HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Scott Canterbury began this week’s Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Lake St. Clair with a nine-point lead in the season standings.
He wobbled a bit during Sunday’s opening round due to technical problems and fell briefly into third place. But after a nice rebound Monday, the crown is once again his to lose.
Canterbury, a Bassmaster Elite Series newcomer from Odenville, Ala., caught five bass Monday that weighed 21 pounds, 13 ounces and pushed his two-day total to 39-8. That places him in 16th place for the week, but restores him to a slim lead in the AOY Championship season standings with a total of 846 points.
With one day left to fish, Texas pro Chris Zaldain (842) is in second, followed by Arkansas pro Stetson Blaylock (840), Canadian Cory Johnston (838) and Brandon Lester (814) of Tennessee.
“Yesterday was a real a struggle for me, but I rebounded today,” said Canterbury, who fished all day Sunday without the use of depthfinders on the front of his boat. “After yesterday, I felt like I needed to catch 20 pounds each of these last two days. I got 21 pounds today, and I’ll still like my chances if I can catch 20 more pounds tomorrow.
“I said coming in if I could get around that 57-pound mark — that’s 19 pounds a day — I’d have a chance. I’m a little ahead of that pace right now.”
Canterbury, who has led the AOY race since early summer, had once hoped just to survive the Elite Series’ New York swing — which was fair, considering he’d never fished the St. Lawrence River or Cayuga Lake. He did better than that, finishing third and 11th in the two events, respectively.
Then Canterbury was thrown a curveball when the final regular-season Elite Series event was moved from Oklahoma’s Fort Gibson Lake to Lake Tenkiller, which was virtually unknown to the entire 75-angler Elite Series field. He struggled at times on Tenkiller, but managed a 19th-place finish that allowed him to maintain the AOY lead.
Electronics issues Sunday were his latest hurdle, but he’s still on top — thanks to the big smallmouth bass at St. Clair and lots of patience.
“I’m not getting a lot of bites,” said Canterbury, who quipped that he caught his best fish between takeoff and 3:30 p.m. “It’s not like it has been before when I’ve been here in June and you’re around a whole bunch of big ones.
“I’m having to move around a bunch and catch one here and one there.”
That scenario leaves Canterbury little margin for error with Zaldain nipping at his heels. The California native, who now lives in Texas, weighed in 19-10 Monday to push his two-day total to 40-6.
Zaldain is in 11th place for the week and well within striking distance of Canterbury for one of the most prestigious titles in fishing.
“I had a 6-pounder today, but the other four were below my standards for this lake — and certainly for what you need to win AOY,” Zaldain said. “The wind is really going to change directions, and that’ll open up a couple of different patterns for me tomorrow.”
That could bring a major change of strategy for Zaldain during Tuesday’s final round.
“Where I caught that 6-pounder today, I lost another big one at the end of the day,” said Zaldain. “But as for tomorrow? Who knows?
“Things can change so quickly on this lake, and you have to change with them.”
In addition to the AOY season points title, which pays $100,000 to the winner and a total purse of $1 million to the full field of 50 qualified anglers, the competitor with the heaviest weight for the week will earn $25,000.
Minnesota pro Seth Feider maintained the lead in that race Monday, catching 24-13 and pushing his two-day weight to 51-9. He leads Blaylock (49-3) by almost 2 1/2 pounds.
“I’m fishing the biggest school of fish I’ve ever found on St. Clair,” Feider said. “Usually if you get in a good spot, you’ll catch one every 20 to 30 minutes, but this place has been unreal. I ended up breaking my plug off because I had two 4-pounders on one cast.
“I’ve never seen anything like that on St. Clair.”
The 6-12 smallmouth Feider caught on Day 1 is still leading the race for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the week.
The tournament — and the Bassmaster Elite Series season — will conclude Tuesday, with a full field taking off at 7:10 a.m. ET from Lake St. Clair MetroPark. The weigh-in will be held back at the park at 3:30 p.m.