This is the third installment in a five-part series retracing the steps that led Elite Series pro Scott Canterbury to his first Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in 2019. We pick back up at the fifth stop of the season.
Canterbury came into the fifth stop of the season with the AOY lead, and a slight gaze in its direction. Up until this point of the season, he had been able to avoid most of the Bassmaster Angler of the Year conversations. He could keep that idea on the back burner since the season was still young with a lot of imminent changes coming.
But now, with the lead at the halfway point of the season, talk of AOY started to dominate the conversation. Still, Canterbury didn’t want to think about it. And there was work yet to be done. Focusing on that work was what he needed, and wanted, to do.
“I didn’t have a lot of history on Fork, but I had been there a couple times and caught giants.”
He had a spotty practice but did find a few big fish on beds. Unfortunately, heavy winds muddied the waters around some of those fish, and fellow competitors also found some of the same big bass he had located. With the bed-fishing pattern a bust, he tried to force a dock-fishing bite that was also spotty. Fortunately, it yielded big fish when the bites did come.
“I caught a 7-pounder in practice on a dock, but I only got a couple bites doing that. Still, I figured if I did it enough, I could get three or four bites each day. I probably spent four hours a day fishing boat docks, and I never got a bite doing it.”
At 11 o'clock on Day 2, Canterbury had just two fish in the box and was staring down the barrel of a cliché catastrophe — his hidden hopes of AOY going off the rails.
“I decided to just run up the river,” he said. “I put a flipping stick in my hand and just started pitching the banks and grass. I knew that a lot of fish were spawning, so I just went to water that I’d never even fished, and I decided to focus on my strengths.”
In the time he had remaining, he boated eight bass all in the 2-pound range and again saved his season with a gutsy fourth-quarter decision, though he didn’t know it at the time.
“After weighing in and finishing way back at 44th, I thought I had blown it, to tell you the truth.”
This was an event Canterbury had circled on the calendar when the schedule was first announced, a short drive from his home in Odenville, Ala., and the lake he had the most experience on. After a disappointing Lake Fork, he was ready to bounce back.
“I roomed with Matt Arey all year,” he said. “And for the first time in my career, at this tournament I actually shared waypoints with someone. During practice, if I found a school, I sent it to him and if he found a school, he sent that info to me. We talked about where we were going to start. He started on his stuff; I started on mine.”