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YAMAHA PRO FAIRCLOTH READY FOR FINAL ANGLER OF THE YEAR CHALLENGE

Posted 8/1/2012

By anyone’s standards, Todd Faircloth has compiled an excellent record during this year’s first seven Bassmaster® Elite Series tournaments, including a win, a runnerup, and two other top-15 finishes. He’s won a check in all but one event.

Nonetheless, the Yamaha Pro’s season will ultimately be judged by how he finishes in the season-ending Elite at New York’s Lake Oneida Aug. 23-26. Faircloth goes into the tournament ranked third in the B.A.S.S.® Angler of the Year (AOY) standings, just 20 points behind leader Brent Chapman. Among many of the veteran bass pros, winning an Angler of the Year title is considered the pinnacle of the sport because it signifies year-long excellence and consistency in a wide variety of fishing conditions.

This isn’t new territory for the popular Texas-based angler. During the 2008 Elite season, Faircloth came into the final event, also at Lake Oneida that season, leading the AOY race, but suffered through a miserable event and lost the title. He’s put that experience behind him, however, and, more importantly, says he learned a lot from what happened that week.

“I concentrated totally on deep schools of smallmouth, because that’s what I had done the previous week at Lake Erie where I finished 6th,” remembers the Yamaha Pro, “and I’d had a really good practice at Oneida where I’d found several groups of big fish. Those smallmouth moved, however, and I never relocated them. I finished 93rd, one of my worst finishes in my career.

“This year, I won’t spend all my time looking for those types of fish because they can be so unpredictable. I have also realized how important a role largemouth play in nearly all Oneida tournament victories, so I plan to spend a lot of time in practice trying to establish a shallow largemouth pattern. That’s something I didn’t do in 2008, but I won’t make that mistake again.”

Faircloth, 37, admits it took quite some time for him to get over that 2008 event, but now he’s put it behind him. What he prefers to concentrate on instead is his top-25 finish at Oneida the following year. This year, because he’s not leading the AOY race, he doesn’t have to fish defensively to protect a lead.

“I’m not thinking of how many points I may have to gain each day of competition, or where I have to be in relation to where Brent is in the standings,” explains Faircloth. “Instead, I’m going to Oneida to try to win. Because I’m not trying to gain the points lead, I can fish more aggressively, and that’s what I intend to do.”

The Yamaha Pro has put winning the Angler of the Year title as one of his goals each of his 14 years as a tournament competitor, but this season, despite finishing second at the opening Elite event on the St. Johns River in Florida and 11th a week later at Lake Okeechobee, Faircloth did not truly start thinking about his Angler of the Year chances until his victory on the Mississippi River at LaCrosse, Wis. in June. His win jumped him from sixth to second in the standings.

“During a tournament season, every fish and every decision you make counts toward the final AOY outcome,” says Faircloth, “and throughout the season, you just hope you put enough of those good decisions together to be in a position to challenge for the Angler of the Year title. At the LaCrosse tournament, I knew very little about that part of the Mississippi, except that there was plenty of shallow vegetation available, so I went up there planning to fish that way, if possible.

“On the first practice morning, I stopped at the first big grassbed I found because it looked pretty good, and I caught bass there. Later, I found a second grassbed, and those two spots are where I fished the entire tournament. 

“Maybe I can find a couple of grassbeds like that at Oneida,” smiles the Yamaha Pro. “I know they exist, and I’m looking forward to going up there and trying to find them.” Y.