There is no doubt there will be fireworks at Cayuga, one of New York’s famed Finger Lakes. There is a lot on the line for those with a shot at the coveted Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, and when you evaluate the talent in the Top 10, it’s stout.
The bass in Cayuga will be on a patternable summer pattern, meaning smallmouth and largemouth will be predicable, and with the amount of grass and docks in that lake, you can bet the traditional flippers will find heavy bags each day.
Seth Feider is a top favorite, and he should be on your radar. He didn't finish at St. Lawrence as well as he would have liked, and in relating to his history, he makes up for a tough finish at the next event.
If you don’t mind the heavy ownership, he’s a very safe pick.
But momentum is now a factor, and should be a large part of your angler selections at this point in the season. It looks like Scott Canterbury has the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year all but locked up, but looks who is breathing down his throat: Bill Lowen, Drew Cook, Matt Herren, Chris Johnston — just to name a few.
None of those dudes are going to lie down and just let the others win. This is going to be an epic fight through the final day at St. Clair in September. In fact, I think this may be the most exciting AOY finish in a very, very long time on the Bassmaster trail.
Let’s dig in:
BUCKET A: LOWEN
Once again proving he’s one of the most consistent anglers ever to play the game, Bill Lowen is in second place in the 2019 AOY race, and he can smell the victory. Looking at the remaining three events, Cayuga, Ft. Gibson and we’ll wrap the season up at the AOY championship at St. Clair, things certainly set up well for the veteran angler. Not only is he due for an AOY, he’s due for a victory. I see Lowen only climbing the leaderboard from here on.
Dark horse: Matt Herren might have something to say about his buddy Lowen winning AOY. Herren will be blasting off out of Cayuga in fifth place in the points race, and he’s enjoying a tremendous year. Like Lowen, Herren is due for a big win, and he too, can smell the finish line. If Lowen isn’t your cup of tea, Matt Herren may be your shot of whiskey.
BUCKET B: CREWS
John Crews will be taking off at Cayuga on Thursday in 23rd place in the AOY race. He’s been consistent as usual, but a recent win still eludes him. I’ve often placed bets in this game of Fantasy based on who is due. Seldom has it paid out, but I’m doing it again here because Crews is beyond capable, and he’s over due.
Dark horse: Texas pro Keith Combs is coming off a strong finish at St. Lawrence, and seemingly getting back to the Combs we’ve known for years. He’s well inside the Classic cut at 22nd place, so he really has nothing to lose with the remaining season setting up to his talent. If not John Crews, Combs is a safe bet all around.
BUCKET C: SHRYOCK
Hunter Shryock admitted to warming up for Cayuga at St. Lawrence as he was one of the few anglers targeting the river systems overlooked largemouth. He knew he’d fare better by doing so, he took a risk and it paid off with a very respectable 14th-place finish in the land of giant smallies. I think he’s matured as an angler and recognizes his strengths and weaknesses, but to stay competitive he’s embraced them. I’d look for Shryock to do well on Cayuga; his confidence is certainly where it needs to be. Plus he’s in the low 30s for the AOY race, which means three more solid finishes and he’s headed to the 2020 Bassmaster Classic.
Dark horse: Bill Weidler is one of the best swim jig anglers out there, and that could be a key component to big limits at Cayuga this week. He’s had a fair season, but he’d be the first one to tell you there’s ample room for improvement — why not at Cayuga? If Shryock isn’t to your taste, Weidler would be a solid bet.
BUCKET D: HUDNALL
Louisiana pro Derek Hudnall is making his way through his rookie season on the top level of professional bass fishing, but it’s not all been easy. The guy can flip, and he knows how to catch them from the grass, which will be the ticket at Cayuga. But if you’re in buckets D or E, things aren’t going well overall. But there’s still time, and I believe Hudnall is capable of making up valuable ground in the next two events before the AOY field is set. At the time of this writing he was in 54th place going into the second to two New York events. Don’t count him out yet.
Dark horse: Steve Kennedy has endured an uncharacteristic 2019 season. Making the Classic cut is not impossible, but it won’t be easy with two regular-season events remaining. Going into Cayuga, he is currently holding down the 58th spot down in the AOY race, and I bet we continue to see a reemergence of the Alabama pro at Cayuga.
BUCKET E: GROH
I chose Illinois pro Chris Groh for St. Lawrence, and it wasn't a bad choice at all. Of all the fisheries on the Bassmaster Elite Series this year, Cayuga is most like his home waters of the Fox Chain in northern Illinois, and he’s comfortable in grass and around docks. There’s plenty of each in both Cayuga and Fox Chain, and if there was ever a chance to put his season back on track, it’s in New York.
Dark horse: Carl Jocumsen has endured a tough first season back on the Elite Series, he’s just not settled in yet. I think it’s simply a phase that will eventually pass, and we’ll be able to experience the true Aussie tenacity in a down-home American bass derby. He’s going to hit his stride, and it could begin at Cayuga this week. I may slip him in over Groh at the last minute.