Canterbury “fishing by the seat of my pants”

Scott Canterbury just pulled a 2-pound largemouth out of thick grass, as you’ll see in the photo from Steve Bowman.

He started the morning throwing a frog near Goose Pond Landing. After about an hour of no bites he told us, “I’m just fishing by the seat of my pants.”

Canterbury has a ton of experience on Guntersville, living in nearby Odenville, but perhaps his ability to avoid fishing history accounts for his success here this week.

He caught the previously mentioned 2-pounder on a NetBait Dagger creature bait. “The big thing is it needs to be heavy enough to get through the grass, but you don’t want it too heavy so it falls quickly to the bottom,” he said.

When one ounce, one day is crucial

Taku Ito, 44th, 11-4

Taku Ito and Brett Preuett tied for 40th place after two days on Lake Guntersville with 21-8. The tiebreaker to decide who would fish in today's top 40 and who would go home is heaviest bag over the previous two days. On Day 1, Ito had 11-4 and Preuett weighed 11-3. On Day 2, Preuett caught 10-5 and Ito weighed 10-4. So Ito's 11-4 vs. Preuett's 11-3 on Day 1 broke the tie.

One ounce - one little ol' ounce - decided who would earn at least $10,000 and fish another day and who would go on to the next tournament with $7,500. One ounce was worth $2,500. Man, this can be a cruel sport. But not as cruel as it used to be on the Elite Series, where making the Day 2 cut was worth $10,000 and finishing 41st paid nothing.

Who finished 2nd at the 2020 Classic?

Nobody remembers who finished second - in any sporting event. And bass fishing is no exception. The 2020 Bassmaster Classic was held in March, right here at Lake Guntersville, and Todd Auten is the answer to that trivia question.

The 54-year-old, Lake Wylie, S.C., pro was in 31st place at the end of both Day 1 and Day 2 in qualifying for today's top 40. He caught a 2-12 this morning to get on the board. Auten is having another solid season. He's 24th in the AOY standings and is on track to qualify for the 2021 Classic.

Welcher putting on a show

Elite Series rookie Kyle Welcher talks as fast as he fishes. And he fishes fast. Welcher put three bass in the boat in short order today, capped by a 3 1/2-pounder that put him in the early lead. Welcher abandoned his upriver plan of the previous two days, which took him all the way to the Tennessee state line. Now he's concentrating mid-lake, targeting a particular combination of hydrilla clumps, rock cover and current.

"I'm looking for a clean line of rocks on the inside edge of the hydrilla," said Welcher. "Ain't nothing like the bite. They just thump it and knock slack in the line. It's hard to beat."

Welcher is throwing a vibrating jig. He mentioned that he'd prefer to be casting a crankbait as he works down the bank, but there's just too much floating vegetation in Guntersville to do that.

Current is the key. "I'm just looking for current," Welcher said.

Welcher on to something

Andy Crawford is working on a gallery with Kyle Welcher, who is on the lower end of the lake. He is running a combination of riprap shoreline and an island with isolated wood cover and laydowns. A bladed jig is getting it done.

"They are knocking the fire out of it," he told Andy.

He is fishing the shady--not sunny-side of the casting targets.

"There is current on the shady side, and that's what is making the difference," he said.

He must be on to something. This makes three keepers in the livewell within about 15 minutes. Welcher estimated his weight at 8 pounds.

Card hoping to repeat consistency

In a tournament marked by inconsistency, Brandon Card has been as consistent as anyone. He weighed 14-15 on Day 1 and 15-7 on Day 2. That moved him up from 13th place to 10th yesterday. He caught a 1 1/2 pound keeper at 7 a.m. in what he hopes is another consistent day on Lake Guntersville and a chance to compete in the top 10 on Saturday.

Canterbury right where he wants to be

Scott Canterbury 3rd, 31-10

Scott Canterbury is a wily old veteran. He’s just 44 years old but he’s been fishing for a living for long time.

He’s in third place today, trailing the leader Brandon Cobb by 3 pounds. And he’s in fourth place in the Angler of the Year standings just 20 points back from Clark Wendlandt who leading the pack.

Sitting in third at Guntersville and fourth in AOY might just be where Canterbury wants to be. He’s less of a target that way, and there may be less pressure too.

In 2019 he conquered that pressure and won AOY. But he has not won a blue Elite Series trophy. That is likely high on his list of priorities.

It may seem like Canterbury has had a quiet 2020 season. But maybe that’s because we’ve had such a stop and go season.

The Alabama native started the year strong, finishing 6th at St. Johns and 2nd at Eufaula. He fell off at St. Lawrence, finishing 43rd, rallied at Champlain with an 11th place finish, then struggled at St. Clair with a 72nd.

The rest of the season sets up well for Canterbury, with the remaining three stops being down south. Don’t count him out at Guntersville or in the AOY race.

Missing faces of Day 3

One of the more interesting parts of Day 3 of this event isn’t actually who is in the semi-final cut, but those who aren’t.

If you play Fantasy Fishing it’s likely those sitting on the sidelines after today come with a barrel full of broken hearts and expectations.

In every event, there are a couple of surprises. But this week has brought more than its share.

Just as an example:

Buddy Gross, who grew up on this lake and is a proven winner on the Elite Series and Alabama, sits in 48th place.

He’s followed by Matt Herren, who some figured was an odds-heavy favorite in this event. Tough derbies fit his style and he’s at home where he’s excelled before. He’s in 49th and now on the plus side of the Classic bubble in points.

Then there’s John Cox who weighed in a 4-fish total, 17 pounds, 3 ounces but could only follow up with a single keeper of 2 pounds, 1 ounce and fell to 53rd place.

Patrick Walters fresh off a win and a Classic birth, could only manage 4-6 on Day 2 and sits in 57th place.

The bigger surprises just keep coming. Brandon Lester, always a top finisher at Guntersville could only manage 5-15 on Day 1 and finished in 61st place.

Paul Mueller who holds the record for the heaviest stringer ever weighed in a Classic with over 30 pounds and caught on this lake, could only manage less than half that in two days and sits in 69th.

Then there’s Jamie Hartman, who won here a year ago in spectacular fashion, was anything but and finished in 77th place. And it’s hard not to point out Bill Lowen in 82nd place.

Lake Guntersville is historic in a lot of ways, most of those ways because of incredible come-from-behind wins, big bass, and heavy stringers. This event could produce some of that by end of the week. By then the victims, like those above, will be forgotten. But every historic story has them and no better time than now to point them out.

Top 10 shakes up on Day 2

Only four anglers who were in the top 10 on Day 1 were still there on Day 2 in the NOCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville. And those dropping out, some precipitously, included four of the top five from Day 1. John Cox fell out of the top 40 cut, from 4th to 53rd. Austin Felix almost did, dropping from 7th to 39th.

Brandon Cobb jumped from 6th to 1st with the second-heaviest bag of the day – 17 pounds, 11 ounces. Only Wes Logan weighed a heavier limit Thursday – 18-10, and it propelled him from 21st place to 2nd.
Expect a similar shakeup on Friday. However only 40 anglers will be fishing. Taku Ito was the last man in the two-day/top 40 cut, and he earned it via a tiebreaker over Brett Preuett. Both anglers had 21-8. The tiebreaker is heaviest bag, and Ito took it with 11-4 to Preuett’s 11-3 on Day 1.

This is anybody’s tournament. Cobb has only a 1-13 lead over 2nd place Logan. And there’s only a 7-ounce difference between 3rd place Scott Canterbury and 8th place Stetson Blaylock.

There were more 5-bass limits brought to the scales on Day 2 – 55, after there were only 46 on Day 1. Chris Zaldain’s 8-pound, 6-ounce bass caught on Day 1 remains big bass of the tournament. Bryan Schmitt took Day 2 honors with a 6-3.

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Leaderboard is highly volatile

The past hour-and-a-half has served as an example of how unpredictable Lake Guntersville is right now, especially as it concerns the leaders in this tournament. Around 11:30, Scott Canterbury had moved into a three-way tie with Brandon Cobb and Chad Morgenthaler atop the unofficial BASSTrakk leaderboard.

At 12:50, Cobb was still in first place, but tied with Stetson Blaylock now. Morgenthaler dropped down to 10th place before moving back up to 7th, and Canterbury is 9th.

This is cut day, when only the top 40 anglers will advance to compete on Day 3. Undoubtedly the position jockeying is happening around the cut line as well. The Day 1 40th-place weight was 11-9. Therefore, we're probably looking at a cut weight around 22 pounds.

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