agreed it was a good fit, and after all parties signed release forms, it was aired.

MAMA SAID THERE’D BE DAYS LIKE THIS: Luck was not with Academy Sports + Outdoors Women’s Bassmaster Tour pro Michele Armstrong of Denver, N.C., when she competed in the April 23-25 event on the Ouachita River in Louisiana.

The powerhead of her motor blew during practice, and Armstrong had to borrow an aluminum johnboat.

As she was driving to the ramp for the first day of competition, a deer slammed into her tow vehicle.

“He rolled, and kind of flipped up under the boat,” she said. “The deer got up and ran off, and the boat was fine, but he caved in my rear door and bumper.”

Her bass boat was back in commission for Day Two, but she decided to use the aluminum rig again so she could maneuver into shallow-water spots she’d found the day before.

“That was my strategy, but the next day, the water had dropped a couple of inches and I couldn’t get in, even with the aluminum boat.”

The rest of the day didn’t go much better. One of her rods got tangled in a tree and broke into three pieces. A rod-and-reel was jostled overboard. And then her cell phone slid into the river.

“That was the last of the disasters, far as I know,” said Armstrong, good-natured enough to laugh about her misfortunes and accept her 33rd-place finish. “It’s always an adventure.”

FIRST WIN THRILL: “This is unbelievable. I was really nervous about Mark (Menendez) being right behind me, but it feels great to get the win.” – Chris Payne of West Blocton, Ala., winner of last week’s Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Oakley on Alabama’s Wheeler Lake. Payne scored his first BASS victory.

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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