Canterbury's Night of Champions speech

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Shane Durrance

Prior to his Night of Champions introduction, Scott Canterbury learned that he needed to stretch his planned 4-minute speech to 15 minutes. The 2019 Bassmaster Angler of the Year delivered three times over, and through his free-form presentation, the easy-going angler from Odenville, Ala., approached his discourse with the same relaxed, spontaneity that served him during his first Bassmaster Elite Season.

“Last year was super special; it seemed that every time I made a change, it was the right thing and I stayed one step ahead of the fish and it seemed to really work out,” Canterbury said. “I remember Day 2 at the St. Johns River, sitting there during the national anthem with two lipless bait tied on because I had fished deep shell beds the first day. 

“As soon as the national anthem was over, I turned to my marshal and said, ‘I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to catch 12 pounds on shell beds. If I catch two that weigh 12 pounds, I’ve done just as good.’ So I got two flipping sticks out and caught 26 pounds.”

Through 45 minutes of often circuitous reminiscing, Canterbury’s unrehearsed authenticity proved refreshing. And notwithstanding Emcee Dave Mercer’s post-speech crack that Day 1 of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by HUK was only 2 hours away, the passion and sincerity was unmistakable.

Generous recognition

Affable and consistently gracious, Canterbury began with gratitude and his outspoken faith made the ideal starting point. 

“I have a lot of people to thank, but the first is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” he said. “Without Him, nothing would be possible.”

Next, Canterbury thanked his family, especially his wife Dixie and their daughter Taylor, who keep him balanced and minimize the overthinking.

“We’ve had this rule that, whether I did good or bad in a tournament, I had 24 hours to get over it and then move on to the next one,” he said.

Tracing his earliest rod-bending exposure, Canterbury thanked his dad, an iron worker, for not only demonstrating hard work and honest living, but also for taking him fishing — especially every May 12.

“When I was growing up, I don’t think I ever went to school on my birthday,” Canterbury said. “We had ‘birthday banks’ on the Coosa River, the Chattahoochee River, Lake Eufaula. That’s where we would fish on my birthday.”

Recognizing B.A.S.S., its sponsors and the media folks that cover the sport, Canterbury lauded the Bassmaster LIVE team, especially host Davy Hite, whom he called ‘the best May fishermen ever’ for his springtime prowess.

“Most of the time, we’re running around like chickens with our heads cut off, and they make everybody think that we know what we’re doing,” Canterbury chuckled. “You’d go back and watch it and think ‘I wasn’t thinking that,’ but they make people believe it. We were just trying to get a bite.”

Canterbury also thanked Mercer: “Good gracious, you’re Number 1 in the sport and Number 1 in my book.”

Fellow Elites: Expressing his appreciation for the camaraderie he’s experienced among his fellow Elites, Canterbury gave a nod to those who won 2019 events, while ribbing Brandon Cobb and Jamie Hartman for double dipping.

“We had nine tournaments and two guys won four of them. That’s pretty selfish if you ask me,” Canterbury joked.

Bass fishing fans: “Fishing is the Number 1 pastime in the world, but without the fans, it wouldn’t be anything but the greatest pastime.”

Why it matters

A multi-sport high school athlete in Moody, Ala., about 40 minutes east of Birmingham, Canterbury found that when his playing days ended, tournament fishing filled the competitive void. Keeping it local made sense — at least, initially.

“I never dreamed about becoming a professional fisherman; it was always just a passion of mine. I was was just passionate about fishing,” he said. “I looked up to guys like Denny Brauer, Jay Yelas, Larry Nixon and Davy Hite, but I never set out to become a professional fisherman." 

Initially, molding a solid blue collar living with as much fishing as possible sounded like a sensible plan. As a young man, Canterbury’s father and uncles showed him how to make a living by working for U.S. Steel, but despite the stability, his heart wasn’t in it. Likewise, the residential framing a renovation company he founded also failed to inspire him and, in fact, ultimately lead to a lightbulb moment by way of a painful injury. 

As Canterbury recalled, a construction site accident left him with multiple injuries, including a broken right hand. To accommodate the temporary limitation, he had to buy left-handed reels, and considering his inability to work, Canterbury filled much of his time by fishing local tournaments and thereby decided the course he would pursue.

“I won $11,000 in a few weeks with my right hand in a cast,” Canterbury said. “That showed my passion for the sport was something I wanted to follow.” 

Make it count

Mercer’s opening monologue clearly conveyed the historic significance of the 50th Bassmaster Classic: “We’re here because of (B.A.S.S. founder) Ray Scott’s dream. This week we’re going to see that dream come full circle.”

Recalling the thrill of helping with angler transportation during the 1996 Classic on Lay Lake, Canterbury expanded that thought by stressed his pride and satisfaction of forging his B.A.S.S. legacy after a highly decorated career with FLW.

“In the 11 years I fished professionally before coming to B.A.S.S., I fished in 10 championships, but I’ve never been in the Super Bowl of fishing,” he said. “This is going to be special.”

Swelling with anticipation for the biggest event of his life, Canterbury closed by challenging his fellow Classic competitors to leave it all on the water.

“For a lot of anglers, this will be their first Classic; it’s going to change someone’s life,” he said. “I hope it’s not one of you; I hope I’m up there (at the podium) on Sunday. 

“Ya’ll bring your A-game, because I’m going to bring mine. Let’s make this the best Classic ever; let’s really put on a great show.”