“Fishing the Moment” was key to Canterbury’s AOY Run win 2019

Vance McCullough


“Fishing the moment is what helped me win last year,” said Scott Canterbury of a 2019 that saw him take the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in his first season on the Elite Series. “I ran new water in tournaments that I looked at but didn’t even fish during practice. It was a big deal last year, keeping an open mind and trying to keep figuring them out every day.”

Canterbury kept his options, and his mind, open even during practice rounds. “I never thought I had a really good practice. All year long it was a tough, grinding practice. That sort of helps you. If you go out in practice and get on them, it’s going to change, and you’ve got to stay ahead of them. But the whole three days of practice if you’re still trying to figure them out, it’s coming to you and I felt like that was a big key last year.”

Canterbury fished 11 seasons on the FLW Tour, his highest standing in the points race being an 8th place finish in 2018. How was he able to finish atop a major tour in 2019?

“Experience was probably one of the biggest things that played last year because I never did really get nervous. I never got in a hurry or started trying to make things happen. That’s what I’ve done in the past – you try to force things to happen and that’s when things start to tumble and go wrong. Last year I kept my cool, fished my strengths and fished my speed all year.”

Canterbury says he was tested at Lake Tenkiller, as well as at the AOY Championship, but his relaxed confidence saw him through.

At Tenkiller, “I never did worry. It was a weird feeling because we were three-quarters of the way through the season and when I woke up in the morning I just felt like I was gonna catch ‘em, even if it was 12 o’clock and I hadn’t got ‘em, it still felt like I was gonna catch ‘em. That was one thing that was so great about last year. I’ve woke up before in the morning just thinking how hard it was going to be, and that I was going to struggle and all that. And I was right when I did that.

“It’s a positive attitude thing.

“I’ve had some really good runs in the past and then ended up stumbling a little bit, you know, having things go wrong.”

Successful tournament fishing is the result of decisions made. So is unsuccessful tournament fishing. “In my two worst tournaments I know where I went wrong,” says the Angler of the Year. “In every other tournament, there was a decision, a time that I changed in the middle of the event that just turned the whole tournament around. When you’re making decisions and you’re staying ahead of the fish like that it’s pretty easy, but I’ve also been on the tail end of that deal.”

Canterbury says the 75-man field size on the 2019 Elite Series didn’t hurt his chances, mathematically. Still, the Elite Series roster may be as talented as ever. Need proof? Consider the razor-thin margin of victory and the way the race came down to the last day, as it always has regardless of the names on the jerseys. It was a level of competition that never allowed Canterbury to save fish or simply bring in a small limit to protect his lead late in the season. “I tried to catch everything I could catch every day.

“At Tenkiller I was rooming with Matt Arey and Jay Yelas and I was talking with Jay and I said ‘I just need to survive. I just need to stay in the middle, do decent and I can keep my points’. Jay said ‘those guys are so good that you can’t do that. You’ve got to keep your foot on the throttle. You’ve got to try to win every tournament. If you let up just a little bit, somebody’s going to pass you’.”

The advice proved golden.

“Eight points separated 1st from 3rd place,” notes Canterbury. “I had to stand on it and catch everything I could catch every day of every tournament. Any day of the year, I can look back at one single fish and if I don’t catch that fish, I don’t win Angler of the Year.”

Another accomplishment that lights Canterbury’s fire is his berth into the upcoming Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville in his home state of Alabama. “Growing up, I used to get up every Saturday morning and watch Bassmasters. Since I was 6 years old, I’ve dreamed of being in the Bassmaster Classic. I fished 10 Forrest Wood Cups and it’s a great tournament, but there’s only one Classic. This is the 50th and I can’t wait to come across that stage.

“I am extremely excited about it; about the opportunity. I’m gonna fish my hardest, try to capitalize on every opportunity I get. I’ll be ready.”

Canterbury isn’t looking at the other anglers. He’s focused on the real competition. “If you catch what the lake is capable of producing the week that you’re there, you’re going to do good. I’m fishing against the fish. I’m not fishing against the other fishermen. I did that a couple of days my rookie year, I’d go out and fish against the guys I looked up to the whole time I was trying to qualify. I was beat already. I zeroed the first day I ever fished a tournament because I was beat before I went out, mentally. If you go out and just fish against the fish, I think it makes a big difference.”

Canterbury will have to wait until game time to fish against those Guntersville bass. He didn’t make a scouting trip. “I’ll be honest. I never went up there to look at it. I had a whole fall to go but I haven’t been. I used to would go spend all my time up there and try to figure it out but first week of March, things are really going to be changing in Alabama. I don’t have any preconceived notions. I know the lake really well, but I don’t even know where the best grass is growing this fall.”

With a pair of Elite Series events in February, the 2020 Angler of the Year race will be a quarter of the way done when the Classic takes place. Does Canterbury like his chances of winning another AOY title?

“Last year was a great ride. Momentum is a big thing. It’s a goal that, as fishermen we always set but, you’re not upset if you don’t achieve it. It’s been pretty amazing. Hopefully I can keep the momentum going and keep catching ‘em.

“I’m looking forward to the next tournament.”