CELEBRATION, Fla. Perhaps Steve Kennedy put it best after weighing in last weekend at the Capitol Clash presented by BUSCH Beer on Maryland's Potomac River. Kennedy, a CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series rookie, is having a banner year and sits in second place in the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, behind Michael Iaconelli.
"I don't know what else I can do to catch Iaconelli," Kennedy said of the New Jersey pro, who is 45 points ahead of the rookie in the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.
"It's certainly frustrating to not gain much ground after you have a fantastic tournament."
Five-time BASS winner Iaconelli and Alabama's Kennedy are neck-and-neck in the race to the title and the $125,000 that goes with it. At the most recent Elite event, Kennedy finished third and Iaconelli who led the points race going in finished fourth.
Kennedy's performance helped narrow the space between him and Iaconelli, but for Kennedy to have a shot at the title, he would need to place significantly higher than Iaconelli at The Rock presented by TheraSeed on Table Rock Lake on Sept. 14-17, the last event of the season.
And Iaconelli, who has craved the title all year long, isn't going to let than happen without a fight.
"It's always in the back of my mind," the BASS millionaire said. "That is the one award that everyone shoots for in their career. If it's meant to happen, it will happen at Table Rock."
To the disappointment of every other Elite angler, Iaconelli has been on a tear in 2006. After a last-place finish in the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic, the 2003 Classic champion has cashed checks in 9 of the 10 Elite events this year, placing in the top-20 in eight of those events and winning the Southern Challenge presented by Berkley on Lake Guntersville in April.
Beyond the prestigious title, the Angler of the Year standings have significant implications for a number of other anglers. The top 37 in those standings will advance to the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic (Feb. 23-25; Birmingham, Ala.; Lay Lake).
On the Classic cut line heading into the final Elite event is Kansas angler Brent Chapman. Luckily for Chapman, the six-time Classic qualifier is a perennial favorite on Table Rock having finished third at a 2005 Tour event and winning the 2005 BUSCH Shootout on the waters.
On the outside looking in are a host of accomplished anglers, including 2004 Classic champion Takahiro Omori (38th) and Elite Series inaugural event winner Ish Monroe (48th).
"I will be really disappointed if I don't qualify for the Classic because it is the biggest event in bass fishing," Monroe said. "I have put myself in a tough position though, and I almost have to make the top 12 cut at Table Rock to give myself a chance. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
The Angler of the Year title will be awarded Sept. 17 in Kimberling City, Mo., at the conclusion of The Rock presented by TheraSeed.