By Todd Ceisner
Scott Canterbury has had the fish on to win the Forrest Wood Cup. He’s twice finished 2nd in FLW’s marquee tournament and been runner-up in two other Tour events. While friends and observers said it’d only be a matter of time, he admits he began to wonder if he’d ever break through and win a Tour event.
After starting the 2016 season with a miserable 138th-place finish at Lake Okeechobee – he’d finished no lower than 50th in four previous Tour events there – he bounced back with a vengeance and compiled his finest season as a Tour pro, capped off by – yes – a victory at Beaver Lake in April.
It was far from easy, though, especially after logging such a poor finish at the season opener. With a six-event schedule, it’s difficult to counter the impact triple-digit results can have on the points standings, let alone one’s psyche.
“You can afford one bad one, but you can’t afford two,” Canterbury said. “I knew I had my work cut out for me.”
He rebounded with five straight money finishes, including four top-20s and two top-10s. He also mixed in a runner-up finish at the Douglas Lake Bassmaster Southern Open and capped the year off with top-10 finishes in both FLW Tour Invitationals.
As down as he was after Okeechobee, the momentum he built through the season was as good of a run as he can remember being on.
“Now, I have to try keep it going,” he said. “I know I’ll be fishing more this winter.”
‘Things Just Lined up’
At Okeechobee, he was admittedly rusty after not fishing near as much as he typically does over the winter – “I just wanted to get out of it for a while,” he said. His plan to go after a big bag on day 1 was foiled by 30-mph winds and he settled for a 9-pound limit.
“It fell apart,” he said.
Adding to his frustration after the event was knowing that a 13-pound daily average was ultimately good enough for a top-5 finish there.
In March, he scored a 45th at Lake Hartwell to get things turned around. He made better decisions and felt like he was around good fish.
“I had the fish on to make a top-10 there,” he said. “I could sense I was starting to fish good. I just didn’t capitalize.”
From there, the scheduled shifted to Arkansas’ Beaver Lake, where Canterbury had top-20 finishes in three of the past four years. Despite a tough practice, “things just lined up,” he said.
He wasn’t thrilled with the 12-14 he caught on day 1 and even remembers texting his wife, Dixie, to tell her “I sucked it up at this one, too.” His big move came on day 2, thanks to a couple big fish caught up the War Eagle River.
“I started roaming up the river a little farther,” he said. “I had just barely touched what I knew what was happening. I could call my shots.”
His 18-03 stringer moved him into 2nd, just one ounce behind day-2 leader Darrel Robertson.
Best Day Ever
Canterbury continued his assault on Beaver on day 3 with a 14-06 bag that put him in the lead.
“I caught a lot of fish, but the wind blew and the big ones didn’t bite,” he said.
That set the stage for him to have yet another shot at his first win. The wind blew again on the final day, but he had confidence he could close the deal this time.
“I figured they were going to bite,” he said. “So much goes into winning one of these. Every decision you make in a week has to be right.”
He began the day in a pocket he hadn’t fished all week, but it was a place he’d fished regularly in the past. Within 10 minutes, he caught a 3 1/2-pounder.
“I knew what the fish were doing,” he said.
Before the day was 45 minutes old, he’d also caught a 2 1/2-pounder and a 4 1/2-pound bruiser.
“I sort of knew it was happening,” he said. “It was weird, but I sort of knew. Those things that happen when you’re following your gut instincts.”
Like when he decided to stop in a pocket on his way up the War Eagle – a pocket he’d never fished before – and caught a 3 1/2-pounder in the back of it. He figured 15 to 16 pounds would be enough to fend off any challengers. He wound up with 17-00.
“That final day was the best day I’ve ever had on Beaver,” he said. “I caught 35 or 40 fish, all on a jig. I remember the exact sequence of culls.”
Even after sticking around Beaver for another day to participate in a charity event, his mind had already moved on from his first Tour win.
“I was already thinking about the next event,” he said, “It was special to win, but now I want the next one more than I wanted that first one. I started fishing well at Hartwell. I didn’t catch everything I should’ve, but when you’re fishing good you’re making good decisions. That gave me a lot of confidence.”
On A Roll
Canterbury had a legitimate shot at another top-10 finish at Pickwick Lake, but a three-fish bag on day 3 derailed those hopes. He still finished 13th – just three ounces shy of a top-10 berth.
“I knew it’d be won on the ledges and I idled for three hours on day 3,” he said. “Having the confidence to do that probably kept me from getting the win.”
Two weeks later, he went to Douglas Lake, a venue he’d never fished before, and wound up 2nd. He then finished the FLW Tour season with a 5th-place at Kentucky Lake, a 16th at Lake Champlain and a 21st at the Forrest Wood Cup, where he missed the day-2 cut by two ounces.
“It’s all about decisions and being confident in what you’re doing,” he said. “To start the year off that bad might’ve lit a fire in me. I want to do well in all of them, but that might’ve made me try just a bit harder.”
He doesn’t see himself altering how he approaches tournaments, now that he’s won at the top level. If anything, he’d like to pick up in 2017 where he left off this season.
“I’ve been so close so many times,” he said. “I know I can win again. I don’t think it’ll change the way I fish at all. I’ve been successful staying consistent. I don’t want to win one and then finish 100th in the next one.”