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Opens profile: Gaston hoarding AOY points

Alabama angler David Gaston isn’t leaving many Angler of the Year points up for grabs in the 2022 Bassmaster Central Opens. After finishing sixth at Ross Barnett and third at the Red River, he’s the Central Opens’ top dog with 393 of a possible 400 points. Given that he also holds third place in the Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year standings, he is perfectly poised to earn an invitation to the Elite Series with two events left on the schedule.

Although Gaston is only 26 years old, he has paid his dues by competing in 28 Bassmaster Opens since 2016. He has had a number of good finishes prior to this season, but he has also endured his share of stumbles. His consistency in 2022 is mainly due to an improved state of mind.

“I’m maturing as an angler and not letting stuff bother me on the water,” Gaston said. “This sport is more mental than anything.”

Although Gaston grew up fishing, his early outings were mainly for striped bass at Lay Lake. He waded creeks and seined live shad for bait with his father and older brother, William.

“My dad’s name is Bill, but everybody calls him Chopper,” Gaston said. “He never road a motorcycle, but when he played baseball as a kid he always wore a shirt with a Harley patch.”

The creek outings also included casting Rooster Tail spinners for redeye bass and pumpkinseeds. While soaking live shad for stripers on Lay Lake, the Gaston’s would cast Sassy Shad swimbaits, topwater baits and Cordell Red Fins for them. They caught as many spotted bass on the artificial baits as stripers.

When Gaston was 9 years old, his father began fishing local tournaments with him and his brother. Since only two anglers are allowed in the boat during these events, he and his sibling had to alternate weekends.

“All I ever threw growing up was a buzzbait and a pink trick worm,” Gaston said. “I didn’t know anything else. Those tournaments got me obsessed with bass fishing. If I got good grades in school, my dad would buy me bass lures.”

The Gaston gang fished local weekend and club derbies exclusively until Gaston began competing in high school tournaments as a freshman. His father served as his boat captain. In his first year he won a tournament on Lake Eufaula that had a field of 180 boats.

“That fired me up pretty good,” Gaston said. “I won the state championship the next year.”

At age 16 he was one of the youngest anglers to fish BFL tournaments as a boater. He competed in the Alabama division and won the AOY race two years later.

After graduating from Sylacauga High School in 2015 he went to work in the family business, Gaston Construction in Sylacauga, Ala. That year he also began his quest to become a professional angler by fishing the Southern and Northern Bassmaster Opens.

“I did terrible,” he said. “My first Open was at Kissimmee. I caught five bass the first day that weighed less than 4 pounds.”

On his 19th birthday he made the top 10 at the Northern Open on Lake Champlain and caught enough smallmouth bass on a Zara Spook to finish in fifth place. He claims he had no idea what he was doing and caught those fish “by accident.”

Besides the Bassmaster Opens, he also sampled Toyota and Costa events and other professional bass circuits. As with the Opens, he endured a roller coaster of ups and downs.

This season he committed to fish all three divisions of the Bassmaster Opens. Given his success thus far, it appears he is ready to make his bass fishing dreams come true.

“I would love to qualify for the Elites,” Gaston said. “There are two tournaments left, so there’s a lot of work to be done. God’s good grace has allowed me to be where I am.”