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Lucas Leads AOY Tournament on Lake Chatuge

Lucas Leads AOY Tournament on Lake Chatuge Lucas Takes Commanding Lead At Bassmaster Angler Of The Year Championship
 

Lake Chatuge Tournament, HIAWASSEE, Ga. — Justin Lucas openly admits he’s been a nervous wreck. He hasn’t been sleeping well. He’s been waking up in the middle of the night with his mind racing about this week’s Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship. But after Thursday, he should rest a little better — and with two more days just like it, he’ll probably get some of the best sleep of his life.
  
Lucas, who finished the regular season as the leader in the AOY standings, caught five bass that weighed 13 pounds, 6 ounces during Thursday’s opening round of the AOY Championship tournament on Lake Chatuge. That stretched his lead in the standings from nine points to a whopping 53 over second-place angler Josh Bertrand — and put him in prime position for a major career boost and the $100,000 bonus that goes with it.
 
“I just want that AOY trophy,” Lucas said emphatically. “You know I want to win this tournament this week. But I’d be 100 percent satisfied with a Top 8 finish. I’d be 100 percent satisfied if I finish eight points ahead of Josh.
 
“That AOY trophy is all I care about.”
 
As with past years, the AOY Championship is basically two events in one. First and foremost, it’s designed to bring closure to a nine-event Bassmaster Elite Series schedule that began in February on Alabama’s Lake Martin. It pays $1 million to the 50 AOY qualifiers based on their points totals at the end of the event, except for $25,000 going to the winner of the tournament.
 
Lucas, who grew up in California and now lives in Alabama, built his regular-season lead with five Top 12 finishes, including four in a row to end the season. He rode that momentum into Thursday’s first round and managed a double-digit weight despite tough fishing conditions on Chatuge.
 
The fishery, which is known for its giant populations of spotted bass and blueback herring, has proved difficult for the anglers since the official practice period began Monday. It was particularly tough Thursday for Bertrand — an Arizona native and a longtime friend of Lucas.
 
Bertrand, whose wife Chantel is back home in Arizona more than eight months pregnant, brought only two keepers to the scales that weighed 2 pounds, 13 ounces. That weight ranked last out of 50 competitors.
 
“That was a big stumble on his part, and he knows that,” Lucas said. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t stumble tomorrow. With the way things are going, every day here is a completely new day.”
 
Bertrand said he had a “brutal day,” missing fish after fish.
 
“I had probably 20 bites,” said the winner of the final regular-season Elite Series event on the St. Lawrence River. “Most of them I didn’t even hook. I had maybe two or three fish more on — and I actually had one more keeper in the boat that I threw back.
 
“I thought I would catch plenty of keepers, but it didn’t work that way.”
 
Running concurrent with this week’s AOY storyline is the outcome of the tournament itself. The angler who catches the heaviest three-day weight this week will earn $25,000 and one of the coveted blue trophies that punctuates every Elite Series event.
 
Oklahoma pro James Elam took the lead in that pursuit Thursday with an impressive limit of spotted bass that weighed 16-10. But like the rest of the field, he lamented the tough fishing on Chatuge.
 
“It’s so frustrating because they’re so picky and it’s so hard to catch them,” Elam said. “You lose so many. But I was lucky to get five of the right ones in the boat.”
 
Elam said he actually figured the fish out a little as the day went on.
 
“I caught them early enough that I was able to do some different things later in the day,” he said. “That let me cull a couple of times, and it helped me learn some things that might help me tomorrow.” 
 
The tournament will resume Friday, with takeoff at 7:10 a.m. ET from Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds and weigh-in back at the Fairgrounds at 3:30 p.m. The anglers will take Saturday away from the lake for the Elite Expo, which will include boat demo rides, the latest vehicles from Toyota, the Berkley Experience trailer with its live aquarium and more. 
 

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2018 Points Report
PROFESSIONAL ELITE SERIES
as of 20-Sep-2018
Angler Points Lbs-Oz

 1 Justin Lucas Guntersville, AL  821  247- 6
 2 Josh Bertrand San Tan Valley, AZ  768  248-12
 3 Bradley Roy Lancaster, KY  746  243- 7
 4 Brent Chapman Lake Quivira, KS  739  229-10
 5 Aaron Martens Leeds, AL  721  233- 0
 6 Ott DeFoe Blaine, TN  704  226- 0
 7 Jacob Powroznik North Prince George, VA  703  244- 9
 8 Bobby Lane Jr. Lakeland, FL  702  238- 9
 9 Jacob Wheeler Harrison, TN  691  248- 0
 10 Brandon Palaniuk Hayden, ID  680  229- 3
 11 Dean Rojas Lake Havasu City, AZ  680  223-12
 12 Kevin VanDam Kalamazoo, MI  667  235- 6
 13 Mark Daniels Jr. Tuskegee, AL  661  234- 9
 14 Michael Iaconelli Pitts Grove, NJ  660  231-15
 15 Gerald Spohrer Gonzales, LA  652  222-10
 16 Brett Hite Phoenix, AZ  651  223- 3
 17 Todd Faircloth Jasper, TX  646  214- 0
 18 Casey Ashley Donalds, SC  645  225- 0
 19 James Elam Tulsa, OK  637  230-15
 20 Alton Jones Jr. Waco, TX  632  222- 3
 21 Brent Ehrler Redlands, CA  630  230- 9
 22 Andy Montgomery Blacksburg, SC  628  224- 7
 23 Roy Hawk Lk Havasu Cty, AZ  628  218- 5
 24 Jake Whitaker Fairview, NC  627  218- 2
 25 Seth Feider Bloomington, MN  626  221- 1
 26 Jesse Wiggins Cullman, AL  625  231- 8
 27 Keith Poche Pike Road, AL  624  221-12
 28 Skeet Reese Auburn, CA  622  230- 6
 29 Wesley Strader Spring City, TN  621  218- 8
 30 Clifford Pirch Payson, AZ  621  213- 3
 31 Bill Lowen Brookville, IN  612  219- 9
 32 Randall Tharp Port St. Joe, FL  605  224-11
 33 Cliff Pace Petal, MS  605  217- 5
 34 Chad Pipkens Lansing, MI  602  223-12
 35 Chris Zaldain Laughlin, NV  602  212-12
 36 Micah Frazier Newnan, GA  602  204-15
 37 Jason Christie Park Hill, OK  595  209-11
 38 Gerald Swindle Guntersville, AL  591  216- 4
 39 Edwin Evers Talala, OK  584  228-15
 40 Jared Lintner Arroyo Grande, CA  584  216-10
 41 Scott Rook Little Rock, AR  581  214- 0
 42 Chris Lane Guntersville, AL  579  212-14
 43 Keith Combs Huntington, TX  576  208-14
 44 Greg Hackney Gonzales, LA  574  217- 0
45 Greg Vinson Wetumpka, AL  574  198-15
 46 Shin Fukae Palestine, TX  571  214-14
 47 Dustin Connell Clanton, AL  565  207- 7
 48 Takahiro Omori Emory, TX  554  204-12
 49 Adrian Avena Vineland, NJ  548  209- 0
 50 Jordan Lee Grant, AL  542  231- 3

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