Faircloth Stays Cool in the Final Days of Bassmaster Angler of the Year Race

BASS Reporter’s Notebook

Monday morning, on the first day of practice for the final Bassmaster Elite Series season of 2008, Todd Faircloth sounded as if he had nothing more in front of him than a lazy day fishing on a sunny lake.

“That’s pretty much my demeanor. That’s who I am,” said the pro from Jasper, Texas, who wrested the lead in the all-important Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race from Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., this weekend at the Empire Chase presented by Farmer's Insurance on Lake Erie and the Niagara River.

The race will reach the finish line on Aug. 7-10 at the Champion’s Choice presented by Ramada Worldwide on New York’s Oneida Lake out of Syracuse.

“There’s some jitters going on inside me, I’m not going to lie about that, but I’m a pretty calm person and I don’t get too excited about too much,” Faircloth said. “But If I can get that AOY title, I definitely would act excited about that.”

The 2008 crown would be Faircloth’s first. It would be a huge career coup and big payday: The title carries a $250,000 first-place prize.

He knows his 21-point lead over VanDam is not a huge margin, as VanDam is hailed by many analysts as the world’s best professional angler. VanDam has three AOY titles (1992, 1996 and 1999), and he just missed taking his fourth last year.

“The little bit of cushion I’ve got is good,” Faircloth said. “I’m probably going to need every bit of it. There are still four days of fishing left to do. I know I’m going to have to catch them — Kevin catches them everywhere we go. I’ll have to have another good tournament.”

Faircloth wrapped up his most recent “good tournament” Sunday afternoon at the Empire Chase. He earned a sixth-place finish and enough points to overtake VanDam, who had led the standings going into the event. VanDam finished 18th at Lake Erie.

Bushed from a week on Lake Erie, Faircloth traveled Sunday evening to Oneida Lake, about a two-hour trip from the Empire Chase in Buffalo.

“I got in about 10, and it was probably 11, 11:30 before I got into bed,” he said. “I didn’t get much sleep, so I’m a little tired, but excited about what’s going on.

“I’m feeling a little confident, a little nervous as well. There’s a lot on the line here. I’d like to win it for myself, my sponsors and for my family. I’ve got a lot of people pulling for me. I’d like to get it done.

“But like I said, we still have this tournament left, and it’s not over until it’s over.”

KIDS JOIN ANGEL ANGLERS FOR DAY OF FUN. Derek Remitz of Grant, Ala., the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series Rookie of the Year, earned more bragging rights during the July 31-Aug. 3 Empire Chase in Buffalo. With Remitz as a teammate, Krysta Johnson and Aaron Patterson, both 13, of Sanford, N.C., won a fishing competition Saturday, Aug. 2, among 40 kids from Boys & Girls Clubs from around the country.

The Future Fisherman Foundation brought 40 kids to compete in the fishing derby with 19 of BASS’ Angel Anglers. Bassmaster Elite Series pros who didn’t make the top-50 cut for Day 3 of the Empire Chase joined the kids for a competition with a five-fish limit per boat.

Remitz, Johnson and Patterson weighed in five fish with an overall weight of 14 pounds, 6 ounces. The kids said they not only had fun, Remitz also taught them a lot.

“He taught me how to cast and fish with a baitcasting reel,” Patterson said.

The 2007 champions, Suzette Martinez and Ingrid Camberos of California, tried their best to defend their title, but had great fun regardless, teaming up again with their 2007 partner, Elite pro Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala.

Because of Angel Anglers’ commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of kids, the competitors were treated to an Elite Series tournament atmosphere from start to finish. The teams launched at 10 a.m. at the same dock from which the Empire Chase competitors had launched just hours before them. Each team was announced on the way out of the harbor on the PA system by BASS’ own Steve “Lurch” Scott as the crowd on the shore cheered.

When the teams arrived for weigh-in at 2 p.m., the procedure included all the fanfare of an Elite Series weigh-in – teams waited backstage and had their smallmouth bass officially checked in and measured. The teams then took to the stage and had their bags weighed by BASS officials in front of the cheering crowd, who could also view the weigh-in on the JumboTron.

The team with the leading overall weight was assigned to the “Hot Seat” at the stage, in the bed of a Toyota Tundra, to wait it out as the rest of the teams tried to bump the leaders for the bragging rights.

Anne Danielski, executive director of FFF, said the kids had trouble sleeping from the excitement both before and after the event.

The Angel Anglers program was started about four years ago as a way to bring joy and a good time to children and to promote the sport of bass fishing with positive, community-related stories.

“It gives us a chance to get to know some people, it puts it back in perspective, what I do for a living, how lucky I’ve been,” said Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle, who with BASS, helped start the Angel Anglers program. “It’s amazing, sometimes the kids don’t know what to say, but when they hook a fish the look on their face pretty much says it all.

“They can’t put it in words, but their eyes get big, their heart’s beating, their hands are shaking. Fishing has a way of putting the adrenaline in somebody. You hope that to take a child fishing like that, you change their life.”

BUBBLING OVER. August 10 is a day that many Bassmaster Elite Series pros have etched in their minds.

Five who are waiting with baited breath are on the cusp of being among the 36 Elite pros who will qualify for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic through the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year points system. August 10, the final day of the Champion’s Choice presented by Ramada Worldwide on New York’s Oneida Lake out of Syracuse, also marks the end of the season and points race.

The Elite pros who qualify, marking the first batch of Classic qualifiers, can make plans for the Classic, Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport/Bossier City, La.

This year, the pro in 37th also will make the cut, as 2008 Bassmaster Classic winner Alton Jones, now in sixth place in points, is an automatic qualifier for the 2009 Classic.

On the bubble:

35th: Peter Thliveros, St. Augustine, Fla.; 1,825 points 36th: Marty Stone, Fayetteville, N.C.; 1,818 37th: Denny Brauer, Camdenton, Mo.; 1,813 38th: Jason Quinn, York, S.C.; 1,807 39th: Jason Williamson, Aiken, S.C.; 1,802

For a full list and analysis of each Elite pro’s points status, fishing fans can go to www.Bassmaster.com.

BEYOND THE BUBBLE. One week ago, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Rick Morris of Virginia Beach, Va., was on the bubble to qualify for the prestigious 2009 Bassmaster Classic.

What a difference a few days can make: Sunday he pulled himself up from 37th to 27th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race, which determines Classic qualifiers as well as the AOY title.

Morris logged an 11th-place finish Sunday at the Empire Chase on Lake Erie. He’s now resting on a cushion that’s 94 points above the cut.

“I’m ecstatic, I love it, I’m not bubble boy, I’m 27th!” said Morris, now on track for his fourth Classic appearance. He qualified in 1997 and 1998, then again in 2006, when he finished second.

He knows nothing’s for sure until the season’s final event, the Aug. 7-10 Champion’s Choice presented by Ramada Worldwide on New York’s Oneida Lake out of Syracuse, N.Y.

“I figured up the points, and … it looks like I can afford to be as low as 80th," Morris said of the Oneida tournament. "But I don’t want to be anywhere near that because I don’t know what the guys behind me are going to do. I need to go in and get a top-50 and I’ll be in the Classic.”

BOATERS WIN. American anglers and boaters dodged a bullet last week when President George W. Bush signed the Clean Boating Act of 2008.

The measure removed the possibility that recreational boaters would have to obtain expensive and complicated permits. The new law permanently exempts recreational boaters from the permitting requirement, which originally was intended to regulate industrial polluters under the existing Clean Water Act.

“Congress and the President have given anglers and boaters a much needed victory,” said BASS Conservation Director Chris Horton, who has been working for the legislation on behalf of bass anglers. “The angling and boating communities came together like never before, and successfully convinced our political leaders that this regulation placed an undue burden on the millions of recreational boaters around the country.”

FOR HIS FATHER. “My father told me 18 years ago, ‘You go to America and find out what you want to do with your life.’ Right now, I can say this is what I want to do.” — Kotaro Kiriyama of Moody, Ala., on Sunday after triumphing in the Empire Chase on Lake Erie with 93 pounds, 6 ounces of smallmouth bass. A Japanese native, Kiriyama dedicated the win to his ailing father, who lives in Japan.

SKEET ON FAIRCLOTH. “He’s fishing off his instincts and doing what he needs to do. It seems to me like things are meant to be for him right now.” — Reigning Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., on points leader Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas

About BASS

For 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multi-media platforms and expansive tournament trail, BASS is guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer and comprehensive Web properties in Bassmaster.com and ESPNOutdoors.com, the organization is committed to delivering content true to the lifestyle. Additionally, television programming on ESPN2 continues to provide relevant content – from tips and techniques to in-depth tournament coverage – to passionate audiences.

The organization oversees the prestigious Bassmaster tournament trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Women’s Bassmaster Tour and the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS sanctions more than 20,000 events annually.

BASS also offers an array of services to its more than 525,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.