Tommy Biffle, Brent Chapman and Shaw Grigsby share a unique position: They are just outside the qualifying cut for the Bassmaster Elite Series' inaugural postseason.
After the June 11-14 Genuity River Rumble on the Mississippi River, the three are in 13th, 14th and 15th place, respectively, in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
Only the top 12 Elite pros will make it to the Sept. 10-18 Toyota Trucks Championship Week on two Alabama fisheries, where the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title will be decided. The triumphant pro will take home a $200,000 prize.
Strong performances at the River Rumble pushed Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., and Grigsby of Gainesville, Fla., into contention for the postseason. Biffle rose to 13th from 22nd place. The improvement in standings, though, is not his season high; he was 11th in early April after winning the Dixie Duel on Wheeler Lake. Grigsby moved up from 25th into 15th the closest he has been to the top this season.
For Chapman, the situation is a bit different: His 14th-place standing is a fall from 10th. The drop marked the second time this season he lost a top-12 spot after struggling for months to get there.
Yet a few days after his fall, the pro from Lake Quivira, Kan., did not sound at all discouraged about his postseason chances. Even if he were, he could take heart in the silver lining, which for him is the Bassmaster Classic.
"I've done the math, and if I go to Oneida and weigh one fish, I've made the Classic," he said. "That in itself is very exciting."
By "Oneida," he meant Lake Oneida, site of the final Elite event of the regular season, Aug. 13-16 out of Syracuse, N.Y. By "Classic," he was referring to securing a season finish among the top 36 in the AOY standings, which will result in a berth in the 2010 Classic, Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala.
Chapman, a two-time BASS event winner, has qualified for eight Bassmaster Classics in his dozen years as a pro.
But Chapman is not satisfied with the idea of another trip to the Classic as his only 2009 season accomplishment, not just yet.
"The reality of making that postseason is there," Chapman said. "I've done the math there, too, and I probably have to finish in the top 20 at Oneida. It has been good to me in the past, so hopefully it will be good to me this time. I have learned a lot every year we've been there, things I can take back there this year."
The postseason starts with the Sept. 12-13 competition on Alabama's Lake Jordan, then moves on to the Alabama River out of Montgomery, about 20 miles south of Lake Jordan, for the Sept. 17-18 finale, the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph.
Chapman has a good history on the two fisheries. He placed second at the 2003 Alabama Showdown, which was also on Lake Jordan and the Alabama River.
"I'd love to have the opportunity to fish the postseason," Chapman said. "There's definitely some extra exposure there, and it would put me in position to fish for Angler of the Year that's what we all work for."
CONNECTICUT BASS MEMBERS GET INVOLVED
When three groups came asking for help at events scheduled for the same weekend, the Connecticut BASS Federation Nation said yes.
On the weekend of June 13-14, more than a dozen members of the state Federation Nation volunteered for BioBlitz, Trailblazer Adventure Day and Sporting Chance for Youth.
The volunteers belong to several BASS clubs across Connecticut and they performed several different services, but all had one goal in mind: helping kids learn about and enjoy the outdoors.
"I wish we could do more," said David Santos of Windsor, Conn., conservation director for the CBFN. Santos volunteered for two jobs, one as boat coordinator for BioBlitz and the other as a helper at Sporting Chance for Youth. Both were on the Connecticut River in Hartford, Conn.
For the BioBlitz on the Connecticut River, CBFN volunteers brought their boats to take scientists and junior scientists (kids) out to get samples from the river and riverbank, Santos said. The biodiversity objective of a BioBlitz is to collect as many different species as possible from one location in a 24-hour period.
"They did a little bit of fishing as well a sampling of the fish species," Santos said. "The highlight of the day was spotting an eagle's nest."
At Riverfront Recapture's Sporting Chance for Youth, Santos was one of the volunteers who helped kids hook and land fish from the dock at Hartford's Riverside Park. Other volunteers brought their boats and took kids fishing on the river.
On the same weekend, CBFN president Paul Carter of Coventry, Conn., helped kids hone their skills at a Trailblazer Adventure Program camp in Plymouth, Conn. BASS Youth works with U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance in the Trailblazer program, which brings fishing, shooting and other outdoor activities to thousands of kids nationwide.
More information is available at http://www.trailblazeradventure.org ; http://www.ctbass.com/index.asp?Mode=CONSERVATION ; http://www.riverfront.org/index.php/recreational/youth ; and at http://web.uconn.edu/mnh/bioblitz/ .
PORTER WAGONER LOVED TO FISH, TOO
Three regulars on the Academy Sports + Outdoors Women's Bassmaster Tour last week showed how it's done on Tennessee's Percy Priest Lake.
Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., Dianna Clark of Bumpus Mills, Tenn., and Emily Shaffer of Mount Juliet, Tenn., finished in the top 10 in the June 9 Porter Wagoner Memorial Artists & Anglers Fishing Tournament.
They were paired with country music celebrities for the charity event. Martin-Wells was with Barry Bales of Union Station; they weighed in 10.53 pounds for fifth place. Dianna Clark teamed with Dean Brody, best-known for his top-40 hit "Brothers." They claimed third place with a combined catch of 10.77 pounds. Shaffer and partner Jeff Cook of the group Alabama finished second with 12.55 pounds.
ESPN's NASCAR Insider, Marty Smith, who reports for ESPN2's daily NASCAR news and information program NASCAR Now, as well as SportsCenter and ESPN.com., and country artist Eric Church won the event with 18.43 pounds.
A retired Army sergeant, Clark felt an immediate affinity with Brody, whose song is about military brothers.
"It's about a brother who went off to Iraq it's beautiful," Clark said. "Dean is a family man and very, very polite. I found him to be straight-up and a true gentleman.
"He knew nothing about bass fishing. I showed him how to use a baitcaster, and it took just one time. Then, when they shot on a little bit of current, we caught fish, all from one spot."
It was a bragging-rights competition for the 37 pro-celebrity teams, but Clark was proud to see many of her fellow pros there.
"The place was dominated by WBT anglers," she said. Besides Shaffer and Martin-Wells, pros included Lisa Craig of Chandler, Texas; 2008 WBT Championship winner Judy Wong of Many, La.; Laura Gober of Pendergrass, Ga.; Kim Stapp of Ringgold, Ga.; and Cindy Hill of Smyrna, Tenn.
With the addition of tackle used by Bassmaster Elite Series pros in the June 3-6 SpongeTech Tennessee Triumph, the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Rewards program now gives BASS members 14 new ways to earn double points.
BASS members who join the free rewards program can earn twice the number of normally awarded points when they buy the specified products used at the Kentucky Lake tournament in early June.
The products, for example, include Norman Lures' Professional Edge DD22 crankbait and the 10-inch Berkley PowerBait Original PowerWorm. Both lures helped Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., to his win at Kentucky Lake.
Also included are products used by 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., and by Russ Lane of Prattville, Ala., who finished second and third, respectively, at the Kentucky Lake event.
As a bonus, BASS members who sign up for a Bass Pro Shops reward card can earn triple points on their first purchase of bonus-point-eligible products. Earned points can be redeemed and applied toward the purchase of any item at any Bass Pro Shops location or online at BassProShops.com.