Speak to any professional athlete and they will likely tell you that it was seeing a historical performance, or experiencing the grandeur of a major event, that launched their dream to be a professional athlete. The thought of performing under the brightest lights, on the biggest stage, and becoming a hero, adored by fans becomes the motivation long before the thought of fame and riches.
Such is the case of the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk for most bass anglers. For those who grew up in the state of Alabama, where the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) was founded by Ray Scott, the Classic can become larger than life.
Ask 2019 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Scott Canterbury.
“I’ve said this and written it before in my column that to be fishing my first Classic — the 50th Bassmaster Classic — in my home state, in an arena that I’ve been to hundreds of times is so amazing,” said Canterbury. “My first professional Top 10 finish in an FLW Tour event was at the BJCC, and I’ve worked so many shows there growing up here that it feels like I’ll be competing at home; I’m really excited.”
With all of that said, even for a seasoned angler who has won titles, the Bassmaster Classic brings a whole new level of anticipation and intensity. With the event being on Lake Guntersville, with its potential for producing massive stringers, that ratchets up the flavor even more.
So, what does that all mean for Canterbury and his outlook on this coming Classic?
It all begins with keeping the right perspective on history.
“I’ve fished Guntersville in tournaments a lot over the years, but I’ve never had massive success there in competition,” he said. “I’m honestly trying to stay current with the weather trends and staying focused on looking at what’s happening in the moment, rather than trying to chase what has happened in the past.”
He points back to a February 2009 FLW Tour event that was won by current fellow Elite Series pro David Fritts as an example of his Guntersville experience.
“I led the first three days of the event, but my fish were running out, and I knew it,” he said. “I struggled on the last day and fell to eighth, so anything is possible there in the spring.”
Canterbury revealed that one thing he knows about Guntersville in the early spring is that everything is a toss-up.
“It really could turn out to be any kind of bite depending on the weather we have from now until then,” he said. “Looking back to the 2014 Classic at Guntersville, I know that Randy Howell won on a prespawn pattern, but I know that some guys caught some off beds — so anything is possible.”
The pre-event thought leads him to believe that the typical early spring patterns all remain a possibility. He knows that a squarebill crankbait like a Bagley Sunny B can produce. He said that a bladed, vibrating jig will be a possibility, as will a swimbait bite. He reported that a lipless crankbait or a jerkbait bite could also come into play and that it is impossible to count out a flipping bite on Guntersville.
However, with all of the possibilities for what may catch competitive stringers in the 50th Bassmaster Classic, Canterbury is aware of the possibility that he may have to have several different programs possible to win the tournament. “It’s the time of the year that people will want to be fishing on one of the top bass lakes in the country,” he said. “That means that will be a tremendous amount of pressure on the water, and without even knowing it, a local angler could affect the outcome of the event.”
All of the above leads to what should be a very exciting event, filled with multiple options for competitors to catch the kind of bass necessary to take home the Classic trophy.
“We could start throwing swimbaits on bridges, and come back the next day to find that pattern has been beaten up overnight, and have to turn to a lipless bait in grass or squarebill on rocks,” he said. “We may have to make an adjustment to skipping or flipping jigs to docks on the final day; it just all depends on the weather and the pressure.
“I know this, I am fishing the 50th Bassmaster Classic at home, in front of my friends and family, and I couldn’t be more excited to see it get here.”