Scott Canterbury still remembers his first day on the job as a professional bass fisherman. Having made a few dollars fishing Costa and BFL events, Canterbury signed up for the full 2008 season on the FLW Tour, ready to take the world by storm. The result was a shot of reality.
Canterbury checked in zero keeper bass on the day. None.
It didn’t take long for the Alabama pro to get his feet back under him, though, as the following event resulted in a 2nd-place finish and a check for 50-grand. You see, it’s hard to keep Scott Canterbury down.
Bassmaster Elite competitors are likely noticing Canterbury’s tenacity. Sitting atop the Angler of the Year standings with one tournament remaining, Canterbury’s earned a check at every Elite event of the season, pulling in three top-10 finishes on the way.
As we all know, Canterbury spent over a decade on the FLW Tour. But as his career grew, he soon found himself in an enviable position within the industry: He was given the opportunity to move to the Elite Series without first having to qualify, part of a hand-picked list of standouts chosen to fill the gaps left by pros leaving for the BPT.
Such “offered more publicity and more stage presence” according to the Alabama pro, and was supported by his sponsors, so Canterbury quickly accepted the invitation. And although his circuit may have changed, Canterbury’s approach to the job has not. Perhaps that’s his secret.
“I don’t have any secrets,” he interjected. “I use the same basic tools as everybody else.”
Canterbury insisted that his success is a direct result of one very basic principle. “I love catching bass. It’s what I live and breathe.”
More specifically, Canterbury just can’t seem to get enough. When he’s not on tour, he’s fishing. Coldest winter days, or 100-degree heat, he’s fishing. And when he thinks back to his earliest memories, he was fishing.
“I started younger than I can remember, like 4 years old.”
In fact, given one piece of advice to offer young pros hungry for competition, Canterbury immediately added: “Time on the water. Nothing replaces time on the water.”
But is it that easy? Can we all just head to the lake at every opportunity and end up like Scott Canterbury?
Certainly there’s more to his approach. A key is likely Canterbury’s versatility.
“I started out as a big flipper,” he recalled “but it didn’t take me long to put a spinning rod in my hand.”
Such a jack-of-all-trades mentality goes right along with Canterbury’s mindset; to excel in the face of adversity. A look at his AOY-leading season confirms: he wormed his way around the St. John’s, sight-fished and swim-jigged to a near-win at Winyah Bay, then dropshotted in 40-feet of water at the St. Lawrence on his first visit. What can’t this guy do?
When questioned about his favorite technique, Canterbury quickly confirmed, “I just like having my rod bent. Whatever does that. I’m comfortable and confident with anything.”
But it wasn’t always that way. When he first began fishing competitively, Canterbury had never ventured offshore. There, too, were lessons that needed to be quickly learned.
“I kind of got in on that (offshore structure fishing) at the end of it. David Fritts was one of the first ones – maybe the only one doing it at his prime. Now everyone is doing it and it’s impossible to dominate.”
Canterbury added that, although the electronic revolution and offshore fishing continue to steal most of the press, such tactics may have run their course.
“Ninety-eight percent of everywhere there’s a fish is now a community hole,” he said, offering that he often sees better results again fishing shallow. What goes around comes around. In any case, the key, again, lies in Canterbury’s willingness to learn and change on the fly.
Adaptation is needed in this ever-changing sport, and Canterbury continues to keep up. His steadfast approach will hold true this week at St. Clair, site of the most important tournament of his life.
Canterbury’s plan is to “catch them good enough that they (other competitors) can’t catch me (in the AOY race).”
That may be easier said than done, as Canterbury’s pursuers include a red-hot Chris Zaldain, as well as Cory Johnston, a big-water smallmouth specialist. In Canterbury’s eyes, however, consistency is the name of the game.
“I just can’t have a bad tournament (during the season), as I’ve always had in the past,” he added. Canterbury hasn’t stumbled yet. And, judging by his track record, I doubt he will now.
Perhaps it’s the sting associated with that first day – that big zero that hung down next to his name on the standings sheet – that keeps Canterbury moving forward. Whatever it is, motivation is poised to pay off, as we all await the grand finale.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)