AOY Race Rages On as Hackney Takes Lead at Table Rock

Kimberling City, Mo. – You could hardly script a better final act for the long-running CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. The most coveted award on the Bassmaster Tournament trail won’t be settled until the last fish is caught at the $618,000 Tour stop at Table Rock Lake.

It’s a two-horse race heading into Sunday’s final round. North Carolina’s Marty Stone and California’s Aaron Martens are in the hunt, but only Martens is still fishing. Stone, who missed the cut to 12 professionals on Friday by a scant six ounces, sat stage-side on Saturday as Martens made things extremely close, bringing in two fish weighing a total of three pounds, 15 ounces and narrowly qualifying for the Super Six and keeping his chances alive for the Angler of the Year title.

“I missed seven or eight bites,” Martens said, “but my chances tomorrow are still pretty good. I felt a lot of pressure today, and I’ll feel more tomorrow. The pressure is getting really bad because I know I have to catch some fish tomorrow to do well.”

Martens will have to finish fourth or better to claim his first Angler of the Year title. He guesses that 15 pounds will be good enough to win the trophy and a sizeable cash prize for the Table Rock event.

But the Angler of the Year battle isn’t the only story in south Missouri. There’s also a CITGO Bassmaster Tour event to be won.

Going into Sunday’s Super Six final round, Louisiana’s Greg Hackney is in first place with 47 pounds, nine ounces after weighing in his second Busch Heavyweight catch of the event. Hackney had the only limit of Day Three, and his five-bass catch weighed 14-13, giving him a $1,000 bonus and a slim two-ounce lead over three-time Angler of the Year and 2001 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“It’s been different every day out here,” Hackney said. “I caught a limit in 15 minutes in one place today.”

The bluebird skies and post-frontal conditions at Table Rock on Saturday made for a lovely day for spectators, but offered some very tough fishing. Catches were significantly lower than the first two days.

“This was just the worst day out there,” Martens said. “You didn’t want to be out there.”

Following Hackney and VanDam (47-7) are Kansas’s Brent Chapman (40-11), Mississippi’s Pete Ponds (40-6), Oklahoma’s Jeff Reynolds (37-10) and California’s Martens (37-8).

“You can catch a 20-pound bag out here, and sometimes it can be so easy,” VanDam said. “But other times, it can be really tough, and that’s the frustrating thing on this lake.”

Pete Ponds’ grip on fourth place was solidified with his second Purolator Big Bass of the event. On Day One, he had a six-pound, 12-ounce largemouth. Today’s top bass was a four-pound, eight-ounce spotted bass worth $1,000 to the Mississippi pro, who also caught a smallmouth on the first day that weighed nearly six pounds. The bass at Table Rock were tough to come by today, but those that hit the scales were as fat as footballs.

“That one has everything on it but the NFL logo,” said Ponds of his big spot.

Today was the final day of competition on the non-boater side, and Kansas’s Dan Rodlund grabbed his first BASS win in his first BASS appearance with a three-day shared weight total of 51-1. Terry Bloom was second with 49-9. Bloom also had the Purolator Big Bass of the day on the non-boater side with a six-pound, three-ounce largemouth that was worth $500 to the Florida angler.

“My wife just might let me fish another year after this,” Rodlund quipped.

Along with the competition on the non-boater side, the only other thing settled today was the Toyota Horizon Award, which went to Texas’ Gary Yamamoto. The award goes to the Tour angler who showed the greatest improvement in the Angler of the Year points standings from 2004 to 2005.

Last year, Yamamoto ranked 151st on the Tour. This year, he climbed all the way to 36th, an improvement of 115 places. Along with an impressive trophy, the Toyota Horizon Award carries a cash prize. He accepted the $25,000 check on stage while carrying Chico, his long-haired chihuahua.

“It’s hard to admit that I did so poorly last year,” Yamamoto said. “But this award shows that I can do well when I focus.”

Sunday is the final day of the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour. Not only will a winner be crowned at Table Rock, but Aaron Martens or Marty Stone will earn the title of CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year and take home the $100,000 cash prize that comes with the award. If Martens can climb into the top four at Table Rock, he claims the title. If he doesn’t, Stone will earn the award as he watches from the sidelines.

The CITGO Bassmaster Tour event on Table Rock Lake will be telecast on The CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, April 9 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

In the CastingKids competition, honors went to 11-year-old Victoria Cooper of Olathe, Kan., in the 11 to 14 year-old age division and to Adam Cross, 10, of Kimberling City, Mo., in the seven to 10 year-old division. Cooper has qualified for five state championships while Cross was competing in his first CastingKids competition.

BASS is the world’s largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments world-wide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship, as it has since 1968.

Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).

Local Sponsors include Kimberling City Lodging Association.