This year’s Bassmaster Elite Series has been a true enjoyment for me.
When I look at the production of those lakes we’ve gone to and the stellar champions they’ve produced, it’s made this one of my favorite seasons since I started following Bassmaster tournaments.
And although we’re only at the halfway point, my gut tells me it’s gonna get even better.
Maybe that’s because I love diversity and we’ve had a lot of that – diversity in waters and techniques. You couldn’t have more diversity or excitement than what we’ve seen in the shallow big bass beat-down with Rick Clunn’s win at St. John’s, or Paul Mueller outdueling Chris Zaldain in deep water at Lanier and Brandon Cobb’s second season victory and remarkable catch at Lake Fork.
Sandwiched in there were Cobb’s first Elite victory at Lake Hartwell followed by Stetson Blaylock’s against-the-odds victory at Winyah Bay.
Winyah Bay was one of my favorites because we didn’t know if Stetson or Scott Canterbury were going to win until the fish hit scales.
Cobb’s victory at Lake Fork is a classic example of diversity. The dude caught 100 pounds from within a cast of the bank. Now, I can see that happening offshore. In fact, I’ve done it. But when you catch that kind of weight close to the bank, you’ve done something.
So what’s next? Well, all of us knuckleheads on the sidelines are looking at the Toyota Angler of Year race because it’s now valid to have those conversations.
Just look at the top 20 and there isn’t a guy there who is out of it. But man, when you see Patrick Walters and Drew Cook sitting there 1-2 it’s totally amazing. Let’s not forget both those guys are rookies and just out of college! What they have done so far is staggering and exemplifies they were not only ready for the Elites, but bonafide stars in the game.
As we head into the second half of the season, we’re shifting to a different fishing environment. You can pretty well bet that Guntersville will be an off-shore slugfest - and then the parade shifts north.
There are a lot of big names sitting there in the top 10 who smell the AOY title, but the scariest monsters to me are the (Cory and Chris) Johnston brothers.
We’re talking about a couple of northern anglers who have stayed in the top 10 during the Elites’ swing through southern waters and now we’re going to their houses – St. Lawrence River, Cayuga, and eventually the AOY Championship on Lake St. Clair.
That should be a scary proposition for the rest of those dudes in the AOY hunt.
The last thing Elite competitors wanted to see was those guys lurking in the top 10 as we swing into the Johnstons’ northern playground.
Don’t get me wrong…Seth Feider and others in the top 20 can make it tough on the Johnstons during the northern swing, but I know those boys’ history on those waters.
Of course, there is an X factor to the race and it’s Fort Gibson, which was previously scheduled in the first half but was pushed back to September due to high water. It will be the last regular season event before the St. Clair AOY Championship and could have a major impact on the standings.
The Johnson’s will do their jobs up north, but that Gibson event is where they could slip and someone else could sneak through the door and make them sweat.
There’s no doubt you can expect a tight points race to the end and one that probably won’t be settled until we get to the St. Clair Championship.
And just like the first half, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.