2010 Elite Series Postseason #2
The stakes have just been raised heading into the final event of the season, and post season. The Alabama River hosts the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph.
KVD continues the comback, WINS AOY TITLE -- his 6th
The Kalamazoo, Mich., veteran closed in typical fashion on the Alabama River Saturday, scoring his sixth — third consecutive — Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. VanDam’s 20-year career has played out like an assault on the BASS record book. Consider: VanDam notched his 19th BASS career victory Saturday at the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph — which ties him for the most victories with Roland Martin.
Paired with VanDam’s earlier February Classic win — in Alabama of course — VanDam is only the second angler to score both of the sport’s most prestigious titles in the same season. And probably most important — at least to his twin boys, Jackson and Nicholas — VanDam netted $200,000 to push his career earnings to more than $4.5 million, by far the most in BASS’ 40-year plus history.
And the popular perception might be that VanDam would lose a touch of motivation and get fat and happy but exactly the opposite is true.
“I never get tired of winning,” said VanDam, 42. “This title was the hardest for me to accomplish so it means that much more. I take nothing for granted because I face competition every day that can beat me. It’s easy to stay motivated when that’s the case.”
It was an uphill climb for VanDam, who waded through a tough stretch early in the season. In fact, at the mid-point of the season, VanDam looked like a long shot to even qualify for the postseason. But VanDam has made a career on turning it on when it matters most and after a victory on Kentucky Lake in June, it was only a matter of time before VanDam threatened for the title.
“When people count me out, it really motivates me,” said VanDam. “I have a lot of confidence that the next spot or that next cast is going to be the one. Every time I win, it gets better and I just crave that feeling.”
Still, heading into the postseason, VanDam felt he had only a puncher’s chance at another AOY. In his mind, he figured that he needed to win both legs of the postseason to catch Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., who put together possibly the best regular-season run in BASS history. But as it turned out, VanDam only needed to win one leg with Reese’s postseason struggles.
VanDam’s river strategy — which netted him 26 pounds, 0 ounces — was much like the plan of attack that carried him through the season. He worked a variety of Strike King crankbaits — a Strike King Series 5 in sexy shad and a KVD 2.5 and 1.5 — fast and furiously.
While his power approach is trademark VanDam, it was patience — mixed with extreme confidence — that was the key for VanDam. Friday, he went without a bite until 11 a.m. but his confidence and strategy were unwavering.
“On a place like this, its only matter of time before you get a bite so you have to stick with it,” said VanDam. “It was such a magical week. Anything can happen when you get into a format like this and I love it.”
A dejected Reese can take solace in the fact that he smashed VanDam in the regular season. That magical run included six top-five finishes and two victories that resulted in a media firestorm. But in the end, it wasn’t enough and though Reese held a commanding lead to kick off the postseason, he finished in a distant third.
It is a tough pill to swallow for the 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year and he was visibly shaken after ceding his lead to VanDam for the second consecutive season. But while VanDam’s resume is sterling, Reese has cemented his reputation with a fantastic run over the past five years in Bassmaster Elite Series competition.
“I’m proud of the season I had,” said Reese, the 2009 Classic champion. “I guess I peaked a little early. I had one of the greatest seasons ever and I know what I’ve accomplished. The only thing you can do when you spill milk is clean it up and move on. I missed some opportunities that will play over in my mind for the next while.”
Saturday, July 31 water blog updates
3:15PM — Skeet and Martens have finally filled their limits, but neither is where they need to be.
Skeet says 6-pounds, which means 8. Martens says 7 1/2 pounds, which probably means 8.
Martens has to move more than Skeet to win. But if he moves more than Skeet, and not over KVD, then the title goes to VanDam.
Skeet, though, has to get to that 11-pound mark or better to have a shot.
At least they are still catching fish. We’re reminded of KVD’s prediction that the last two hours of today would be the most critical of all.
3:01PM — At this point in the game, the two anglers to watch are Aaron Martens and Skeet Reese.
With VanDam at the top of the standings and apparently staying there, those are the two that remain with a realistic shot.
Stranger things have happened, but we are guessing that it’s going to come down to whether or not Martens or Skeet catches two decent fish in the last hours of competition.
If they don’t and KVD stays where he is, we don’t see anyone knocking him off the perch. For that to happen, someone would have to win the event besides him and for those making a run today that would mean much larger sacks than what we’re hearing about.
2:15PM — Just looking at the standings, it’s easy to see several possibilities.
KVD probably has first locked up. If that’s the case, Skeet has to finish second or relinquish the title.
It looks eerily similar to 2009. When Tommy Biffle and Kelly Jordon put a buffer in between the two and allowed KVD to win.
This year Biffle, Hackney and Evers are playing that role. But this title is still in Skeet’s hands. Yesterday, he pulled off some last-minute heroics to stay in the mix. We said at that time, he would likely have to do that two days in a row.
That still holds.
Two 3-pound class fish and Skeet should win if all other things stay the same and our info is right.
That could be a 4 and a 2-pounder, whatever gets him that extra 5- to 6-pounds and in the 10- to 11-pound range. At that point, he has 22 to 23 pounds. Barring any unforeseen heroics from those chasing him that would put the title in Skeet’s hands.
Of course we are talking about heroics from someone, so anything can happen.
That’s the point. Some might think this is over. But it’s long from being to that point.
Skeet catches what he had yesterday, and he’s basically at about the same weight today as he was yesterday at this time, then it could become academic.
The point is, it’s a long way from being over.
1:18PM — VanDam is culling with about 10 pounds in the boat and 25 pounds overall. If he keeps up the pressure that could lock up first place in the event.
Hackney is sitting in second with a 10-10 sack and about 22 overall.
Biffle is third with 11 to 12 pounds and 19 and change overall.
Cliff Pace has about 9 pounds and is in fourth with almost 19.
Martens is stuck on four fish, despite turning back several keepers, with 6 pounds and change and sitting in fifth with 18-6. Edwin Evers has three for about 7 pounds and is in that neighborhood.
Then you have Butcher (5 fish, 7 pounds), Remitz (5 fish, 9 pounds) and Skeet (3 fish, 4 pounds and change) making up that next tier of anglers.
Crews has caught one and we have no verified reports on Lane or Klein.
12:15PM — Breaking news flash: KVD stops fishing to take a drink.
Oh yes he did. He set down his rod, picked up a big jug and slurped down as much ad he could. Then he wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve and went right back to fishing.
The whole scene took all of about five seconds.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seem him take a break,” boat driver Boyd says. “I guess that’s why he’s so good.”
There are other reasons as well, but keeping at it is what makes KVD who he is.
There’s a light breeze that’s rather refreshing, but being on the water in this heat wave is definitely affecting the anglers.
Heck, KVD stopped to take a drink.
Day 1 report
Kevin VanDam did what he had to do and took his familiar position at the top of the leaderboard, but Skeet Reese did just enough too, positioning himself in second in the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph.
With that, the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race is Ziploc-tight and VanDam and Reese have set the stage for another down-to-the-wire battle, the second consecutive year the two competitors will lock horns in the Bassmaster Elite Series Postseason on the Alabama River.
Aided by two flurries of action, VanDam toted 15 pounds, 7 ounces to the scales while Reese managed 12-4. The implications, in terms of legacy, are endless for this event. Reese, the 2007 AOY, would take a hit if he fails to close for the second consecutive year and VanDam, who is already perhaps the best angler ever, would claim his sixth AOY and third consecutive, putting him in rarefied territory.
And that says nothing of the $200,000 top prize. But it would be a mistake to count out the rest of the field. 2005 AOY Aaron Martens (third) and Edwin Evers (fourth) are still within striking distance while Russ Lane of Prattville, Ala., surprised prognosticators with his struggles Friday but still lurks.
“I really don’t know what tomorrow (Saturday) will bring but I’m ready to find out,” said VanDam, a three-time Bassmaster Classic champion. “You want to be in the lead and I’ve done all I can do today. It’s going to be interesting.”
If the standings were finalized today, Reese would tally 277 points to VanDam’s 275. But those results mean nothing, as fishing fans found out last year, with one final day to go. After trailing Reese by a significant margin, VanDam was able to slam the door shut last year on the River with a stellar final day, but the 21-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier said the River is fishing quite differently. VanDam did employ a typical approach, running-and-gunning frantically and visiting a high number of spots.
At the stage of the game, all anglers were playing it close to the vest on specifics of their pattern. VanDam did say he would change things up Saturday if the conditions called for it. One concern of his — and Reese — was the declining water levels on the River and the affect of that on the bass. The 18-time BASS winner is heavily relying on the water generation to determine his strategy and much of his activity seems to be predicated on when the water is pulled.
VanDam managed to pull in two relatively large bites that netted him the three-pound cushion. One of those, a 4-10, was the largest bass of the day.
While VanDam was buoyed by two random active periods, Reese caught fish throughout the day. His morning started hot and he was able to scratch out a quick limit but lacked quality-sized fish. Late in the day though, Reese made a run with a three-pound spotted bass and another good-sized keeper largemouth.
After day 1 - AOY standings and point alignment
2010 TOYOTA TRUCKS CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK- Adjusted standings heading into final day
No.: Angler: Points:
1. Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif. 277
2. Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich. 275
3. Aaron Martens, Leeds, Ala. 262
4. Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla. 256
5. Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala. 252
6. Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La. 245
7. Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss 240
8. Terry Butcher, Talala, Okla. 234
9. Gary Klein, Weatherford, Texas 219
10. John Crews, Salem, Va. 216
11. Derek Remitz, Grant, Ala. 215.5
12. Tommy Biffle, Waggoner, Okla. 209.5
Postseason Points Scale
7-30 water blog updates
4:45PM — KVD appears to be in firm control today. KVD knows the more anglers who separate Skeet from the top of the list the better his chances. Skeet needs to make one of those last-minute flurries he put together last week. He can let KVD win this, but he has to come in second if that happens.
That’s one bite away from him being in that position. Then there is tomorrow and as we all know anything can happen with little green fish, motors that break, along with rods, reels and lines.
Skeet doesn’t want the heroics to come only tomorrow. He will want them today and tomorrow.
And then there’ still Lane, who is the favorite. He’s been off the grid and stranger things have happened if he doesn’t follow up with a limit.
But our guess is he will have that and more.
KVD has consistently said that the last two are the critical hours of these two days. We’re well within that time frame.
4:44PM — Ominous clouds are working their way up the river toward downtown Montgomery.
Thunder is cracking. It’s fixing to blow.
Clouds over the weigh-in site of the Ampitheater have cooled off the temps, which had approached 100. The breeze feels nice, too.
A worker setting up walks by and says he sure would have liked it to be like this all day. It has been oppressive. A nice letdown would cool things off even more, especially if it remained cloudy, otherwise the humidity would bring us right back to scorching.
Where this big cell dumps is anyone’s guess, but many are hoping it’s right here.
Ok now the wind picked up and here come the first drops. Should make for a cooler weigh-in. Come on down.
3:01PM — For the first time all day, “Holy Cow” has rang out in the middle of the command center.
BASSTrakk, which really hasn’t been as accurate as we would like, is showing KVD with over 15 pounds and blowing the field away.
Hackney is in second with 8-10 and Reese is third with 8-6.
Pace and Butcher both have limits in the 8-pound range. Marten has a limit in the 7-pound range
Lane hasn’t showed up on BASSTrakk all day. But we had him with four keepers earlier.
If KVD’s catch can be verified then things are starting to break open.
2:45PM — KVD and Russ Lane are now fishing directly across the river from each other. For the first time we can recall, we see VanDam throwing a Carolina rig off a point at the entrance to a creek.
Lane is at the entrance to another creek straight across the way. He’s slowed down, putting the crankbait up for a bit.
Across the river, VanDam does the opposite, picking a crankbait back up to saturate the drop. He’s now throwing on the inside of the point. Beneath the surface, the shallow, sandy drop runs way out into the mouth of the creek. VanDam is moving fast, covering it from all angles.
“I can’t believe he tunes a crankbait with his teeth,” Overstreet says.
Never a wasted moment.
2:30PM — Nothing’s happening with Russ Lane right now. A minute ago Kevin VanDam went flying between Russ Lane and the bank, followed by his entourage. Somewhere in that cluster of boats was Edwin Evers, also running around. There is a lot of boat riding going on now. Part of this current fishing is all about timing, being at the right spot at the right time.
Under these conditions, VanDam should excel. Lane made a move in the same direction as KVD and Evers. In the distance, I could see KVD skiing a fish across the surface. I wasn’t close enough to tell if it was a keeper.
11:03AM — VanDam was making repeated casts to the same spot on the sandbar point with a crankbait. I know he’s trying to catch a key fish, but I can’t help getting the feeling that the real show is going to begin in a few hours. That makes every fish an angler can catch all the more important.
10:41 AM — Kevin VanDam is starting near the same area he dominated on last year. Mark Zona told me before launch that it was a spot Kevin could catch a quick limit. Either he already did it before we arrived or he didn’t like what he saw first thing, because VanDam jumped quickly across the river and then started pitching to shallow cover.
According to his onlookers, he has yet to boat a fish.
KVD after practice in the Trophy Triumph
“It’s really low. It’s really slow. It’s clear. It’s really hot. It’s a lot different from last year.
“I like fishing rivers and I’m working at it hard. I learned a few things today but I think that I made a mistake in the direction that I went because I saw way to many other anglers. I’m not sure if we will be spread out. There’s a lot of water here and the River fishes a lot bigger than Lake Jordan did.
“The guys who were here last year have a big help because we know the lay of the land. We know what it has to offer. I’ll just have to see but I’m pretty sure that most everyone came before the cutoff and practiced.
“Does Russ Lane have an advantage over all of us? Probably. But that doesn’t mean that he’s going to win. I need to win and the rest will take care of itself. You have to catch quality fish here. We all know what we have to do. The river is tougher but you can catch a 20-pound bag out here without a doubt.
“For me, I’m going to fish my style and my strengths. I know what I need to do. I had to mix it up today in order to get bit. After I saw the water levels, it’s about what I expected. It’s probably going to be one of those tournaments where finding the right little deal and getting a few quality bites will make a big difference.”
KVDs thoughts heading into the Trophy Triumph
With all the drama, perhaps lost in the shuffle was Kevin VanDam moving up to third in the AOY standings just seven points behind Lane. VanDam, of Kalamazoo, Mich., already owns five AOY titles including the last two years. VanDam has a magical way of performing in the biggest events and the Postseason is tailor-made for his aggressive style.
“I like the Postseason format,” said VanDam, a three-time Bassmaster Classic champion. “It’s very similar to other sports with playoffs and you have to be performing at the end of the year to be the champion. It’s the most intense events I have ever fished and it’s exciting as heck.”
Kevin VanDam - 26-0
1. 15-7, 2. 10-9
Edwin Evers - 24-0
1. 11-6, 2. 12-10
Terry Butcher - 22-12
1. 7-15, 2. 14-13
Tommy Biffle - 21-10
1. 7-12, 2. 13-14
Cliff Pace - 21-7
1. 9-10, 2. 11-13
Skeet Reese - 21-7
1. 12-4, 2. 9-3
Greg Hackney - 21-6
1. 11-1, 2. 10-5
Aaron Martens - 19-12
1. 12-2, 2. 7-10
Derek Remitz - 19-9
1. 7-12, 2. 11-13
Russ Lane - 17-5
1. 8-1, 2. 9-4
John Crews - 12-12
1. 6-0, 2. 6-12
Gary Klein - 5-11
1. 2-2, 2. 3-9
History & Notes;
2010 Final Standings
1. Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich. 275
2. Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla. 265
3. Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif. 260
4. Terry Butcher, Talala, Okla. 252
5. Aaron Martens, Leeds, Ala. 244 (Tiebreaker, Postseason weight: 51-12)
6. Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss 244 (42-7)
7. Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala. 243
8. Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La. 238
9. Tommy Biffle, Waggoner, Okla. 228
10. Gary Klein, Weatherford, Texas 219
11. Derek Remitz, Grant, Ala. 217
12. John Crews, Salem, Va. 216
AOY standings heading into the final event:
1. Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif. 232
2. Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala. 227
3. Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich. 225
4. Aaron Martens, Leeds, Ala. 222
5. Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla.222
6. Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La.213
7. Cliff Pace, Petal, Ms.212
7. Terry Butcher, Talala, Okla. 212
9. Gary Klein, Weatherford, Texas209
10. John Crews, Salem, Va.203
11. Derek Remitz, Grant, Ala.198
12. Tommy Biffle, Wagoner, Okla.192