With two and a half Elite Series tournaments left this year, everyone is still fishing for something – everything from the AOY, to requalifying to just plain pride. If the season were to end today, young Bradley Roy would be our AOY, and the usual suspects like AMart, KVD, Skeet, Palaniuk, Swindle and Hackney would be in the Classic. So would Mike Iaconelli, who I earlier speculated might end his long streak if he missed the Sabine River tournament due to a scheduling conflict.
There’s still a bit of elasticity in how many Elites will qualify through the senior tour, but if we assume that the cutoff is right around 40th, then there will be some longtime Classic staples left on the outside looking in:
- 42nd, Edwin Evers: 2016 Champ, 17 Classic appearance, 8 in a row;
- 43rd, James Elam: rising star, 3 consecutive Classics;
- 44th, Randall Tharp: 4 Classic appearances, 5 consecutive Forrest Wood Cup appearances, 2013 Champ;
- 47th, Bill Lowen: 9 Classic appearances, 7 in a row until missing the 2018 event;
- and 50th, Randy Howell: 2014 Champ, 16 Classic appearances, 7 in a row.
The pain doesn’t stop there. Keith Combs, who's made 7 Classics, including five in a row, and two Forrest Wood Cups before that, and every TTBC since the Battle of San Jacinto, is in 60th.
Brandon Coulter, Brandon Lester and Brandon Card – the three Brandons – are all almost certainly desperate to make a Tennessee Classic.
The good news, and the bad news – we won’t know that it is for any particular angler until the scales close in September at Chatuge Lake – is that the points race is always in flux. It’s harder to make a major jump in the standings now than it was after Lake Martin, but there’s still room for lots of movement. Combs, in 60th, is just 39 points out of 50th, the position that he’ll need to occupy after the St. Lawrence to make it to the AOY championship. Howell, in 50th, is just 14 points out of 40th, the status he’ll probably need to attain to make it to the Classic. Evers, in 42nd, is less than a hundred points out of the top 10.
Any angler who can string together a couple of top twelves can put the subpar first half of the season in the rearview mirror. They can only control what they themselves catch – and there are a lot of moving parts that have to fall into place for someone to move 20 or 30 places. Nevertheless, I’m going to cut out the current standings and compare them to how they sit at season’s end. I think there will be a few surprises.