Reese fades in season finale

After a phenomenal regular season, Auburn angler sees VanDam win sixth AOY crown
By: Doug Grassian BASS Communications
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At this point, the only thing hotter than Kevin VanDam is Alabama in late July. The Kalamazoo, Mich. veteran closed in typical fashion on the Alabama River Saturday, scoring his sixth and third consecutive Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. VanDam notched his 19th BASS career victory Saturday at the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph. Auburn’s Skeet Reese carried a big lead in the AOY points standings into the season-ending tournament. But he struggled down the stretch and wound up sixth in the tournament and third in the overall standings. Paired with VanDam’s earlier February Classic win – in Alabama of course – VanDam is only the second angler to score both of the most prestigious titles in the sport over the course of the same season. And probably most important – at least to his twin boys, Jackson and Nicholas – VanDam netted $200,000 to push his career earnings to more than $4.5 million, by far the most in BASS’ 40-year plus history. And the popular perception might be that VanDam would lose a touch of motivation and get fat and happy but exactly the opposite is true. “I never get tired of winning,” said VanDam, 42. “This title was the hardest for me to accomplish so it means that much more. I take nothing for granted because I face competition every day that can beat me. It’s easy to stay motivated when that’s the case.” Still, heading into the postseason, VanDam felt he only had a puncher’s chance at another AOY. In his mind, he figured that he needed to win both legs of the Postseason to catch Reese, who put together possibly the best regular-season run in BASS history. But as it turned out, VanDam only needed to win one leg with Reese’s Postseason struggles. A dejected Reese can take solace in the fact that he smashed VanDam in the regular season. That magical run included six top-five finishes and two victories that resulted in a media firestorm. But in the end, it wasn’t enough and though Reese held a commanding lead to kick off the postseason, he finished a distant third. It is a tough pill to swallow for the 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year and he was visibly shaken after ceding his lead to VanDam for the second consecutive season. But while VanDam’s resume is sterling, Reese has cemented his reputation with a fantastic run over the past five years in Bassmaster Elite Series competition. “I’m proud of the season I had,” said Reese, the 2009 Classic champion. “I guess I peaked a little early. I had one of the greatest seasons ever and I know what I’ve accomplished. The only thing you can do when you spill milk is clean it up and move on. I missed some opportunities that will play over in my mind for the next while.” Those missed opportunities included failing to boat a five-fish limit on the final day of competition on Lake Jordan, the first leg of the Postseason. Additionally, Reese missed a 3- and 3-plus pounder early Saturday morning, which probably would have been enough to leapfrog VanDam, exhibiting how tight the race was. As it was, Reese finished sixth with 21 pounds, 7 ounces.