A season to remember

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Andy Crawford
Rick Clunn holds the trophy for his 2019 Elite win.

I’m a Texas Longhorns fan. It seems like yesterday when Vince Young almost singlehandedly defeated the USC Trojans for the BCS National Championship. Pretty sure I still have that game saved on my DVR. Of course, my Longhorns haven’t been national contenders for a hot minute, but that 2006 season is one I’ll never forget. I had the same level of excitement after the season-ending Elite Series event dramatically played out this past October. In case you missed what are sure to be historically significant moments from this this year, allow me to offer some highlights.

It all started in Florida this past February, where Rick Clunn, the greatest angler ever to hold a rod and reel, won his 16th Bassmaster title. And not only did the 73-year-old legend notch his second straight victory on the St. Johns River, but he landed 98 pounds, 14 ounces in doing so. His final-day five-fish limit crashed the scales at 34-13, which reminds me of his statement after he won the 2016 event on this same fishery: “Never accept that all your best moments are behind you.”

Fast forward to the April Lake Hartwell event. The final leaderboard became the crystal ball of bass fishing’s next superstar list, as Brandon Cobb won the event, Stetson Blaylock landed in second, Micah Frazier in third and Drew Cook in fourth. Cobb would go on to win again at Lake Fork, Blaylock would win at Winyah Bay, Frazier would win at the St. Lawrence River and Cook would take down Rookie of the Year. How crazy is that?

Let’s stick with the Brandon Cobb theme, as his win at Lake Fork in May was one for the ages. Cobb weighed in 114 pounds of bass, easily securing the coveted Century Belt (given to anglers who crack the 100-pound mark over four days). Plus, Cobb won the event by over 10 pounds, which is saying something since second-place finisher Garrett Paquette also weighed in over 100 pounds during the derby (101-15).

The Lake Guntersville tournament in June marked Jamie Hartman’s very first Elite win. However, in a crazy weather-related turn of events, the trophy presentation was cut short due to a squall that hit the weigh-in site like a mini-hurricane. Hartman did not get to relish in his accomplishment … yet. As fate would have it, he won again in August at New York’s Cayuga Lake in front of his home-state crowd, where he jumped off the stage and led the most memorable trophy celebration with fans in recent memory.

The last regular-season event was held on Oklahoma’s Lake Tenkiller in September. Here, history was made as Carl Jocumsen became the first-ever Australian to win an Elite Series trophy. Jocumsen was more than 4 pounds out of the lead on the stingy fishery and overcame all odds on the final day by weighing in the event’s heaviest limit of bass, 19-12, which gave him the victory by almost 4 pounds over a red-hot Chris Zaldain.

All these dramatics led to the 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, where $1 million would be awarded to the field. Seth Feider put on the most amazing smallmouth show my eyes have ever seen, catching 77 pounds, 15 ounces over three days. Had this been a four-day derby, Feider would have no doubt been the first angler ever to crack the century mark with brown fish. And the AOY race could not have been tighter. A handful of points separated Scott Canterbury, Cory Johnston, Zaldain and Blaylock. Alas, Canterbury got the job done at the end of the final day, boating a 19-pound, 12-ounce limit and the 2019 Angler of the Year title.

Whew.

I’m not sure how those SportsCenter guys deal with this much excitement. That said, my DVR has recorded every episode of The Bassmasters on ESPN2, and I will be re-watching every moment … between quarters of the Longhorn/USC game, of course.