EUFAULA, Ala. — Back in October, Scott Canterbury was crowned Bassmaster Angler of the Year for being the most consistent professional bass angler on the planet.
That was almost nine months ago, but it seems not much has changed.
Consistency has led Canterbury to catches of more than 20 pounds the past three days and put him in the lead going into the final round of the DEWALT Bassmaster Elite at Lake Eufaula with a three-day total of 64 pounds, 6 ounces.
Friday marked his best catch yet, as he brought 22-13 to the scales to jump from third place into first with a chance to win $100,000 and his first blue winner’s trophy on the Elite Series.
“I had almost 23 pounds today and lost a big one — should have had 25 pounds,” said Canterbury, who holds more than a 4-pound lead over the rest of the field. “I lost a giant. I didn’t see it, but I know it was a big one.
“I’m not gonna complain.”
Canterbury said he came into the event expecting to catch the majority of his fish on deeper offshore structure. But during the first two days when he landed catches of 20-12 and 20-13, he bounced back and forth between the lake’s plentiful deep-water brushpiles and its abundant shallow cover.
He had enough success fishing shallow during Thursday’s second round that he actually started shallow with a frog Friday morning — and that quickly netted him a 4-pound largemouth. But he eventually moved back deep and anchored his five-bass limit with a 6-6 largemouth from a brushpile he hadn’t previously fished this week.
Though his weights have looked good, he said the fishing has still been tough.
“I only caught about eight keepers today,” said Canterbury, who’s had eight Top 20 finishes since joining the Elite Series last year. “I could go out and not catch but one tomorrow. I’m not catching many, but I’ve managed to catch some of the right ones.”
Though the shallow bite has been intriguing — and at times certainly helpful — Canterbury said the tournament is shaping up to be exactly the event he expected. He still believes the angler who wins will have caught the majority of his fish deep.
That’s where he plans to spend most of his time Saturday.
“I’m gonna have to hit some of the brushpiles that I haven’t been fishing,” he said. “They haven’t had any pressure, maybe because there haven’t been any fish on them. But I think fish are just moving out there.
“One way or another, I’m gonna be swinging hard. I want to win.”
Elite Series rookie Caleb Kuphall of Wisconsin caught 19-5 Friday to move up from fifth to second with 60-3. He’s been fishing shallow all week and intends to stay there during the first Championship Saturday of his young career.
“It’s been a grind to progressively get five 4-plus-pound bites every day, and today I wasn’t able to do it,” Kuphall said. “I actually had a 2 1/2-pounder in my bag that I would have liked to have culled.”
Like many in the field, Kuphall has been surprised by the amount of bass holding in shallow water even as the water temperature rises due to the sweltering daytime weather.
“When I got here, I was kind of thinking that it was gonna be just an offshore deal, but I idled around and really didn’t like what I found,” he said. “So, I went to the bank and apparently found something good.
“Every fish that I’ve caught has been in 4 feet of water or less, so that’s where I’m going to stay.”
Drew Cook, a noted shallow-water angler from Florida, has spent most of his time fishing offshore brushpiles this week — and it’s landed him in third place going into the final day with 60-2. In three days, he’s brought 18-10, 18-9 and 22-15 to the scales.
His Friday catch included a 6-6 and two 5-pounders.
“I’ve got a school of fish that I’ve found that I’ll probably start on in the morning,” Cook said. “But then I’ll probably end up fishing brushpiles.
“The biggest challenge is weeding through all of the 2 1/2-pounders to get the big fish you need. There are a million 2 1/2-pounders in this place. I probably caught 60 or 70 fish today.”
One wild card that will likely come into play Saturday is a large local tournament being held on the lake. Cook said that could change the plot of the event significantly.
“It’s going to affect every one of us,” Cook said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if somebody takes a left out of takeoff and runs way up the river or does something off the wall to actually win the tournament.
“Hopefully not. That’s not what I plan to do.”
The tournament concludes Saturday with the Top 10 remaining anglers taking off at 5:25 a.m. CST from Lakepoint State Park. The final weigh-in will be back at the park at 2 p.m.
Live coverage of the event will be available from 7-10 a.m. and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Bassmaster Live at Bassmaster.com with simulcasts on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Check local listings for ESPN2 times.