On Sunday morning of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, Justin Lucas knew he had won the title. He was in the mood for a chat and allowed this reporter to get in the boat with him and Bassmaster LIVE cameraman Eric Kafka.
As soon as I sat down, Lucas got agitated. “This spot has pissed me off all week,” he said. “I’ve seen lots of good ones here, but they won’t bite.” Even on the day when Lucas had the AOY title sewn up, he was still competing intensely. The great ones typically do. Here’s more from our conversation:
You’ve already won AOY, why don’t you head on in and order a pizza? "I told Josh [Bertrand] I was going to fish as hard as I can to show it was impossible to catch me. [Lucas ended the day in seventh place, which meant Bertrand couldn’t have caught him for the AOY title even with a first place finish. Bertrand finished 49th after heading home early for the birth of his second child.] I really want to finish in the Top 12 here. That would make five Top 12 finishes in a row. How can anyone compete with that?"
I heard you haven’t been sleeping well. How’d you do last night? “Best I’ve slept in a month since taking the lead at St. Lawrence.”
After finishing 64th in AOY last year, what was your attitude coming into this season? “I had something to prove to myself this year. Nobody else. I didn’t want to be that guy who had three awesome years and couldn’t come back. Working the Classic was a motivator for me. I don’t want to do that again.”
You seem to have gone to a different level of determination this year. “I feel like I’m the most competitive person I know. Others might see me as this 5-foot, 9-inch guy. But I’m the most intense person I know. I hate to suck.”
Best moment of the year? "Finishing second to Josh at the St. Lawrence River. I was totally happy to get second there. I lead AOY and he won the tournament. It was also the most critical moment of the year for me. If I have an average finish there then Josh opens up a nice lead on me."
Worst moment of the year? "Kentucky Lake. That was the one tournament of the year I didn’t fish well [73rd place]. I lost four fish there that were 4 pounds or bigger."
How many fish did you lose this season? “Six fish that cost me points. The four at Kentucky Lake, one at Sabine and one at St. Lawrence.”
Over the course of a season that’s incredible. How is that possible? “That’s what Elites do, that’s our job. I really give credit to my equipment. All of my equipment has to be perfect. I never want to get beat by not having all of my equipment organized and buttoned down.”
Are there Elites who are more organized than you? “Aaron Martens, maybe Josh Bertrand.”
What’s your secret to organizing this huge array of equipment? “My wife really helps me. She’s a little OCD. I noticed how organized she had everything in the house. And I just thought she could help me with my tackle in the same way.”
What’s it like having your brothers out here watching you win AOY? “Amazing. It doesn’t get any cooler than that.”
You Joe and Kevin are very close in age (32, 31 and 30), what’s that like? “I always wanted to be a good big brother, a good role model. All three of us were raised right. And we have each other’s backs like never before.”
Did you make any changes this year? “This is my ninth year as a professional angler, five years at B.A.S.S. and four years at FLW. A lot of people don’t realize that. I’ve learned to be a lot more efficient in practice.”
In the 50-year history of B.A.S.S. you’re only the 23rd person to win AOY. How does that feel? “I’ve looked at those guys as my idols for so long. So it feels weird. I’m not overly confident, so it’s weird that I’m in that category.”
Anything you’d like to say to your grandpa Jack? “I’ll talk to him later and will thank him for the 1,000th time for taking me fishing. I’ll see him in November, and I’m sure we’ll have a drink together and really talk about it then.”