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2008 Elite Series - Empire Chase

Preview

The final 2 events fire up as KVD and the rest of the Elite field head to a windy Lake Eeie.

“Ten miles-per-hour is about all you can handle here and still fish,” said Kevin VanDam, who enters this next-to-last tournament of the season with a 12-point lead over Todd Faircloth in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.

“In reality, we probably shouldn’t be fishing tournaments here. It’s one of the best fisheries in the world, if you can pick your days. But unfortunately, we can’t.”

Tour Review

Day 3 - KVD maintains in 18th

Saturday it became official that Todd Faircloth will be the 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points leader going into the final tournament of the season next week at New York’s Oneida Lake.

The Jasper, Texas, resident was in eighth place the first two days on Lake Erie and moved up one spot Saturday, into a seventh-place tie with Shaw Grigsby at 55-13. Meanwhile, Kevin VanDam, who held a 16-point lead over Faircloth entering the week, dropped from 14th place to 18th Saturday with his lightest limit of the tournament: 16-6.

But no matter where Faircloth ends up Sunday, the Champion’s Choice event at Oneida will feature one of the closest races for the AOY title in recent history.

Empire Chase day 2 bag - 19-15

In the tournament-within-a-tournament going on here this week, Kevin VanDam showed he’s not dead yet in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. The Kalamazoo, Mich., native entered this event with a 16-point lead over Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas.

But on Day One, Faircloth caught 20-1 for eighth place, and KVD was in 32nd place with 16-11. VanDam narrowed the gap Friday with 19-15 to move into 14th place, while Faircloth remained in eighth with his second-straight 20-pound day.

“The Angler of the Year race is on my mind; I’m not going to say it’s not,” Faircloth said. “I’m in a real good position. But I’ve got some heavy hitters around me in that race.

“Having a legitimate shot of winning it going into the last tournament is all that you can hope for.”

Faircloth will definitely have that. In fact, he’ll have the lead going into next week’s season-ender at Oneida, unless VanDam can close the gap this weekend.

No matter what happens, it’s now a three-man race at best. Mike McClelland, who entered the week 115 points behind VanDam, moved up from 49th place Thursday to 30th on Friday with a two-day total of 33-4.

But defending champion Skeet Reese eliminated himself from the AOY race with a 59th place finish here, and Dean Rojas, who was fifth in the AOY standings, didn’t make the top 50 cut for the first time this season, finishing 97th.

Empire day 1, 32nd - 16-11

With this the next-to-last Elite Series event of the year, the focus on the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title will grow tighter every day this week. If Thursday’s standings held, Todd Faircloth would have jumped past current leader Kevin VanDam.

The Jasper, Texas, resident was only 16 points behind VanDam entering this week and caught 20-1 for eighth place Thursday.

Among the other top five points leaders, VanDam held his own with 16-11, which was 32nd. McClelland, 115 points behind KVD, was 49th Thursday with 15-1 — dangerously close to the top 50 cut made after Friday’s weigh-in. Skeet Reese (fourth in AOY points) and Dean Rojas (fifth) have their work cut out for them Friday, as they occupy the 83rd (11-10) and 94th (9-5) spots in the standings here, respectively.

2008 Elite Series - Empire Chase
Lake Erie/Niagara River, Buffalo, New York
Jul 31 - Aug 3, 2008

Leaderboard

1
Kotaro Kiriyama - 93-6
1. 20-15, 2. 21-14, 3. 25-0, 4. 25-9
2
Aaron Martens - 85-1
1. 22-0, 2. 20-11, 3. 21-10, 4. 20-12
3
Edwin Evers - 84-8
1. 21-3, 2. 21-11, 3. 21-6, 4. 20-4
4
John Murray - 79-14
1. 20-5, 2. 21-3, 3. 19-3, 4. 19-3
5
Mike Iaconelli - 79-7
1. 21-6, 2. 22-15, 3. 17-12, 4. 17-6
6
Todd Faircloth - 77-11
1. 20-1, 2. 20-7, 3. 15-5, 4. 21-14
7
Gary Klein - 73-10
1. 16-15, 2. 19-9, 3. 18-14, 4. 18-4
8
Shawn E Grigsby - 73-8
1. 18-11, 2. 20-1, 3. 17-1, 4. 17-11
9
Glenn Delong - 73-8
1. 19-8, 2. 16-11, 3. 19-2, 4. 17-14
10
Matt Reed - 71-12
1. 23-3, 2. 20-3, 3. 11-11, 4. 16-11
11
Rick Morris - 71-1
1. 19-7, 2. 18-11, 3. 21-4, 4. 1-11
12
Greg Hackney - 70-4
1. 18-9, 2. 16-13, 3. 19-10, 4. 15-4
18
Kevin VanDam - 36-10
1. 16-11, 2. 19-15, 3. 16-6

History & Notes;

Big Bass:
Day 1: Matt Reed — 5-10
Day 2: Elton Luce Jr. — 5-13
Day 3: Kotaro Kiriyama — 5-13
Day 4: Kotaro Kiriyama — 5-8
Day 4: Todd Faircloth — 5-8

BASS was at Erie in the fall of 2006 when Joe Balog fooled 41 pounds of smallmouth to win the Northern Tour event out of Sandusky, Ohio. The 2008 Empire Chase, July 31-August 3, will be fished out of Buffalo, N.Y., where the Niagara River flows out of Erie, adding another top fishery to the available waters for the Elite Series pros. In 2006, soft plastic goby imitations fished on drop shot rigs near deep water reefs were the key to victory. It’s a good bet that offshore tactics and soft plastics will be popular again in 2008, but so will shallow- and deep-diving crankbaits and possibly even spinnerbaits.