UPCOMING EVENT: YETI FLW COLLEGE FISHING - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

A Score to Settle

Scott "Hammerbury" Canterbury

There is half of a bass above the surface, leaping out of a blossom of water. There are vague shapes of trees and docks in the background. There is a jig seemingly erupting out of the mouth of the fish and arching up and then down on a slack line. And then there is Scott Canterbury throwing down his hat in disgust.

That’s one of the scenes we remember about the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Murray. It’s the same scene that played over and over in Scott Canterbury’s mind for a while, and replays occasionally now as he contemplates a return trip to Lake Murray for the 2017 Cup (he’s in second place in the FLW Tour standings, and by all accounts is a shoo-in to qualify). The fish that would have won him the Cup jumped off, and with it went the life-changing prospects that the championship entails.

The Quaker State pro didn’t let that one moment frozen in time define his career. He couldn’t afford to. Disappointment is a pro fisherman’s closest companion; success for most is just a hitchhiker along for a short ride. When you understand that, and accept it as part of the game, you can go on about your business. Canterbury has.

He figured The One That Got Away was a 5-pounder. With it, he could have won the Cup with a few pounds to spare. As it was, Anthony Gagliardi beat him by an ounce. The 2014 championship will be remembered as the year Gagliardi made the big comeback after a disastrous start to his season that kicked off with him being disqualified from the season opener, and the leaping fish cost Canterbury the crown. Hardly anybody remembers that on the first day of the event, the Alabama pro only had four keepers for 10 pounds. Then again, on the second day, Gagliardi returned to the weigh-in one bass shy of a limit. The way Canterbury sees it, the only fish that matter are the ones that put numbers on the scoreboard at tournament’s end.

“It didn’t really bother me for long,” says Canterbury of the moment he lost the 11th hour kicker. “I thought about it – sure. Right then and there I lost the tournament, but other things happened too that made a difference. You can’t really dwell on what might have been. One thing that’s true about fishing, no matter what, is that nobody catches them all. You just have to keep fishing and not let it eat at you.”

Canterbury has managed to live up to his self-imposed credo. Including the $60,000 runner-up check he received at the 2014 Cup, in the seasons since he’s managed to win more than $400,000 on Tour and in the Costa FLW Series.

Murray is a tough lake, but it suits Canterbury’s style of fishing. While it’s not his favorite lake, he doesn’t regard it as a looming nemesis. True, it’s hard to catch a break there, and multi-day patterns are as elusive as a sackful of big largemouths. An angler hoping to benefit from the schooling bite might wait in vain for bass to pop up in the same area where they seemed to be everywhere the day before. Fish forage under docks one day and are gone the next: Ask David Dudley, who was fishing docks in the 2014 Cup’s first round and caught 17-14 to pace the field, then followed up with 6-1 and 1-6 to finish 15th. Hungry bass mill around brush piles ready and waiting to inhale a drop-shot rig, but then disappear: Ask Philip Jarabeck, who went the finesse route in 2014 to lead on day two with 26-4. Then he caught just a pair of 2-pounders the next round and wound up 11th.

It’s Murray’s inconsistency and reputation as a junk-fisherman’s paradise that was Canterbury’s saving grace, however. He’s used to having to scrape up a keeper here, a kicker there, and Murray favors the hard workers like Canterbury who just keep their heads down and fish as circumstances dictate. Canterbury doesn’t expect anything to be different this August, and he isn’t planning on changing his style of fishing.

“I don’t like to chase schooling fish. I tried that for a while in 2014, but mainly it was a waste of my time,” he says. “Blueback herring are here today and gone tomorrow, and wherever they go the fish go with them. I can catch fish shallow at Murray, but that involves running new water every day.”

As Canterbury discovered in his last visit to Murray, “new water” is shallow with some sort of cover where his junk-fishing instincts can kick in. Once he abandoned the schooling bass pattern midway through day two of the 2014 Cup, he scratched up 10 keepers that day and 10 more the next, and finished with seven more the last day.

He did it with a variety of lures, including buzzbaits and jigs, and his change for the better resulted from his gamble to abandon the lake’s lower and middle portions and run upriver to fish the maze of coves and feeders in the Saluda River arm.

This time around, Canterbury expects more of the same. Murray can be generous, but during the hottest days of summer it’s more often a miser. Canterbury doesn’t expect anything less.

“It’s going to be a grind, just like it was then [in 2014]. You have to fish your guts out to catch a decent stringer,” he notes. “It’s not easy in August on any of these lakes, and you just have to fish every bit of bank and good-looking cover. There’s a lot of physical stamina and mental toughness involved.”

That being the case, Canterbury is up to the task. Besides, he has a score to settle with Lake Murray.

Tags: colin-moore  pre-tournament  2017-08-11-forrest-wood-cup 

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