Year of the fan: Dave DeMott

I’ve had the pleasure this week of having Dave DeMott of Flint, Mich. as my camera boat driver.  It is fair to say the man is a legend. 

He’s a founding member of one of the oldest bass clubs in the country, the Lake Nepessing Bass Club, and the only person to be a member for all 43 years. 

As the story goes, the club began on a cold day in February 1976 at George’s Bait & Tackle, located below the Inn on Lake Nepessing, which is east of Flint.  Forty members signed up that day, paying $5 each. The proceedings then moved upstairs to the bar and the first round of dues was used in its entirety to buy drinks for all.

The 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Lake St. Clair is the third Bassmaster professional tournament the 71-year-old DeMott has worked. This week he did a great job of ferrying me around the waters of St. Clair in his 1989 Champion boat. He knew the St. Clair River particularly well. 

DeMott spent 32 years as a skilled tradesman at AC Sparkplug, which is part of General Motors. He referred to GM several times as “Generous Motors.” He’s a Vietnam War Veteran, where is walked point with a german shepherd. He and his wife of 48 years have two kids and four grandkids. 

DeMott had both knees replaced this year, and still managed to fish in 15 tournaments. 

And by the way, DeMott and I picked the exact same Fantasy Fishing teams for the AOY Championship: Zaldain, Combs, Pipkens, Paquette, and Mueller. 

A gentleman and a scholar!

Drew Cook earns Rookie of the Year honors

With the Day 3 weigh-in of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship complete, Florida Elite Drew Cook has officially landed the DICK'S Sporting Goods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year title. Cook was awarded the trophy Tuesday at the AOY Championship in Detroit, Mich.

Three Top 10 finishes during the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series season proved enough to earn Cook the award for 2019 even though he was competeing against a powerful lineup of newcomers.

As Cook said earlier in the Elite season, “This is a very talented rookie class filled with guys who have won at all levels. I’ve fished against most of them in college, and they are good and have won at every level there is. It’s a very stout class of rookies.”

Cook fished both the Eastern and Central Opens in 2018, earning his spot in the prestigious Bassmaster Elite Series.

Cook grew up on the shore of Lake Talquin, Fla., and while attending Robert F. Monroe, Cook competed in high school bass tournaments. In 2012 he won the Bassmaster Florida State Championship at Lake Okeechobee.

After high school, Cook attended Florida State University to pursue a degree in criminology and entrepreneurship. He also competed on the college’s bass fishing team.

See the full 2019 DICK'S Sporting Goods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings.

Feider: "Are we just going to let him rot?"

On the surface, tournament bass fishing appears to be an individual sport. But every angler has an unofficial team of fellow competitors that he works with during practice and, occasionally, during a tournament.

Seth Feider and his Canadian buddies Cory Johnston, Chris Johnston, and Jeff Gustafson comprise one of those unofficial teams on the Elite Series. And these birds of a feather are sticking together today.

At 1:30, after Feider and Gustafson were catching a big smallmouth on almost every cast, Feider looked across the way at Gustafson and said, "Are we just going to let him rot?"

That was a cue for Gustafson to go get Cory Johnston and bring him to this hot spot. Cory's there now, and Feider is headed to the weigh-in, all but assured that he's won this tournament with another 26-pound bag.

"Hopefully Cory can win AOY, Gussy's got a nice sack, and it's all worked out good," said Feider before making the 17-mile ride back to Metro Park.

Gustafson a key player in this game

Jeff Gustafson can make himself a couple of thousand dollars more with a higher finish today, but he doesn't have much at stake. He came into the AOY Championship ranked 30th in points, with a Classic berth safely assured.

However, Gustafson has culled everything he had in the last hour and has a limit weighing over 22 pounds now. Most importantly, it moved him above Scott Canterbury and just below Chris Zaldain in the unofficial BASSTrakk standings.

This Angler of the Year title may come down to a single point - a single point - in the season-long standings. The competition has become fierce in these final hours as the smallmouth bite in Lake St. Clair has really turned on.

Zaldain ain't dead yet!

Chris Zaldain has seemed dead in the water most of today. The one angler who had the best chance to catch AOY leader Scott Canterbury needed something to give a boost to his good, but not great, limit of about 14 1/2 pounds. And he got it at 1:15 p.m.

"That's the biggest smallmouth I've ever caught in my life!" screamed Zaldain after he finally boated what's estimated to be a 7-pounder. "It's got one just like it with it. We could do it right here."

Zaldain made a move shallow, and it's paying off. Unofficially, that's got him back up 11th place, where he started the day. The Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year championship is going down to the final hour.

Electric Zaldain

Chris Zaldain just caught 6-pounder. And here is what he said to photographer Andy Crawford:

“There was a five-pounder that came up with it. I am now going to cull out all the three pounders. I can do it right here.”

There is still time for him to do just that. There are so many variables in play for the title. This catch just adds more excitement to the mix. 

Feider culls a 4.45 with a 4.56

Seth Feider is culling 4-pounders, by tenths of a pound. At 12:15 p.m. he probably clinched the tournament championship, if he hadn't before, when he culled a 4.45-pounder with a 4.56-pounder. Feider puts everything a Rapala digital scale, which isn't official, but it'll be close.

Feider has been here before. He established himself on the Elite Series in 2016 when he won the Angler of the Year Championship at Minnesota's Lake Mille Lacs. His winning weight that year was 76 pounds, 5 ounces. Unofficially right now, Feider's got a three-day total of 76 pounds, 4 ounces.

And he's got an 8-pound lead over second-place Stetson Blaylock.

Videos: Johnston and Feider

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Zaldain adds another

Here’s an update from photographer Andy Crawford:

"Chris Zaldain just added 1 pound, 8 ounces to his livewell, bringing the total to 4 pounds. Don’t think that’s much? Well, it is shaping up to be on a day like today is panning out to be. Meanwhile, Scott Canterbury remains on the BASSTrakk scoreboard with a single smallmouth weighing 2-4.

Why this is all such a big deal—at least for now—is how this Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race could come down to ounces."

Hamilton rallies under stress

Lake Tenkiller was almost a season-killer for Skylar Hamilton. The postponed and relocated final Elite Series tournament saw the 24-year-old Hamilton drop out of the AOY top 42 standings after he finished 63rd at Tenkiller. He was in 45th place entering Lake St. Clair.

Hamilton has rallied under that stress. He weighed a 6th-place bag of 21-13 on Day 1, and followed that with 18-6 on Day 2. He started in 12th place today. If he can hold that place in the standings, the Dandridge, Tenn., pro will complete a Classic-qualifying season. Hamilton is off to a solid start with 7 1/2 pounds on two fish at 9 a.m.

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