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The Trade

7/30/2008

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Overall scores after nine tournaments:
Zona: 8,547
Overstreet: 8,460

McKinnis: 8,448
Sanders: 7,572

Years from now, maybe even hours, it will simply be known as "The Trade."

Welcome to the backseat "The Catch" (Joe Montana to Dwight Clark in 1982 to beat God's favorite team) and "The Play" (depends on who you're asking — maybe the Stanford "band is on the field" play or maybe Derek Jeter accidentally doing something athletic in a baseball game and getting critical acclaim — doesn't matter anyway, it just became obsolete).

I heard it was a possibility shortly after Old Hickory, but wrote it off as typical Mark Zona diarrhea mouth. Not even Mr. Woodcock (Zona) would stab a close friend in the back at such short range, and certainly not a friend who has done so much for not only Zona but the entire sport of bass fishing.

Two weeks later I heard from a reliable source — a.k.a. the beneficiary — Tommy Sanders that is was actually going to happen.

"Did Zona tell you about The Trade?" Sanders asked me in between shooting shows for college bass.

I responded: "Is that really happening?"

The Trade: Mark (Mr. Woodcock) Zona is trading his "friend" and consensus best angler in the world Kevin VanDam straight up with Tommy (Fantasy Pants) Sanders for self-proclaimed struggling angler Aaron Martens.

"If I can just get a victory out of KVD, the garrison gate of my dignity will hold for another week," Sanders said. "Who am I kidding? The other three walls have already collapsed."

Zona explains the knife

Shortly after hearing the news from Sanders, I received a message from Zona, who wanted to make a statement about The Trade. I called him back and apparently interrupted dinner.

Zona: "This is the only thing in the world that would make me interrupt my margarita and my carne asada burrito," he said. "It is the interview of the most impactful trade ever in the history of Fantasy Fishing."

"I don't want this to sound similar to the Green Bay Packers' situation — and I hope you put it in this order because I know how the media likes to skew my organization's thoughts and ideas. (Editor's note: not true)

"Team Mr. Woodcock would like to thank Kevin VanDam for all the years, for all the championships. The organization loves him, everybody at the facility loves him, the town — the town loves Kevin VanDam.

"The problem is that there was a salary cap issue and we were trying to win a championship this year. I am not looking forward to next year. I am trying to win this year.

And because of the salary cap issue, we had to let our most beloved player go. We cannot think him enough for his years of service and we wish him the best with team Fantasy Pants."

EO.com: How much does a player have to do for you before you won't cut him when the price isn't right?

Zona: "It's not how much they do! It's trying, it's trying to just … I'm in this for business man! OK? This is a business. It's no offense to him. Like I said, we love what he did for us. The town loves him. Does he want to play, does he not want to play? Make up your freaking mind dude.

EO.com: You can fit him on your team, you just have to get a few cheaper guys.

"I could fit him on my team, but not my scheme. (Editor's note: he was thrilled with that line because it rhymed). He no longer gels with the rest of my team. I don't think he … I better stop talking there."

EO.com: Are you saying that he's not a team player?

Zona: "Here's what I'm saying. I better stop talking because somebody's going to get offended.

"This is magic. My team comes out to 49.9. This is why I had to go with Aaron.

"I'm here to win a championship this year, not next year."

Team reactions

VanDam was not available for contact and ESPN Outdoors has not been able to reach the three-time AOY and two-time Classic winner to see if he even knows he'll be fishing for a new team.

If you believe James (Thunderstick) Overstreet, VanDam knows and Zona has been trying to smooth things over ever since. Here's what Overstreet had to say about The Trade.

"This one reminds me of a parallel in the news these past few days. In short, looks to me that 'Zona would risk losing a friend, to win a Fantasy Fishing war.' I mean the dude just dropped one of his best buds in the grease!

"Actually I heard about this trade from Zona himself just this morning. And don't think for a minute I let the 'Italian donkey' off easy. He tried the whole 'points thing' with me too, but I ain't buying any of that crap.

"Zona was at home when I talked to him, and mentioned he was headed to Kevin's house that afternoon. Sucker is going up there to do a little damage control. I hope KVD has the butler show him the door.


"Zona pretty much flat-out admitted to me that he did this deal because he thought Martens was the better pick on Erie. He's just covering his butt with KVD, but I got no problem busting him out.

"Furthermore … from a rules and ethics point standpoint, this whole so-called 'trade' seems kind of borderline to me as a whole. This league is spiraling downward as we get closer to the end, and apparently several people are in 'ca-hoots' to make sure Zona hangs on. (Pretty TV boys ganging up on lowly photographer).

"It reeks of a lack of institutional control on many fronts. Or maybe it's just simply panic.

"Made a few moves myself: I'm bringing the wood with an Erie Thunderstick … one Jamie Fralick. Zona 'woofed' when I mentioned his name.

"When he makes the top 12 I'm sending Zona a framed 16 x 20 of Fralick with the word 'FACE!' written across the bottom of the photo.

"Oh yeah … I got Skeet and last year's winner on my team, too, Edwin Evers. So Zona can kiss it! And bring it on!

"I like ole Aaron Martens as much as any of the anglers on the Elite Series. In my book he's one the all-time greats, and I love to watch him fish.

"But given the point we have reached in this debacle of a league, you can write it in granite stone that I'm pulling out some voodoo karma…

"Ole J.O. is hoping Byron Velvick ties his boat off to Aaron's trolling motor and they are forced to 'drop-shot' the same rock pile for three days on Lake Erie!

"Yelp … that should do it."

KVD vs. Martens

Here's a quick look at they stack up against each other:

Other moves this week

Overstreet
Drop: Matt Reed
Add: Dean Rojas

Drop: Scott Rook
Add: Tommy Biffle

Drop: Timmy Horton
Add: Terry Butcher

Sanders
Drop: Jimmy Mize
Add: Bill Lowen

Drop: Cliff Pace
Add: Ken Cook

The teams

And so, with a tight leaderboard (sans Sanders), here are their teams for the second to last event of the season:

Zona
Aaron Martens
Kota Kiriyama
Bryan Hudgins
Dave Wolak
Paul Hirosky

McKinnis:
Mark Davis
Steve Kennedy
Michael Iaconelli
Gary Klein
Casey Ashley

Overstreet
Edwin Evers
Skeet Reese
Jamie Fralick
Terry Butcher
Bobby Lane

Sanders
KVD
Mike Wurm
Bill Lowen
Clark Rheem
Ken Cook