Andy Montgomery almost had a cow, then he actually saved one.
The fifth-year Elite Series angler sweated through September on the way to becoming the last man into the Classic. Then when he got home to Blacksburg, S.C., Montgomery was called upon to conduct a search/rescue of a newborn calf on his father’s farm that left him physically drained.
The mental strain of worrying about qualifying for his third Classic was definitely more taxing, he said.
“The last two tournaments, I never had an easy day on the water,” Montgomery said. “Every day was a struggle and I caught some key fish very, very late. I’m kind of semi-proud of myself, to be honest with you.”
He should be. Montgomery staved off a salty bunch and finished 39th in the Toyota Angler of the Year standings, which at the time was last man into the Classic via the points. His 651 points were one ahead of Ish Monroe, who since has received a Classic berth when a Bass Pro Shops Open spot was left vacant.
Montgomery said he can see how another fish here or there for Monroe, Keith Poche (649) or Fred Roumbanis (648) could have propelled any or all ahead of him. Montgomery was just glad it was his catches that turned the tide, even if they added to the tension by waiting until late in the day.
“It was really a pretty stressful two weeks, I guess you could say,” he said.
That stress began in the Mississippi River event. He was 37th in points and sitting pretty to advance to the AOY Championship on Mille Lacs, but he could have lost a chunk of points on the second day when things weren’t going well.
“It’s easy when you catch a good limit early in the morning, but when you know you have so much on the line -- a Classic -- and at noon you don’t have a fish, it can be nerve-wracking for sure,” he said. “My first fish was at 12:30. I had only five minutes to go and only three fish, then on back-to-back flips in the last five minutes I caught two to make the Top 50 cut.”
Montgomery took 43rd at La Crosse, maintaining his position in the standings as the top 50 in points headed to Mille Lacs. With the big bag estimations and a tight grouping near the bubble, he went into a pressure cooker seemingly about to boil over each of the three days. The stress grew when he didn’t land any of his first fish until after 9:30 a.m.
“You felt like you almost had to catch 25 a day,” he said. “I didn’t, but I still made it.
“The first two days were a struggle. The first day, with 30 minutes to go, I only had four, and one was a 13-incher. I caught two 4 ½-pounders in the last 30 minutes. One was with 5 minutes to go and culled a 13-incher.”
Montgomery was holding his AOY spot, but he had a subpar Day 2 with 16 pounds before sealing the deal with a final day 20-7 bag.
“Day 2 was pretty disappointing day, but I learned a lot,” he said. “It got slick and calm and I learned I could fish them drop-shotting. I needed every fish, for sure.”