July 9, 2013 by Kyle Wood
With the Walmart FLW Tour regular season at a close the focus now switches to the Forrest Wood Cup in August. Still lingering fresh on the minds of many is the newly crowned Angler of the Year in Andy Morgan who managed to seal the deal in front of his friends and family on Lake Chickamauga. In the shadow of Morgan stands 24-year-old Stetson Blaylock who wrapped up his best year on tour to date with a second-place finish in the AOY race.
"Finishing second sucks," said Blaylock, who is in his fifth year as a pro. "In my mind Andy Morgan is the best fisherman out there. To finish second behind him makes me feel a little better because he has been doing this so long and is so good. At the same time it makes me want that title more now than ever."
After a few years of success in BFL competition and the EverStart Series, as well as being a co-angler on tour, Blaylock made his leap to the front of the boat on the FLW Tour in 2009. In just his third tournament that year he captured his first tour-level win on Lake Norman proving that at just 21 years old, Blaylock could hang with the best of the best.
Fast forward to 2013 and you will see that Blaylock has shown plenty of consistency on tour. Out of the five years he has fished as a pro, Blaylock has qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup four times. And out of the 32 events he has fished throughout those five years - Cups included - he has only missed making a check seven times. Not too bad for a 24 year old.
"With this year being my first top-10 finish in the points for AOY I consider this to be my break out year," said Blaylock. "I have been so close to having a year like this but I always seem to have one mediocre tournament and one bomb - I consider that finishing below 60th or 70th place.
"I just felt more comfortable this year and my decision making was better. I suppose I can credit a little bit of my success to not going up north this year either. I don't know what it is about those northern lakes that get me but I just can't quite make it happen up there."
Blaylock says that with each season that passes on tour he becomes more confident in trusting his decisions to leave what he found in practice and go find new areas.
"Lake Eufaula was a great example for me this year of how my decision making improved. I went into the tournament thinking that a ChatterBait, swim jig and frog were going to be the deal since that is what Eufaula is known for. After a day of throwing those baits and not getting bit I knew I had to find something else. So, I just went looking at bare banks and started to catch quality fish. I trusted my decision and had confidence to find something different and it worked out."
After a fifth-place finish on Eufaula, Blaylock turned around and posted a ninth-place showing on Grand Lake just a few weeks later. That was quite the streak considering that just weeks before Eufaula found Blaylock in 56th place after the Beaver Lake derby - his worst finish of the season. Blaylock finished his season strong with by placing 22nd at Chickamauga to put a cap on his best year to date.
"I hope that everything that is going for me carries over to the Cup this year," Blaylock continued. "The Red River seems to be a place for me that come tournament time I usually bomb. It should be the toughest bit we have seen this year which means it will come down to good decision making. I have never placed higher than 50 percent in the Cup so I am ready for it.
"But this year lined up just right and I feel blessed and fortunate for this year. I feel so close to finding what guys like Dudley and Thrift have. I just have to do a little bit more to reach that AOY title. I know the Cup is coming up but I am already excited for next season."