Faircloth seeking redemption

 SYRACUSE, N.Y. — As the rain began to fall in torrents and lightning flashed in the sky, Todd Faircloth stood on the bow of his boat, locked in a battle of redemption with Oneida Lake.

 This time last year, Faircloth had a slim lead over Kevin VanDam in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. The most coveted title in professional fishing was his to lose — and that was exactly what happened.

 "Last year, everything I did seemed to be the wrong move and I was second guessing myself," Faircloth said. "There was a lot of pressure and Oneida got the better of me. I want to redeem myself this year."

 In 2008, Faircloth located a few big schools of smallmouth in deeper water and felt confident that he could pull off a good finish based on the quality of fish in the school. When the tournament came around, those fish vanished and Faircloth struggled just to boat a small limit each day. He finished the tournament in 93rd place and served up the TTBAOY title to VanDam on a silver platter.

 "I want to redeem myself this year."

 Monday marked the first day of practice for the Ramada Champion's Choice, the final regular season event of the 2009 Elite Series. After last year, Faircloth pledged that this trip to Oneida would be different.

 His wanted his biggest adjustment to come in practice. Last year, his discovery of deep smallmouth came on the first day of practice and he spent the remaining two days also fishing deep. When the tournament came around and the deep fish were gone, he had no shallow fish to fall back on.

 "This year, I'm going to spend more time fishing shallow, but that's not to say I won't fish the tournament deep," Faircloth said. "What happens one year on a lake will not necessarily repeat itself the next, especially when the lake has grass. It's human nature for fishermen to go back to spots they have fished in the past, but you have to be smart about it — don't force it."

 With the way the points adjust headed into the postseason, Faircloth and the rest of the top-12 all have a legitimate shot at taking home the TTBAOY title, but he insisted that he has been as relaxed and ready to fish as he could after the month-long break.

 "We purchased a new house, so we have been moving, remodeling and all that good stuff," Faircloth said. "I went out fishing a couple times on Rayburn, but not much. I kind of took a break. After you fish a tournament like Iowa, you kind of have enough for awhile."

 Monday morning saw Faircloth fishing shallow and he managed to boat a few good-sized keepers during the downpour. His area would be good for filling out a limit, but to do well in the tournament, he will need to find areas that he can get a bigger bite.

 "Every lake we fish in the North, the weights are really stacked together," Faircloth said. "Anything over 2.5 pounds is over-average and 1 pound could mean 10 places in the standings. There will be a ton of 10- to 12-pound bags brought in and I'll need to be on the top side of that."

 If last year's weights are any indication, Faircloth will need 12 pounds a day to make the top-50 cut and over 13 pounds a day to fish on Sunday's final round. Faircloth set a goal of making the 50-cut coming into this week so that he can lock up a spot in Toyota Trucks Championship Week in September.

 If Faircloth has his way, he will be a player come September. Only Oneida stands in the way.

 "I want to redeem myself this year."