HomeFeaturesAdvanced Angler Mid Year Review story by Dan O’Sullivan – photos courtesy B.A.S.S and FLW Outdoors Half way down. The Bassmaster Elite Series 2012 schedule is halfway complete and by the end of the week, so will the FLW Tour major schedule. Basically, we are halfway towards the crowning of a new Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, and almost halfway towards another crowning of n FLW Tour Angler of the Year. Along with the AOY titles, we are also starting to get a clearer picture of Bassmaster Classic and Forrest Wood Cup qualifiers and the naming the Rookies of the Year. Now is as good a time as any to explore some of the trends of the season so far, and get as clear a picture as possible before going forward. Let’s start with the Angler of the Year races. New AOY’s Both the Elite Series and FLW Tours have anglers on top of the standings that have been steady competitors, but are having their first real run at an AOY title. Good anglers certainly mature mentally as they age, and if their bodies can keep up with the game, then seeing these guys progressing should not be all that surprising. First, Randy Howell sits atop the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings by 26 points over David Walker. According to a conversation with Bassmaster Senior Editor ken Duke; Howell’s best AOY finish was a sixth place in 2009; but, he has finished eighth in 2008 and 13th in 2011. So, while Howell has proven he can consistently compete and finish high in the standings, he has placed no worse than 14th so far this year, and his average finish has been just higher than 10th place. It is tough to think that he can keep up the pace he is on without stumbling a little. At this point, a 25th place finish would be lower than his season average and even though David Walker has averaged a 20th place finish, he only stands 26 points behind in second place. Should Howell be able to keep his pace up, it would undoubtedly be an Angler of the Year worthy season, and likely the best overall season in Elite Series history. While Howell has been dominating the Elite Series race, Jason Christie has taken the forefront of the FLW Tour Angler of the Year race. This should also be no surprise as Christie announced his presence with a top 10 in his second professional event, and although he struggled in his rookie year of 2008; where he finished 113th in the points, he has not finished lower than 20th since, and his fourth place finish in 2011 shows that he can shine throughout a season. He has averaged an 18th place finish thus far in 2012 and if his performance over his last three seasons holds true, expect him to have at least two strong finishes ahead of him. In 2009 he had two top 10 finishes in the final three events, one top 10 in the final three events of 2010 and he finished out 2011 with an 11th, ninth and 20th place finish. Jacob Powroznik stands 20 points behind Christie, but while he has been a solid competitor on the FLW Tour, his high finish of third place in the points has been surrounded by average finishes. He has finished ninth and 11th in other seasons, but a 33rd and 39th in the last two seasons mean he would have to fish lights out to catch Christie. ROY Race The emergence of Brandon Card as not only a Rookie of the Year lead in the Elite Series, but a fourth place in the AOY standings makes him the most celebrated true rookie since Derek Remitz in 2007. At this point in the season (four events), Remitz ranked third in the AOY standings before eventually finishing 25th, but no other “true pro tour rookie” has ranked this high in the Elite Series since. Should Card be able to maintain his 38-point lead in the Rookie of the Year standings, it would make him the third Rookie of the year amongst his teammates at Pro Fishing Management. 2010 saw Bradley Roy claim the prize and Ott DeFoe followed him in 2011. On the FLW Side, Indianapolis, Indiana’s Jacob Wheeler seems to have proven that he can live up to the hype of his 2011 BFL All American Championship and run with the big boys. Wheeler currently sits in 18th place in the FLW Tour AOY rankings with 493 points. That places him 13 points ahead of fellow Indianan, Allen Boyd; the 2011 TBF National Champion who is fishing on the “Living the Dream” package that FLW offers the Federation National Champion. New Elite Trend 2011 was the first year of the Elite Series “win and you’re in” policy. The rule awards automatic Bassmaster Classic qualifying berths to the eight winners of the regular season events. last year, only one of the winners ended up being double qualified for the Bassmaster Classic when the season ended, but that trend is not proving to follow suit thus far in 2012. So far, Okeechobee champion Ish Monroe (47th place) and Bull Shoals winner Brandon Palaniuk (73rd place) sit outside of the Bassmaster Classic qualifying positions. While their position in the standings does not threaten their Classic qualification status, it could affect other Elite pros in the standings. If all of the eight regular season winners qualified for the Bassmaster Classic in the top 28 positions of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, then eight additional positions open up in the Elite Series field. Only Jeremy Starks (13th place) and Alton Jones (14th place have managed to remain double qualified thus far. While Jones is no stranger to the top of the standings, Starks position is unique. In five previous Elite Series campaigns (he missed 2011 due to injury), Starks has averaged a 74th place finish in the AOY standings; his high water mark being a 58th place finish in 2006. We’ll have to see if his streak of solid fishing continues and he remain double qualified, or if he will return to his former self in the second half of 2012. Year of the A-Rig? After Paul Elias won the final FLW Tour Open in 2011 at lake Guntersville with an Alabama Rig, discussion amongst the pros and pundits was rampant with the thought that the Alabama Rig; and its many likenesses, would be the only lure anglers would win on in 2012. Of course, when B.A.S.S. tournament officials banned the rig for the Elite Series, the point became moot on that tour. however, FLW officials decided to allow it, and several pros though that the FLW Tour Year would also be dominated by the Rig. Thus far the Rig has played a major factor in one win; David Dudley at Beaver Lake, and factored slightly into Brent Ehrler’s win at Lake Hartwell and at Table Rock Lake a little throughout the field. So, while many were feeling that the umbrella style rigs would dominate, they haven’t quite done that, but they have played a factor, and if conditions were clearer at Table Rock, they quite probably would have been more of a factor. The first two stops on the Elite Series in Florida would not have been conducive to the Alabama Rig, but Bull Shoals and Douglas lake probably would have been prime candidates for the rig. While we will never know, it certainly is an interesting thought. Whatever the case, 2012 has already been an interesting season and with the FLW Tour kicking off at the Potomac River this week, the second half should be tense as the anglers fight for their competitive lives.