Canterbury holds on in tightest AOY race
Some anglers end the season on a high with great anticipation to start the next campaign. Others finish with regrets and a lot of what-could-have beens, yet they also can’t wait to get back out there and compete.
So was the 2019 Bassmaster Elites Series, which ended with a fantastic finish last week at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Lake St. Clair. While Seth Feider ran away with weight title, the coveted AOY crown went down the final day and final angler to weigh-in.
Scott Canterbury went into St. Clair with a 9-point lead in the season-long point race over Chris Zaldain, while Cory Johnston lurked 14 points back and Stetson Blaylock was 20 behind. There has never been an AOY Championship with as many competitors having a shot to win. And it even tightened up. Each led the race, albeit some only momentarily, at some point during the event.
Zaldain took a 2-point lead over Blaylock, 4 over Canterbury and 9 over Johnston going into Day 2. Canterbury retook the lead on the final day, but the four anglers were only separated by 8 points. A photo finish was still in the cards.
After Blaylock and Johnston tied, Canterbury came to the scales needing to finish 22nd or better to win the AOY. His bag of 19 pounds, 12 ounces moved him into 14th and he became the 24th angler to win one of the 50 AOY titles awarded by B.A.S.S.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve been so blessed to be here and be a part of B.A.S.S. It’s been an unbelievable year. This just proves that dreams can come true.”
It was an incredibly consistent year for Canterbury, whose worst finish was a 49th — he was 22nd or better in all the rest including runner-up and third-place finishes. With the lion’s share $100,000 from the $1 million AOY Championship total payout, Canterbury totaled $215,500 in B.A.S.S. earnings in 2019.
Yet there were days he struggled, worried about making the cut, only to change up and rally late in the day.
“Things have just went right, when I felt like it wasn’t going to,” he said. “When it’s meant to be, you can’t stop it. Everybody talks about pressure. I’ve been at peace all year. I’ve had things go wrong, but it’s just worked out.”
Canterbury could easily have fallen out of contention on the final day at St. Clair. He said he had two fish around noon before catching almost 20 pounds from a rock pile. He told of several other great turnarounds in his season, like at St. Johns and Winyah Bay. He finished the year with 848 points, 8 ahead of Blaylock and Johnston, but he could have easily have been that far behind if not for his rally.
Read Canterbury’s own words on how “I had to catch ‘em.”