After a 54th-place finish at Lake Champlain, the furthest thing from Josh Stracner’s mind was the Elite Series Rookie of the Year title. He was fifth in ROY points, 55 behind leader KJ Queen coming into the final event of the season at the St. Lawrence River.
“The only pressure I had on me at this event was making the Classic,” Stracner said. “I was in 35th place (in Angler of the Year points) coming into this tournament. I practiced just to find something consistent. I wasn’t worried about trying to win the tournament. I found about a 500-yard stretch of bank that had some shallow rock piles on it, and I stayed on that all three days.”
The top three anglers in the ROY race coming into this event failed to make the Day 2 cut. Stracner was in 17th place entering Day 3. Justin Hamner, who led Stracner by 12 points after Champlain, made the Day 2 cut in 31st place, but fell to 45th Saturday. Stracner finished 22nd and won the Rookie of the Year title by 11 points. The 37-year-old Vandiver, Ala., resident also clinched a Bassmaster Classic berth with a 27th-place finish in the Angler of the Year standings.
Stracner credited his father, Jerry, with getting him involved in bass tournament fishing at an early age and helping settle him down after a bad day on the water this season.
“My dad was fishing bass tournaments back in the early ‘70s,” Stracner said. “He actually had me in the boat with him when he was fishing big team tournaments. He started me out really young.”
Stracner’s best finish this season was 16th at Lake Fork. He was 18th in the first Elite Series tournament of the year at the St. Johns River. He said he caught all his bass this week on two lures – Reaction Innovations Shiver Shots (magic craw swirl and white colors) on a drop shot and an Evergreen CR-6 crankbait in ayu color.