Canterbury Chronicles, part 5: Tenkiller and St. Clair

This is the final 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 ninth stop of the season.

Lake Tenkiller

The ninth stop on the Elite Series had originally been scheduled for Fort Gibson Lake, a fishery Canterbury had been looking forward to.

“The water was high and in the bushes,” he said. “I was going to be able to fish my strengths, something I was greatly looking forward to.”

But the water became too high and the flooding forced B.A.S.S. to relocate to nearby Tenkiller just prior to the event — a lake where Canterbury had no history to draw from.

“What little I knew was that there were big smallmouth in it, so I figured it was going to be an offshore deal.”

As Canterbury sampled the offshore bite, his long-time travel companion and fellow Elite Series angler Jay Yelas put together a pretty solid pattern shallow.

"Jay had a really good day flipping bushes. I ended up getting a few bites in the bushes, and I had a really good second day of practice in the bushes. I found two stretches of bushes that had about 3 1/2 feet of water on them, but the water was falling 6 inches a day. Then the night before the tournament it fell a foot.”

Worried about the falling water, he mixed it up in practice and kept searching for an offshore bite. The 16-inch length limit on largemouth was another motivator for Canterbury to find a deep bite. There was a similar 16-inch limit on smallmouth, but the 12-inch limit on spotted bass meant Canterbury could perhaps fill his limit out with spots if the need should arise.

"I finally found three offshore places. And when I caught one off-shore, it was a keeper. But I just didn’t commit to do it all day because I had some good bites in the bushes. And I thought I could catch them.”

While many of the other anglers were flipping the bushes, he was catching his fish skipping his signature series Canterbury Pro Buzz under the bushes.

“I thought it was going to be really good.” He said. “The first day of the tournament, I went out as boat No. 1. I went right to where I wanted to start, and I start catching them right away. I caught eight bass on a buzzbait in the bushes in the first hour, six of them were between 15 1/2 and 16 inches, of course. I only caught one that measured 16 inches. Some of those non-keepers were 2 1/2-pounders. They were good fish.”

Frustrated, he moved to some steeper banks and caught a small limit of spots. Then he fished through two of his offshore spots without a bite.

“I pull up on the last offshore place with about 30 minutes to go in the day, and I caught a 3-pound smallmouth and 1 1/2-pound spot on a Carolina rig. And I never throw a Carolina rig.”

After Day 1, Canterbury was fairly satisfied, but Chris Zaldain had taken the lead for AOY. Canterbury was right on his heels.

“On Day 2, I started out fishing bushes,” he said. “I caught them again just like on the first day, caught seven good fish, but not one of them measured 16 inches. I probably threw back an 11-pound limit or so and didn’t have a fish in the boat. I went back to fishing the steeper stuff for spots, and I did that for a long time and finally caught four keepers that wouldn’t have weighed 5 pounds."