By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Justin Lucas has already posted one Top-5 finish in an Angler of the Year race this year. He'll shoot for another this week when the Bass Pro Tour regular-season finale gets under way at Lake St. Clair.
One of the 20 BPT competitors who took advantage of the opportunity to also fish the MLF Pro Circuit, he's No. 4 on the BPT points list heading into the last event. He ended up in that same position in the final Pro Circuit standings.
A two-time winner in the summer of 2020 (he triumphed at both the BPT event at Sturgeon Bay and the Pro Circuit Super Tournament at Lake Erie), he's posted no finish higher than 5th in 15 outings this year. However, he has four Top-10s and no placements lower than 52nd.
He plans to do it all again in 2022.
"I really like going back and forth between the two formats," he said, referring to the BPTs no-limits, immediate-release setup and the conventional five-fish-to-the-stage structure of the Pro Circuit. "I grew up with the traditional five-fish limit and I still enjoy fishing that, but I love the intensity and pressure of a BPT event with the ScoreTracker and the official counting down (the final seconds of each period) and all that. They're totally different and there's pros and cons to each.
"If I totally had to pick one I'd go with the BPT, but having both is best for me."
Nothing Really Stands Out
When asked to pinpoint the high point of his 2021 campaign, Lucas was at a loss to come up with anything.
"I honestly can't say that there is one," he said. "It's been a productive year, but I really can't point to a highlight. I haven't won and that would be the only thing that would be a highlight right now. I've felt like I was close a couple of times, but I haven't even finished 2nd or 3rd. I've made some decisions on the final days that kind of hurt me.
"My best chance was Rayburn (a 5th-place showing in a BPT event in March). I had the bites to do it and everybody who (watched the live-streamed coverage) saw that. That's just the way it goes."
AOY Chances Slim
Lucas, the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series AOY, will go into St. Clair trailing leader Ott DeFoe by 47 points on the BPT list. Jacob Wheeler and Brent Ehrler are also ahead of him and they're both much closer to DeFoe, so his second career title is only a very remote possibility.
"Ott and Wheeler (who've combined to win five to the six regular-season events thus far) are both fishing out of their minds and Wheeler has been really consistent," he said. "I don't think all three of them are going to stumble, so there's not a whole lot to get excited about in that regard. I'm going to try and win that tournament and I'm not going to worry about anything else."
With his propensity for excelling in smallmouth-dominated tournaments, some might be surprised to learn that he's never fared particularly well on that venue. He was 66th and 42nd, respectively, in Elite Series derbies in 2017 and 2015 and 112th in the 2012 Detroit River FLW Tour event.
"It'll be interesting," he said. "I haven't really liked it there in the past, but it's going to be a totally different place with forward-facing sonar. It's totally changed the game for those kinds of tournaments."