A “dude” will win the 2018 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title – at least an angler who calls most every male he encounters “dude.”
“I guess that’s the West Coast in us,” said Justin Lucas, who leads good friend Josh Bertrand by nine points in the season-long point race.
They stand 1-2, and one is assured the title as both are way ahead of the field of 50 competing this week on Lake Chatuge in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship.
When told the Daily Limit deemed it a “Dudeoff” during the St. Lawrence Bassmaster LIVE, both laughed.
“That’s pretty good,” Lucas said.
“Sweet. That is classic,” Bertrand said. “I used to get a hard time from my parents, and people (for saying dude), but they’ve given up. Everyone’s given up. They know I can’t stop.”
Lucas grew up in northern California, where he cut his teeth fishing the Delta before moving to Alabama, and Bertrand hails from San Tan Valley, Ariz., after spending the early years of his life in New Hampshire. With much more than saying dude in common, they struck a friendship when Lucas came to the Bassmaster Elite Series from the FLW Tour in 2014.
Lucas is 32 and Bertrand turns 30 this November, and that friendship grew from fishing to family.
“I’ve got a few buds on tour that I’m really close with,” Lucas said. “He’s one of my best friends in all walks of life.”
It showed in Lucas’ joy for Bertrand’s victory in the season-ending St. Lawrence event last month. Another 14 ounces and Lucas would have won, but their 1-2 finish there set up this week’s dramatics. Lucas has 716 points to Bertrand’s 707.
“I just look at it like I got to make a top eight,” Lucas said. “If I do, I did my job and I’m unbeatable. That’s the goal for me.
“Of course, I will be happy for Josh if he wins, but I probably won’t be as happy as I was at the St. Lawrence. That was a different scenario.”
Bertrand would like to parlay his first Elite win into the coveted AOY title, but he’d certainly be happy for Lucas if he can’t climb past him.
“I’m the underdog here, for sure,” Bertrand said. “It would be more painful for him if it unfolded that I won. For me, it would hurt to get second, but I realize he’s nine points ahead of me and I’ve got more work to do. It might not be quite as crushing, but it’s something I want more than anything.”
What Lucas said at the St. Lawrence stands – “if it can’t be me, I’m glad it’s him.”
“At the end of the day, it’s not a bad thing to be head to head with your buddy; it’s a good thing,” Bertrand said. “Ultimately, there’s no one you’d rather see it be. It’s not a win-win scenario, but it’s almost a win-win scenario.”