Super stats: Toyota AOY race hot, getting hotter

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James Overstreet

The Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race gets more interesting by the tournament. As of late, there has been a new leader after each event and no one has separated himself from the field. The latest example was the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at the St. Lawrence River presented by Black Velvet.

Florida rookie Drew Cook was the AOY leader after Event No. 6 at Lake Guntersville. Cook finished 35th at the St. Lawrence River and dropped to third in the latest AOY standings, 21 points behind new leader Scott Canterbury.

The Elite Series rookies overall took a dip last week. Brandon Cobb isn’t considered a rookie because of his success on the FLW Tour, where he won over $400,000. But it’s the Greenwood, S.C., pro’s first year on the Elite Series, and it was his first tournament on the St. Lawrence River.

“I think I’ve fished for smallmouth twice,” said Cobb, the day before the tournament began. “This is my third time. In my life.”

Cobb knew this seventh of nine regular season Elite Series events was going to be a major test. On a pass/fail basis, he failed, finishing 52nd. With this week’s tournament at New York’s Cayuga Lake, followed by the rescheduled event at Oklahoma’s Fort Gibson Lake prior to the AOY Championship at Michigan’s Lake St. Claire, it will be interesting to see if the prediction Cobb made before St. Lawrence holds true. 

“I don’t think you can have one outside the top 20 and win Angler of the Year,” Cobb said. “There will be one person in the top 10 now who never finishes outside the top 20 the rest of the year. You can’t have a bad one.”

If that proves to be the standard in determining the 2019 AOY title, of the top 10 anglers prior to St. Lawrence, only Canterbury, Bill Lowen (11th), Matt Herren (16th) and Drew Benton (17th) met the criteria.

Granted, Cobb was speaking in general terms. Stetson Blaylock was sixth in the AOY standings before St. Lawrence, finished 23rd and didn’t drop in the AOY standings, if you disregard the tiebreaker. Blaylock, Cory Johnston and Chris Zaldain each have 555 points this season, only 34 behind Canturbury.

Cory Johnston’s late penalty disaster last week and his 36th place finish indicates there’s considerably more leeway than top 20 finishes the rest of the season en route to an AOY title. While he clearly missed a prime opportunity to be the AOY leader this week, the 36th place finish didn’t knock him out of contention.

Only 39 points separated first place from 12th place in the AOY standings prior to St. Lawrence. While some of the names changed, only 44 points separates first from 12th going into Cayuga. And every angler on the Elite Series believes the point swings could get crazy at what’s now viewed as a wildcard event at Lake Fort Gibson. The Toyota Angler of the Year race rarely comes down to the last day of the AOY Championship. It appears it well may this year.

The following is a look at the Toyota Angler of the Year top 12 before and after the St. Lawrence River tournament:

After Lake Guntersville        

  1. Drew Cook                 502
  2. Scott Canterbury       491
  3. Cory Johnston            490
  4. Bill Lowen                  482
  5. Brandon Cobb           480
  6. Stetson Blaylock        477
  7. Patrick Walters          476
  8. Seth Feider                473
  9. Matt Herren               471
  10. Drew Benton            469
  11. Chris Johnston           464
  12. Chris Zaldain             463      

After St. Lawrence River

  1. Scott Canterbury               589
  2. Bill Lowen                          572
  3. Drew Cook                         568
  4. Chris Johnston                   563
  5. Matt Herren                       556
  6. Cory Johnston                    555*
  7. Chris Zaldain                     555*
  8. Stetson Blaylock                555*
  9. Drew Benton                     553
  10. Micah Frazier                  548
  11. Seth Feider                      546
  12. Matt Arey                         545    

* The tiebreaker in AOY standings is total weight caught on full field days, in other words, Days 1 and 2 of each tournament during the season. Cory Johnston is ranked 6th in the AOY standings because his full-field total for the season is 230 pounds, 3 ounces, compared to Chris Zaldain’s total of 225-4 and Stetson Blaylock’s 218-3.