Anglers often say “You can’t win a (multi-day) tournament on the first day.” Likewise, Elite rookie Bryan New knows he can’t reach his goal of winning Angler of the Year at the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at the St. Johns River.
Nevertheless, competing on the first Championship Sunday of 2021s means he’s off to a good start.
Notice we didn’t say his goal was to win Rookie of the Year? Sure, he’d be delighted with that title too, but New has that rare personality makeup where confidence flourishes without cockiness.
He’s an aggressive, adaptive angler who knows what he can do and he just goes out and does it.
Notably, New qualified for the Elites by winning the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year title, a journey that began with his first tournament of 2020 — the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open on Florida’s Kissimmee Chain.
This week, he’s positioned himself well for a legitimate shot at winning his Elite debut. With Day 1 shortened by a 3-hour fog delay, he caught 12 pounds and placed 22nd. The second day, he added 20-3 and rose to 9th before securing his Championship Sunday spot with a 21-pound bag that pushed him up to sixth.
“Last year, I won the first Open tournament and I won (Opens) Angler of the Year,” New said. “So it would be really cool to win this one and maybe win Angler of the Year.
“We’re obviously a long way from it, but that’s the goal. So far, I’ve done what I needed to do.”
Entering the final round trailing Day-3 leader Patrick Walters by 5-7, New realizes he has to step on the gas.
“I haven’t made any bad decisions, but I haven’t made good enough decisions,” New said. “I had 20 and 21 (days 2 and 3), but I haven’t weighed in a 5-pounder. I’m just catching a lot of 3 1/2- and 4-pounders.
“If I can catch one or two great big giants today, I could win — but, so could anyone else.”
New said his best shot at earning a blue trophy is to eliminate one element of his previous game plan.
“The last two days, I’ve started on some shell bars to catch a limit, settle myself down and make sure I make some money,” he said. “I will not be doing that today. I’m going straight to the pads to try and catch spawning fish.
“The offshore shell bar thing, at least for me, has the potential for about 14 pounds. You might be able to get to 15, but I just don’t think the chances of catching a big bag are there. Fourteen or 15 pounds (on Championship Sunday) might win me a little money, but it’s not going to win me a tournament.”