Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 05/25/2018

Story by Matt Pangrac

Moore, OK  - After four stops on the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series, there’s an undeniable western vibe to the Toyota Angler Of the Year Standings.   

While Kansas’ Brent Chapman is leading the race with 382 points, seven of the Top 20 anglers in the TAOY standings currently live or have roots in the western part of the United States including:   
3rd – Josh Bertrand (Arizona)
4th – Jared Lintner (California)
7th – Skeet Reese (California)
8th – Aaron Martens (Originally from California)
11th – Brett Hite (Arizona)
13th – Justin Lucas (Originally from California)
20th – Mark Daniels, Jr. (Originally from California)

Taking it one step further, an additional six anglers with roots in the West currently sit between 20th and 35th in the TAOY standings including:
22nd – Brent Ehrler (California)
24th – Roy Hawk (Arizona)
25th – Cliff Pirch (Arizona)
31st – Chris Zaldain (Originally from California)
32nd – Fred Roumbanis (Originally from California)
35th – Dean Rojas (Arizona)

In total, there are currently 13 “western” anglers inside the cut for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, making up roughly 33% of the Classic field.  That’s an impressive state when you consider the fact that anglers with roots in the West comprise just 15% of the entire Elite Series field.   

Seven out of the Top 20 anglers at Alabama’s Lake Martin, the first stop on the 2018 Elite Series, were from the West.  

Six out of the Top 20 anglers at Grand Lake were from the West.  

Five out of the Top 20 anglers at Kentucky Lake were from the West.  

Three out of the Top 20 anglers from Lake Travis were from the West.  

When asked about why western anglers are having so much success this season on the Elite Series, California’s Jared Lintner just chuckled.  “You know, that’s a good question,” he stated.  “I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that, other than Kentucky Lake, the fisheries we’ve been to this season have fished very similarly to the way our lakes fish out West.

“When I look back at Lake Martin, Grand Lake, and Lake Travis, I’ve been able to utilize a wide variety of techniques from finesse fishing to power fishing.  I’ve had the same stuff tied on that I would at Clear Lake or some of my home lakes out here,” he continued.

Lintner also believes that the weather has been a benefit for anglers from the West.  “This year it’s been more about pattern fishing so far and not spot fishing.   It hasn’t been a ‘typical’ Elite Series schedule early on, and the weather has caused the lakes we’ve been on to fish really similarly to a lot of the lakes that we all grew up fishing out here.”  

Arizona’s Brett Hite, who currently sits in 11th place in the TAOY standings, said that Alabama’s Lake Martin reminded him a lot of Lake Shasta or Oroville in northern California, while Lake Travis reminded him of any number of rocky, clear water reservoirs in the West.   
“We are nearly halfway through the season and Kentucky Lake is the only place where I’ve thrown a bladed jig,” he allowed.  “I’ve caught a lot of fish this year on a drop shot, Neko rig, Ned rig, and a topwater.  Even Grand Lake, where I threw a squarebill, sets up for a guy from the West to be comfortable.”  

Elite Series rookie, Roy Hawk, believes that the diversity of fisheries in the West has helped him to 2nd and 3rd place finishes in the first four stops this year.   “From largemouth, to spotted bass, to smallmouth bass, we fish for them all on a regular bases in all types of environments,” said Hawk.  “As fisheries become more pressured, I think that you’re beginning to see finesse techniques play a bigger role across the country.”   

It will be interesting to see if the trend continues when the Elite Series returns to action June 7-10th on the Sabine River in Orange Texas.  The last two times the Elites visited the fishery (2015 and 2013) anglers from the West accounted for a combined total of just six Top 20 finishes.