Scott Canterbury is at it again.
The 44-year-old pro from Odenville, Ala., leads the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race after winning the title in 2019. The circuit heads north this month, where last season Canterbury turned northern fisheries unknown to him into huge positives.
“It’s a lot different this year,” Canterbury said. “In 2019, it was a tight race three quarters of the way through the year. I had never been to either one of the lakes up there, so it was a little bit of nervous times. I just wanted to go up and compete well and survive.”
Thrive was more like it. Canterbury finished third in the St. Lawrence River tournament to wrest the AOY lead from Drew Cook, then he added to his cushion with an 11th on Cayuga Lake.
“That was key for sure. Those were probably the most pivotal moments of the year for me,” he said. “It could have gone either way. If I had went up there and finished 25th in both of them, I would have thought it was a good tournament, but I wouldn’t have won AOY.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced B.A.S.S. to revise the 2020 schedule, including the recent cancellation for Cayuga Lake, Canterbury knows it’s early — only two events are complete — but he also knows the first ones count the same as the last ones.
“That’s right. You can’t have a bad one,” he said. “You can also be struggling so bad you’ve got to really catch them to make the Classic.”
That hasn’t been his case at all. Canterbury said he’s been aided by a mindset he instituted about six years ago, and that is to make the most out of every minute of his fishing days. It’s a philosophy he espouses whenever he speaks to any groups.
“I made it a goal of mine to be as good in the last two hours of every tournament day as the first two hours,” he said. “If I get a late flight, I need to cull a fish while other people are weighing in, and it’s worked out.”
There were plenty of late heroics for Canterbury last season. He said he can point to a number of critical late-day catches and rallies. One was on Day 2 of the regular season finale on Lake Tenkiller, when he was in jeopardy of missing the top 35 cut. In his final hour, he caught two to complete his limit and live another day. It allowed him to climb another 10 spots on Day 3.
“That was a time that saved it all,” he said. “There were little moments like that through the whole year that saved the entire season. You can say that one day, or even that one hour, won Angler of the Year. It didn’t, but it saved the win.”
Canterbury can look as far back as the first 2019 event on the St. Johns River, where a change in tactics propelled him from 55th on Day 1 to a ninth-place finish.
“That was another one of them,” he said. “A one-day decision where you make a change, or in the middle of the day you make a change, and catch key fish.”
With the AOY leaderboard updating live with BASSTrakk, Canterbury lost the point lead several times at the AOY Championship on Lake St. Clair. However, he pulled out the closest point race in history by climbing to 14th, again with late rallies. Canterbury totaled 848 points for the year with Stetson Blaylock and Cory Johnston only 8 points back and Chris Zaldain 10 behind.
After two events in 2020, Canterbury leads with 194 points after a sixth at St. Johns and second at Lake Eufaula. Buddy Gross, who won at Eufaula, is hot on his tail with 190, and Canterbury’s road roomie Matt Arey is third just six points out of the lead.
“It’s too early to really think much about AOY, but I still would like to keep a string of top 10s going,” Canterbury said. “It’s a better start than last year. I got off to a really good start this year, and hopefully I can keep it going.”
Greenwood angler drowns
The angling community around Greenwood, S.C., is in mourning after the drowning death of 19-year-old Dean Peeples on June 19.
Peeples graduated in 2019 from Greenwood High School, where he wrestled and fished for the Greenwood Eagle Eye Anglers. His father, Skeeter, served as a boat captain all through high school competitions, and both were members of the Palmetto State Bassmasters.
“It’s a very hard time for the family,” said Rusty Nickles, tournament director for the Palmetto club. “It happened Friday evening. Saturday was his birthday, and Sunday was Father’s Day.”
Nickles quickly organized a benefit tournament on Lake Russell, where 67 boats entered and helped raise $4,500 for the Dean Peeples Fund, 1607 Sweetwater Road, Greenwood, SC 29646.
“It’s sort of ironic,” Nickles said. “The last tournament they ever fished was at my club. Two weeks later, he was gone. It was a shock to me when I woke up that Saturday. We did have a wonderful turnout to help the family with some expenses.”