The Top 40 always raises questions, so maybe I should explain:

“The computer rankings percentage is calculated by dropping the highest and lowest rankings for each…then dividing the remaining total by 100, the maximum possible points.” Beyond that, as a matter of clarification, “Each…receives 1-25 points in reverse order of the way they are ranked.”

Sound familiar? Well, actually, that’s not my Top 40–that’s the BCS rankings in college football.

HOW IT’S DONE: It could be said that the final Top 40 is reached in much the same way as the BCS since it combines both “human” polling and hard data, beginning with the latter. For example, competitive fishing usually gets priority. Why? Because there will be an existing record of performance for each event. Also there will be points awarded overall in a given circuit.

But not all circuits are created equal. For the To 40 they are weighted this way: (1.) Bassmaster Elites (2.) FLW Tour (3.) Bassmaster Opens (4.)  Our regional EverStart or comparable FLW series (5./6.) WON Bass and Anglers Choice (shared weight pro-ams) (7.) Other Pro/am style events & non-shared weight co-anglering, and finally (8.) Teams. In addition, there is bonus weighting for showcase events such as the U.S. Open or Forrest Wood Cup or Bassmasters Classic, but not for cherry-picking.

In other words, the highest California finishes in the highest level circuit standings carry the most weight. Is that perfect? No, but it is the easier to justify or explain.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG? Fishermen’s performances are examined for all the circuits they fish. One could be top 5 in one, top 20 in another and 75th in another. I don’t automatically throw out the highs and lows, but there is no denying, doing well in more than one circuit can be a benefit, but finishing at a mediocre level in one circuit diminishes a strong showing in another circuit.

Split regions and Angler of the Year races are also problematic. Sometimes an AOY is strong respectively in two regions and sometimes he may finish high on the strength of fishing both regions. Then it’s necessary to look at regional standings of the contenders and compare the strength of finishes in the respective regions where they live.

When it comes to teams, there are thousands of combinations and some are made up of a lead guy and a second rod, some are two leads and some are merely complementary in style, skill or approach. We look for clues throughout the year to try and figure out who deserves the most credit–sometimes evident by one having success with different fishing partners.

That’s all pretty straight forward.

IT’S SUBJECTIVE, of course. If we just took every organization’s printed standings, there would have been no “Top 40” for the last 15 years. The idea was to mix in other anglers who are big fish specialists or guides or those don’t necessarily compete in regular tours. For these you have to add the “human” element of judgement and compilation of names, testimonials and catches.

As you would expect, making a “judgement call” can be influenced by public and private opinion (good or bad), witnesses (including partners, clients, lake rangers or marina staff, or video coverage) along with my own first-hand knowledge. However, even these criteria are subject to a vulnerable chain of being recorded, recollected, recovered and registered into the final Top 40 standings. (No risk there, eh?)

Still, the List seems to matter out there, so we’ll try it again next year.