MONTGOMERY, Ala.. –  Living up to his storied reputation, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., closed strong on the Alabama River at the Bassmaster Elite Series Postseason, scoring victory at the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph, which earned him enough points in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings to overtake California’s Skeet Reese.

The AOY trophy is VanDam’s fifth and second consecutive. With each accomplishment, VanDam advances his reputation as the best angler on the planet. The $200,000 top prize brings his career BASS earnings to more than $3.5 million.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said VanDam.  “You can do a lot of things in this sport but to the anglers, the Angler of the Year is the real deal.  Every time I win one of these, it makes me want to win even more.  It’s just really special.”

ESPN2 will carry all of the on-the-water action from Toyota Trucks Championship Week on The Bassmasters, which will air for three hours on Sunday, Sept. 27, from 4 to 7 p.m. ET.

At the start of Toyota Trucks Championship week, things didn’t look so promising for VanDam.  VanDam struggled out of the gate at the two-day Lake Jordan event, while Reese performed well.  As a result, Reese overtook VanDam in the AOY standings heading into the final leg on the Alabama River.

But VanDam developed a solid pattern in practice and smoked the field with 30 pounds, 6 ounces.  Still, Reese had a shot, needing a finish of fourth or better, but the 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion feel short in sixth.

“I’m utterly shocked right now,” said VanDam, who has three Bassmaster Classic victories.  “After the f irst tournament, everything seemed to go wrong and I didn’t think I had much of a shot.  But I knew I had to battle through it.  This format is definitely intense and things seemed to work out for me.”

VanDam had a spectacular regular season, winning a Bassmaster Elite Series event on Virginia’s Smith Mountain Lake in April and stringing together solid finishes throughout the year to head into the postseason in the top spot in the AOY standings.

On Friday, a trio of Strike King baits yielded his 16-pound, 3-ounce limit.

Reese won the AOY in 2007 while VanDam took top honors in 2008.  Some would consider 2009 the ultimate match, but with both anglers at the top of their games, it’s easy to assume both will battle it out again in 2010.

While Reese said he was “disappointed,” he added that defeat this week was easier to swallow because he started the season by winning the 2009 Bassmaster Classic.  Reese also had a steady season after earning the Classic trophy, which is not an easy accomplishment considering all the demands that come with the title.

“I had a great season but I wanted to have a spectacular season,” said Reese, who will defend his 2009 Classic crown at the 2010 edition in Birmingham, Ala., and Lay Lake next February.  “I’m sure I will be riding the emotional roller coaster over the next few days, but right now I feel OK.”

Reese’s strategy on the river was different than that of anyone else in the field.  He ran north and put all his marbles into one spot.  Reese said the area had quality fish but he missed a few opportunities, which ultimately cost him.

“Yesterday, I missed a few bites and today I had an opportunity for 14 pounds,” said Reese.  “But I just couldn’t get the big ones in the boat.  I will definitely have flashbacks of a 4-pounder I missed early this morning.”

Reese was looking to become only the second angler in BASS history to score a Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and a Bassmaster Classic trophy in the same season.  That feat was accomplished in 1995 by Mark Davis, a Mount Ida, Ark., Bassmaster Elite Series angler.

Finishing in third place in the AOY race was Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla.  In fourth, moving up from 11th to start the postseason, was Mike Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J.  Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., took fifth.  The full standings can be found below.

The field qualified for the Postseason through their regular-season performances on the Bassmaster Elite Series.  The top 12 anglers in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings after the regular season had their points recalculated and took those scores into the Postseason. Each leg of the Postseason will be scored on a 50-point sliding scale.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit Bassmaster.com. Visit ESPNOutdoorsmedia.com for images and more.  

Official sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, BOOYAH Baits, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Outboards.

Supporting sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series: Bass Pro Shops, Costa Del Mar, Ramada, SpongeTech and Triton Boats.

About BASS: For more than 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing.  The organization advances the sport through advocacy, outreach and its expansive tournament structure while championing efforts to connect directly with the passionate community of bass anglers through its Bassmaster media vehicles.

As the flagship offering of ESPN Outdoors, the Bassmaster brand and its considerable multimedia platforms are guided by a mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer; comprehensive Web properties in Bassmaster.com, BASSInsider.com, ESPNOutdoors.com and ESPN360.com; and ESPN2 television programming, Bassmaster provides rich, leading-edge content true to the lifestyle.

BASS oversees the prestigious Bassmaster tournament trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women’s Tour, BASS Federation Nation and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.

BASS offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

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Media Contact: Doug Grassian; (407) 566-2216 or doug.grassian@espn.com

TOYOTA TUNDRA BASSMASTER ANGLER OF THE YEAR STANDINGS

1. Kevin VanDam                                  Kalamazoo, Mich.                                  283
2. Skeet Reese                            & nbsp;         Auburn, Calif.                                        277
3. Tommy Biffle                                    Wagoner, Okla.                                     265
4. Michael Iaconelli                                Runnemede, NJ                                     261
5. Randy Howell                                    Springville, Ala.                               &nb sp;     248
6. Alton Jones                                       Waco, Texas                                         233
7. Kelly Jordon                                      Mineola, Texas                                      232
8. Cliff Pace                                          Petal, Miss.                                           224
9. Gerald Swindle                                  Warrior, Ala.                                          219
10. Gary Klein                                       Weatherford, Texas                               217
11. Mark Menendez                                Paducah, Ky.                                        215
12. Todd Faircloth                                 Jasper, Texas   ;                                     212

FINAL STANDINGS- Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph

2009 Toyota Trucks Championship Week – Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph 09/17-09/18 Alabama River, Montgomery  Ala.
(PRO Division) Standings Day 2

Angler                   Hometown              No./lbs-oz  Pts   Total $$$

1.  Kevin VanDam           Kalamazoo, Mich.       10  30-06    0  $200,000.00
Day 1: 5   14-03    Day 2: 5   16-03  
2.  Tommy Biffle           Wagoner, Okla.         10  22-11    0   $40,000.00
Day 1: 5    8-09    Day 2: 5   14-02  
3.  Kelly Jordon           Mineola, Texas         10  21-15    0   $20,000.00
Day 1: 5   10-15    Day 2: 5   11-00  
4.  Michael Iaconelli      Runnemede, N.J.        10  21-12    0   $35,000.00
Day 1: 5   10-05    Day 2: 5   11-07  
5.  Randy Howell           Springville, Ala.      10  20-11    0   $25,000.00
Day 1: 5    8-10    Day 2: 5   12-01  
6.  Skeet Reese            Auburn, Calif.         10  20-07    0   $75,000.00
Day 1: 5   10-05    Day 2: 5   10-02  
7.  Gary Klein             Weatherford, Texas     10  20-01    0   $17,000.00
Day 1: 5    8-15    Day 2: 5   11-02  
8.  Cliff Pace             Petal, Miss.           10  17-11     0   $19,000.00
Day 1: 5    8-05    Day 2: 5    9-06  
9.  Alton Jones            Waco, Texas            10  17-11    0   $22,500.00
Day 1: 5    9-00    Day 2: 5    8-11  
10. Mark Menendez          Paducah, Ky.           10  17-03    0   $15,000.00
Day 1: 5    8-11    Day 2: 5    8-08  
11.=2 0Gerald Swindle         Warrior, Ala.          10  17-01    0   $18,000.00
Day 1: 5    9-04    Day 2: 5    7-13  
12. Todd Faircloth         Jasper, Texas          10  12-02    0   $14,000.00
Day 1: 5    6-10    Day 2: 5    5-08  
———————————————————————–

Big Bass
Day
1   Randy Howell            Springville, Ala.          3-08       $.00
2   Gary Klein              Weatherford, Texas         4-08       $.00

Big Bass of Tournament
Gary Klein              Weatherford, Texas         4-08  $1,000.00

———————————————————————–
Totals
Day   #Limits    #Fish      Weight
1       12        60       113-12
2       12        60       125-15
———————————-
24       120       239-11