Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 03/08/2017

Story by Matt Pangrac

Moore, OK –  The 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series kicked off in February with stops on Cherokee Lake in Tennessee and Lake Okeechobee in Florida.   When the dust had settled, there were some surprising names at the bottom of the Toyota Angler Of the Year point standings.  

The 11 anglers currently sitting in 100th place or below in the TAOY standings have combined for three Bassmaster Classic titles and 35 B.A.S.S. victories.  Six of those anglers also qualified for the 2017 Bassmaster Classic in two weeks on Lake Conroe.  

Here’s a look at some of the biggest names in the sport who have an uphill climb the rest of the season if they are to qualify for the 2018 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell:

Takahiro Omori - 110th in TAOY standings
After posting his first B.A.S.S. victory in over a decade last year at the Elite Series stop on Wheeler Lake, Takahiro Omori went on have a solid 2016 Elite Series campaign, finishing inside the Top 50 cut a total of seven times.   

That momentum came to a screeching halt in the first two Elite Series stops of the 2017 season, where Omori posted back-to-back finishes of 108th place on Cherokee Lake and Okeechobee.  He holds the dubious distinction of occupying last place in the TAOY point standings, at least until the Elite Series returns to action in early April on Toledo Bend.   

The first two tournaments of the 2017 Elite Series season marked the first time since the 2001-2002 season that Omori had finished below 100th place in consecutive B.A.S.S. events.  With the Bassmaster Classic coming to the state that Omori calls home, he has the opportunity to capture his second Classic title and turn a bad start to the season into a distant memory.  

Chris Lane – 107th in TAOY standings
Like Omori, Chris Lane is another former Classic champ who got off to a very slow start in 2017 with finishes of 105th place on Cherokee and 103rd place on Okeechobee.   Prior to this season, Lane had never finished below 100th place in consecutive tournaments with B.A.S.S.

What’s even more surprising about Lane’s slow start is the fact that he has four Top 10 finishes on Okeechobee, including two Bassmaster Open wins.  

While he narrowly missed qualifying for the 2017 Classic, Lane has a golden opportunity to get back on track when the Elite Series starts back up on Toledo Bend in April.  Last year, he finished in 2nd place in the Elite Series stop on Toledo Bend.   

Chris Zaldain - 106th in TAOY standings  
After winning his first B.A.S.S. tournament in 2015 and finishing in 7th place in the 2016 TAOY point standings, Chris Zaldain appeared to be firing on all cylinders heading into the 2017 season.  Instead, he opened the year with the two worst finishes of his Elite Series career (102nd on Cherokee Lake and 98th on Okeechobee).  
Zaldain has a knack for overcoming slow starts, however.  Now in his sixth season on the Elite Series, he has finished in 50th place or below eight times in the first two tournaments of each Elite Series season he has competed.  

Justin Lucas – 102nd in TAOY standings
With a 100th place finish on Cherokee Lake and an 85th place finish on Okeechobee, Justin Lucas has a lot of work ahead of him if he is to notch another Top 10 TAOY finish like he did in 2016 when he finished in 8th place.  

In his short career with B.A.S.S., Lucas has become known for his consistency.  In three previous Elite Series seasons he never finished below 80th place in a tournament, and recorded five Top 30 finishes in the first two Elite Series stops of the year between 2014 and 2016.  While his Elite Series results may be sub-par to this point, He did finish in 4th place in the first Bassmaster Southern Open of the year on the Harris Chain in Florida.  

Shaw Grigsby - 101st in TAOY standings
After making five consecutive Classics between 2009 and 2013, Grigsby is back in the big dance in 2017 on Lake Conroe, but he’ll have to put a poor Elite Series start behind him in order to have a chance at the Classic title.  

Grigsby finished in 103rd place on Cherokee Lake and 76th place on Okeechobee, which is surprising considering the fact that the Florida pro has three victories in his home state.  

Skeet Reese – 100th in TAOY standings
With a Classic title and an AOY title to his credit, Skeet Reese is not accustomed to finding himself in 100th place in the TAOY point standings, but that’s exactly where he is after a 97th place finish on Cherokee Lake and an 82nd place finish on Lake Okeechobee.  

The California pro has qualified for 14 of the past 15 Bassmaster Classics (including the 2017 Classic on Lake Conroe), but has an uphill climb in order to earn a spot in the 2018 Classic on Lake Hartwell.