I’m excited for the upcoming AOY Championship on Mille Lacs and the subsequent Bassmaster Classic Bracket event. The battles for AOY and Classic spots are far from over, and I think the Classic Bracket in particular is going to be balls-to-the-wall exciting with eight anglers competing live for a single spot in March’s big goat rodeo. As they work down to four anglers, and then to two, the pros may sandbag, but they’ll put it all on the line with every valuable cast. Unless I’m missing something, it’s going to be killer from a fan's perspective.
A few random thoughts on the last two events on this northern swing:
· With either Brandon Palaniuk or Jason Christie the likely winner of the big AOY trophy, this year’s race has the most “outsideriness” feeling of any such race in recent history. Not that I’ll be surprised that one of them won – they’ve both been established winners for quite a while – but that they’ve done it outside of their home regions. Palaniuk isn’t the only Idaho angler in Elite history, but he’s by far the most successful one. Indeed he’s the most successful pro other than Luke Clausen to build a career from the Pacific Northwest (you might count Jay Yelas, but he did most of his damage while calling Texas home). Christie, on the other hand, is from Oklahoma, a longtime stronghold for bass fishing, home of Don Butler and Stan Sloan, but he’s now won two events on St. Clair, including this recent one that pushed him back into contention. He’s the epitome of the modern hammer, someone who can win anywhere, even when outside of his supposed comfort zone.
· This could be a “trap game” for Seth Feider. Last year when he dominated at Mille Lacs he was virtually unknown (despite a great derby at the previous event on the Upper Mississippi). Now he has shown that he belongs in the big leagues, not just in the north, and he’s done so compellingly. With all eyes focused on him and a Classic berth in the can, can he repeat?
· The last 9 AOY awards have been won by an angler in a Phoenix (3), Triton (2) or Nitro (4, all KVD). With only Palaniuk (Skeeter), Christie (Ranger) or Wheeler (Legend) in the running, that will change.
· It will be strange to launch an event of this level of importance and not see Randall Tharp, Justin Lucas, Dean Rojas, Brett Hite, Tommy Biffle, Takahiro Omori, Chris Zaldain and Shaw Grigsby competing. At the same time, guys like Skeet Reese, Mike Iaconelli and Bill Lowen are fighting for survival.
· I just love saying Pokegama. I loved saying it even when I didn’t know how it is pronounced, even more now that I have a clue. Every time I’m having a bad day, I just spit it out and turn that frown upside down.