Super Stats: AOY intensity from start to finish, top to bottom

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Shane Durrance

In the final analysis, it was the most intense Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race in Bassmaster Elite Series history. And not just at the top, where Scott Canterbury didn’t clinch the AOY crown until the final hours of the final day at Lake St. Clair. It was also a nail-biter for the final Bassmaster Classic berth, which this year was 42nd place in the AOY standings. It came down to the tiebreaker there, where Jake Whitaker got the nod over Garrett Paquette after both finished the 10-tournament season with 611 AOY points.

First, let’s take a look back at the road to Canterbury’s title. Ultimately, no single tournament is more important than another in this format, where every event is scored the same: 100 points for first place, decreasing by a point for each place below first in the final tournament standings.

However, in retrospect the key moments in the season for each angler become clear. For Canterbury, it was Day 2 at Lake Tenkiller. He was facing only his second missed Top 35 cut of the season in the final regular season event. Canterbury launched in the last flight that day and needed every minute of his 4 p.m. check-in time. At 3 p.m., he estimated he had 5 pounds, at best.

That wouldn’t have been enough to make the two-day cut. He finished Day 1 in 30th place with 8 pounds, 15 ounces. Another 5 pounds on Day 2 would have left him in the neighborhood of 45th place. But Canterbury culled up to 8-9 in the final hour. Those 3 1/2 added pounds gave him a 28th-place two-day total of 17-8. Canterbury moved up to 19th place on Day 3. The difference between 45th place and 19th place is 26 AOY points, and the implications are plain to see.

For Canterbury’s three closest AOY contenders, it’s all about what-ifs of a different nature. When you look at Chris Zaldain’s season, his hiccup is obvious – a 65th-place finish at South Carolina’s Winyah Bay. What’s unapparent in black-and-white is how confident Zaldain was after three days of practice there. An incredible season that included three second-place finishes and five top 10s wasn’t enough to overcome the puzzling performance at Winyah Bay.

Stetson Blaylock won at Winyah Bay and missed only two Top 35/Day 2 cuts all season. But his miss at Lake Guntersville appears huge in the rearview mirror because the other three eventual AOY contenders finished significantly better: Zaldain was 2nd, Canterbury 22nd and Cory Johnston 33rd.

Then there is Cory Johnston, the first-year Elite Series angler from Cavan, Ontario, who was anything but an Elite Series rookie. Johnston, however, made a “rookie mistake” at the St. Lawrence River. After surviving a near-disastrous first day of mechanical failures, he managed to catch 22-5. It would have put him in seventh place in the Day 1 standings.

However, the Daylight Savings Time change hadn’t been made to the electronics in the borrowed boat that Johnston ended up using that day. Only when he was easing back up the St. Lawrence River to check-in, thinking he had plenty of time, did Johnston pick up his cellphone and realize the discrepancy. He made it to check-in seven minutes late, suffering a pound-per-minute penalty.

Johnston started Day 2 in 60th place and still almost made the Top 35 cut. He weighed 21-7, which left him in 36th place, 2 ounces behind 35th-place Seth Feider. Without the penalty, Johnston’s two-day total of 43-12 would have put him in ninth place. 

To add another $10,000 ding in what was otherwise a stellar debut on the Elite Series, Johnston lost the AOY second-place tiebreaker to Blaylock. Second place in the AOY points race paid $55,000; third place paid $45,000.

The tiebreaker is the individual season-long weigh-in totals on full field days ­– in other words, Days 1 and 2 during the nine regular season events and all three days of the AOY Championship. The final totals: Blaylock 354 pounces, 0 ounces; Johnston 353 pounds, 4 ounces – yet another reminder of the 7-pound penalty at the St. Lawrence River.

And speaking of that tiebreaker, it’s what determined the 42nd and final berth to the GEICO Bassmaster Classic. And it was a heartbreaker for Elite Series rookie Garrett Paquette of Canton, Mich. Entering the AOY Championship, Paquette was 38th in the points standings and had accumulated 242 pounds in the tiebreaker category. Jake Whitaker, the 2018 Elite Series rookie of the year from Fairview, N.C., was just outside the Classic cut in 43rd place. His tiebreaker accumulation was 223-13, nearly 20 pounds less than Paquette.

Whitaker finished 24th at Lake St. Clair with a three-day total of 56-2. Paquette failed to catch a five-bass limit all three days and finished 48th with 29-10. Both finished with AOY totals of 611 points. Their final tiebreaker totals: Whitaker 279-15; Paquette 271-10.

Tournament                         Canterbury   Blaylock         Johnston         Zaldain

  1. St. Johns River                 9th                    52nd #             8th                    36th
  2. Lake Lanier                      11th                  8th                    49th #               2nd *
  3. Lake Hartwell                  22nd                 2nd                   14th                  25th    
  4. Winyah Bay                     2nd *                 1st *                 3rd *                 65th #  
  5. Lake Fork                         49th #               16th                  9th                    13th    
  6. Lake Guntersville            22nd                 50th                  33rd                  2nd *    
  7. St. Lawrence River          3rd                    23rd                  36th                  9th       
  8. Cayuga Lake                    11th                  8th                    7th                    3rd      
  9. Lake Tenkiller                  19th                  8th                    3rd *                 2nd *    
  10. AOY/Lake St. Clair           14th                 2nd                    8th                    15th    

Average finish                       16.2                    17                      17                      17.2
AOY points                             848                     840                    840                    838
Tiebreaker – lbs./oz.             337-12               354-0                353-4                355-8
* Best finish   # Worst finish 

Tournament                         Whitaker       Paquette       

11. St. Johns River                 50th                  69th #              
12. Lake Lanier                      64th #               34th                
13. Lake Hartwell                  12th *               26th                            
14. Winyah Bay                     15th                  29th                            
15. Lake Fork                         57th                  2nd *                           
16. Lake Guntersville            61st                  28th
17. St. Lawrence River          32nd                 48th                            
18. Cayuga Lake                    58th                  54th                            
19. Lake Tenkiller                  26th                  61st                             
20. AOY/Lake St. Clair           24th                 48th    

Average finish                       39.9                39.9               
AOY points                             611                 611
Tiebreaker – lbs./oz.             279-15           271-10          
* Best finish   # Worst finish