KISSIMMEE, Fla. They say it's not over 'til it's over, but the Toyota Rookie of the Year race is pretty much over no matter what they say.
Derek Remitz did not have the best tournament of his career: finishing 61st with 11 pounds, 6 ounces, but was able to edge out his closest competitor, Casey Ashley, by 22 spots.
Ashley said he was more focused on making the cut for the Classic coming into the tournament, and willl be watching closely the final two days to see where he'll end up in the standings. He started the tournament in 29th place, and there will be a lot of shifting in the ranks.
"It was just tough out there," Ashley said, adding that he didn't feel any added pressure because Rookie of the Year was in reach. "I haven't thought about the rookie race all year. I just let it fall where it wants to."
And he's going to fall just short.
In fact, only one of the top-three rookies in the standings Matt Sphar made the 50 cut. Sphar sits in 23rd place, starting the tournament 148 points behind Remitz.
By our math, Remitz will receive 153 points for his finish, meaning Sphar would have to win the tournament, earning him 305 points, to edge out Remitz. That will mean making up a 12-15 deficit over two days, and on Lake Toho, Sphar is going to need at least one Harry Potts-sized bag (over 20 pounds) to make that happen.
Losing the "co-" in "co-angler"
No tournament this season has seen the kind of bags and domination from co-anglers as the Sunshine Showdown (presented by Allstate Boat Insurance) on Lake Toho.
The most obvious example is Harry Potts and his bag: still more than a pound larger than anything else brought across the scales. They are making their move on a lake that is full of bass, but where the big bite seems elusive and sporadic and the co-anglers are getting the right bites.
But the pros aren't so arrogant as to not notice. Aaron Martens said he watched his co-angler rock out of the back of his boat on Day One, and made the proper adjustments for Day Two.
"I'm not stupid," he said after 13-12 on Friday, 11-9 more than he weighed in on Thursday.
Another example of a co-angler thriving in the tough conditions on Lake Toho is one of the few female co-anglers following the tour: Mary Delgado.
Fishing out of the back of Ben Matsubu's boat (who only bagged 7-10) on Friday, Delgado brought in 14-7, which put her in third place.
On what is by far the toughest lake the Elite Series has been this season, an elated Delgado said it was her biggest bag of the year.
"I've really got to give all the credit to Ben," Delgado said. "He gave me that bait and told me what rod to use and I just brought them in."
Standing nearby, wishing Matsubu would have blessed him with the same information, was Delgado's boyfriend, Elite Series pro Byron Velvick, who finished tied for 100th with a two-day total of 3-4.
See, what ha-happened was
Skeet Reese couldn't wipe the smile off of his face as he walked behind the weigh-in stage to do interviews with reporters. After his second straight limit, he sits only one spot behind Kevin VanDam and Reese said he can taste the AOY victory.
After the reporters left, Reese hung around to do his audio blog for ESPNOutdoors.com. With his daughter resting on his shoulder Reese started in.
"Alright, this is Skeet Reese, and it's Day Three," he said. "Wait what day is it? Day Two? Alright, let's start over..."
Live, streaming video of the Sunshine Showdown's daily weigh-ins and realtime leaderboards begin Thursday through Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on ESPNOutdoors.com. Also live on ESPNOutdoors.com, "Hooked Up" with Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders airs at 8 a.m., 10 and noon with the full pre-weigh-in show at 3 p.m. ET Sunday, leading into the live weigh-in and real-time leaderboard at approximately 3:45.