May 12, 2010
At this point, the only two people who aren’t tired of stories about Skeet Reese’s dominating Elite Series campaign are Skeet himself and his investment advisor.
With three events left to go, he has a ridiculously commanding lead over everyone else. As several commentators have pointed out, he could come in last at next week’s Clarks Hill tournament (as long as he caught a single fish) and Edwin Evers (currently 2nd in the AOY race) could win, and Skeet would still have a sizeable lead.
Five top fives in a row.
What more is there to write about?
I’m not sure there is much more substance to write, and I’ve already written about him in this space twice in the past few weeks, but still I feel compelled to marvel at his achievements – and I’m not one who marvels at the drop of a hat. Was this what it was like during the Dolphins’ perfect season? What about when Hank Aaron broke the Babe’s career home run record? Or when Roger Maris clubbed 61? The quest for the four-minute mile?
Certainly there have been great seasons on the Elite Series and on tour level competition prior to 2006. Roland Martin and Bill Dance had some dominating runs. In 1997, the season I fished a few FLW events as a co-angler, David Fritts was unstoppable. Both Rick Clunn and, more recently, KVD, have burned images of previously unthinkable accomplishments into our collective memories. So why does this seem different? Is it because it’s the latest and greatest? Will it be eclipsed down the road and, if so, will people somehow disparage Skeet’s run as only second or third best? Will we someday look back at this and marvel or is there some kid, somewhere, whether it be California, Michigan, Alabama or Uzbekistan, who will make this look like child’s play?
If he somehow fails to win the Angler of the Year trophy, will this season go down as an utter disappointment, like the previously undefeated New England Patriots losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl?
For me, the thing that makes this so special, and so miraculous, is the way he has attained his finishes. He’s done it the “way you’re supposed to” and also with techniques that no one else had the balls to push. At Smith Mountain, while others strained their peepers, his Wiley-X glasses didn’t get a complete workout, although his arms, back and shoulders did as he lobbed that big Rago for 8 hours a day. At Guntersville, he deep cranked like everyone else – except that he outcranked everyone else.
I don’t know if Skeet ever played organized football. He looks like he might’ve had the athleticism to play in high school, even if the helmet would have messed up the ‘do. Still, the quote that sums up his 2010 season so far for me is drawn from the gridiron. I’ve heard it used to describe both Bear Bryant and Don Shula:
He can take his’n and beat your’n. And he can take your’n and beat his’n.
In other words, put Skeet on his home body of water and he’ll kick your ass. Put him someplace where you know every rock, every ledge, every blade of grass, and he’ll still kick it so hard you’ll taste shoe leather for a month. Take him someplace where there’s a flipping bite, a dropshot bite, a frogging bite or a swimbait bite and he’ll outflip Brauer, out-dropshot Martens, out-frog Rojas and out-swimbait Velvick. Not every time, but enough that you’re not going to catch him in the points race. And after that’s done, go somewhere where there’s a single dominant pattern and watch him whack them with something altogether different. Like a great football coach, he’ll beat you on the ground and in the air.
Lance Armstrong said “It’s not about the bike.” For Skeet, it’s not about any particular technique. What always impressed me about KVD was that when the key pattern was something outside of his wheelhouse – say dropshotting on Erie – he could compete decently with the main technique, but more often than not he could also find a way to force feed big bags with his favorite power techniques, cranking and spinnerbaiting. He imposed his will on the fishery in a way no one else could. Not that he couldn’t fish with finesse – remember the 11-pounder he caught on a shakey head on Lewisville? – but he didn’t have to. Right now, Skeet’s there with him, running up the middle and beating everyone else down, then trying a flea-flicker when they’re expecting him to take a knee.
Until this year, what had defined Skeet’s career for me was not his AOY title or his Classic win; it was a series of seconds. He finished 2nd to Boyd Duckett at the 2007 Classic before winning in 2009. Despite leading the AOY race at the end of last year’s regular season, as a result of the post-season “chase for the cup” he finished 2nd to KVD. Then he started this season coming in 2nd to John Crews by the narrowest of margins at the California Delta before winning two tournaments later, and then again two more tournaments down the line. The seconds seem to motivate him – whether it’s being second to Duckett or Kevin or John, it seems that he’s so determined to erase the runner-up complex that he’s hell bent on fishing a season for the ages, one where he’ll have such a big cushion heading into the home stretch that the only question is who will finish second to Skeet.