CELEBRATION, Fla. Are fishing fans witnessing the coming of age of Skeet Reese?
That is an obvious question considering the impressive start the Auburn, Calif., pro has enjoyed on the Bassmaster Elite Series this season.
Before Reese proved he was human by finishing in a tie for 53rd in last weekend's Southern Challenge presented by Purolator on Alabama's Lake Guntersville, he had been nothing short of sensational.
After coming within 6 ounces of winning the Bassmaster Classic, Reese opened with a ninth at Lake Amistad, followed by a fourth on the California Delta. He placed second at Clear Lake and rebounded from a slow start to post a sixth at Clarks Hill.
As a result, Reese finds himself in rarified air leading the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race as the season nears the mid-way point. After five tournaments, he holds a 25-point lead over three-time Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam, who won the Guntersville event.
Listening to Reese, you get the idea that he is unimpressed with his red-hot start.
"I'm just fishing," he said on the eve of the Guntersville tournament. "I've had four good tournaments five if you include the Classic. That doesn't mean anything because there are seven tournaments still to be fished. That's a lot of time on the water, a lot of casts, and anything can happen.
"I'd like to keep some momentum going and continue to fish well."
Momentum is something that he knows well. Entering the 2006 Elite Series season, Reese was one of the most consistent pros based on his performances over the previous three seasons. And before stumbling at Guntersville, he had recorded seven consecutive top-12 finishes.
"I don't know if it's a different work ethic or different outlook," the 37-year-old said. "I don't know if it's maturity, wisdom heck, I don't know what it is. But I definitely seem to be fishing better right now than I have in a little while.
"I've fished well the last four or five years. But this year, I'm able to kick it up a notch a little bit more so than before. I'm making better decisions now; I'm not scared to make decisions or move on ideas. I feel like I'm fishing current conditions better than fishing yesterday's pattern. I can't explain it, but I wish I could."
Perhaps the reason for his career acceleration is his rather unique approach to each tournament day.
"I don't ever go out there expecting to catch them, by any means," Reese said. "Because I think when you expect something, that's when it goes south on you."
Despite a stellar 10-year career, Reese has only been in Angler of Year contention once before this season.
"That's when I had a little taste of that and I decided I really wanted it," he said. "Since then, Angler of the Year has been my No. 1 goal to achieve on tour. I may not ever get it, but I'm not going to give up."
Jen Carroll, an angler on the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats, has been busy between tournaments.
The California pro recently signed a two-year deal with a Toyota dealership in Dallas that will have her driving a wrapped 2007 Tundra , was named national spokesman for the Challenged Sportsmen of America charity and is preparing to compete in the next WBT event this week at Alabama's Lake Guntersville.
"I am looking forward to a summer filled with teaching children about fishing, camping and the outdoors as well as fishing and assisting the challenged competitors in fishing and hunting," she said.
Log onto www.Bassmaster.com Monday at 2 p.m. ET if you would like to post a question to Kevin VanDam, winner of the Elite Series stop at Lake Guntersville last weekend.
The insurance provider, Geico, which features the famous mascot of a green gecko, will even have a presence on the WBT this season.
That's because Christina Bradley's Triton is wrapped to promote Geico Powersports. The wrap features the gecko holding a spincasting rod.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM BASSMASTER MAGAZINE.
Elite Series rookie Jimmy Mason anxiously awaited every issue of Bassmaster Magazine as a youngster in Alabama. Even today, he reads it from cover to cover religiously.
"I learned so much from the magazine and I still do," he said. "Both from the technique articles and the tournament trail reports you can learn the new techniques and read about the stuff that's working in other areas that you can try at your lake. You might find something to give you a competitive edge.
"It really teaches you how other fishermen fish. And it gives you role models to kind of pattern your style of fishing after."
DID YOU KNOW?
Four of the 12 finalists in last weekend's Elite Series Southern Challenge also made the finals last season in the Lake Guntersville event.
IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO...
Elite Series pro Jamie Fralick would likely spend more time at home in South Dakota helping his father in the family flooring business.
THEY SAID IT.
"I'm a fishing fan as well as a fishing pro, and I may be a little intimidated to be competing against my idols like Denny Brauer and Alton Jones. The way I look at it, though, I'm competing against the fish -- not the fishermen." Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer told the Dallas Morning news how he approaches competing again the more seasoned competition.