Editor's note: Without really planning to, we put Charlie Hartley's column on Bays de Noc in a time capsule. A week has passed, and we now unearth Hartley's column to marvel at the foreshadowing, irony, and what-might-have-beens ...
Bays de Noc is a unique place to hold a professional tournament. I commend B.A.S.S. for picking it as the site for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship. I also want to commend B.A.S.S. for the format they developed. In my opinion it’s a lot better (strictly performance based) than what’s been done in the past.
I’ve actually fished a tournament or two up there in years past. It’s big. It can fish small, however, if the wind starts blowing. And, like most of the Great Lakes — Bays de Noc is actually a part of Lake Michigan — it’s full of giant smallmouth bass.
If the wind stays down, you’ll likely see record weights. I make that statement not just because there are a lot of fish in it, but also because this is the time of the year when they’re probably shallow and feeding like crazy. This is September. It’s colder up there than it is in the rest of the country.
What makes it even more exciting, however, is that the AOY champion will earn his spot on it. There are three guys in the running that deserve a close look.
There might not be a more serious competitor than this man. He’s widely known as a power angler. That’s not the style that comes to mind when you think about Bays de Noc. But let’s not kid ourselves. Hackney’s proven himself on different waters over the years and he’s proven himself in big, high-pressure tournaments.
With a small lead in the points he’s got to be the favorite, unless you talk to the other top contenders.
This is Great Lakes smallmouth bass fishing. Is there any angler on the planet that’s better with a drop shot rig, or finesse fishing in general, than this Alabama transplant? I don’t think so.
Besides, he’s won the AOY title before. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’d love to go back-to back. It would do a lot to help dispel the bridesmaid thing.
Faircloth is one of the great, but underrated, anglers in the business. He’s quiet and rarely seeks the limelight. In my opinion he doesn’t get the publicity he deserves, but don’t take that for a lack of drive or skill. This is a man who knows how to fish competitively.
And, there’s no doubt that he wants the AOY title — bad. He’s come close in the past but just missed the mark. Watch him closely. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s got a fire in his belly.
There really isn’t a better group of anglers to be battling it out. They’re all well past the million dollar mark in B.A.S.S. earnings — Martens is over two million — and they all want the prize in the worst kind of way.
Of course, let’s not forget that there are several Bassmaster Classic spots up for grabs, too. In some ways those spots mean as much to the guys vying for them as the AOY means to Hackney, Martens and Faircloth.
This is a great week for professional bass fishing.