I had a pretty good run in New York, finishing 28th at St. Lawrence and fifth at Cayuga, but I really didn’t make up any ground in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. Now I’m eighth overall with just two events left to go. I am 37 points behind leader Scott Canterbury and there is a stack of solid anglers in between us. While the title is still mathematically possible, it’s more or less out of my control.
Cayuga was my best finish in over a year, but it left me pretty salty for the 1,000-mile drive home. You don’t have many chances to win at the Elite Series level, and through practice and into the first two days of the tournament this one was setting up for me to dominate. I was in my comfort zone – a straight-up milfoil flipping pattern – and I couldn’t seal the deal. It felt like I was thrown a big, fat home run pitch, and I shanked it around the foul pole.
The crazy thing is that I’m still not sure what went wrong. I fished pretty clean, and the only conclusion I can reach is that I was probably a little too stubborn staying with my flipping bite. But I really felt like that was my best chance to get the big blue trophy.
It’s not like you can go in and do that for an hour or two and hope to be successful. You’ve got to live by the sword, which means gluing that rod in your hand, getting on the trolling motor and not doing anything else for eight hours.
If you’d told me heading into New York that I’d earn those finishes, I would’ve assumed that I’d be closer to the top of the AOY heap, but the southern guys did really well when I expected, or perhaps hoped, that they’d stumble a little.
We all knew that Scott Canterbury was a great angler heading into the season, but he never seems to let off the gas and is having a truly incredible season. He’s finished 11th twice this year, and but for a few ounces in each of those events he would’ve fished on Sunday five times.
Next we head to the delayed then moved Elite on Lake Tenkiller in Oklahoma.
All of this leaves me in a weird spot. I recognize that I probably can’t win AOY, but it also seems highly unlikely that I’ll fall out of the Classic cut. I’m only 18 points out of second, so I can shoot for that, and if I overshoot my mark we’ll let the chips fall where they may.
Usually by this time of year there are only one or two anglers with a legit shot at the title, but with a 75-boat field there’s been less points separation, which means there may still be some major shuffling. With everything to gain and comparatively little to lose, I’m going to fish free in Oklahoma and try to get that blue trophy I left behind at Cayuga.