2012’s Top Five Anglers of the Year

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Here’s what it took to be the best of the best in 2012

Winning an Angler of the Year title is an accomplishment at any level in tournament bass fishing, but those who have taken the title at the top level of bass fishing have proven they have what it takes to be the best against the world’s best. Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of Year Brent Chapman summed it up perfectly by saying, “At this level, everyone is excellent at casting and at every technique. It takes more than just fishing skills to win Angler of the Year.” So what makes them better than the rest of the top anglers in the world? Here, the Angler of the Year from the three national pro circuits and the Rookie of the year from Elite Series and FLW Tour Rookie will answer that question and give some insight to their year.

Brent Chapman ~ 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series AOY

2012's Top Five Anglers of the Year

Brent Chapman ~ 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series AOY

Chapman was on a roll this year and it started before the Elite season even started. With a win at the Bassmaster Central Open on Lake Lewisville in Texas, he already had a 2013 Classic berth in hand before even launching his boat on the first day of the Elite Series season.

For Brent, the main difference this year compared to other years was his approach to fishing in general. “The biggest thing for me was my involvement in my church and making sure my priorities with fishing were in order. Fishing is a huge part of my life, but there are things that are more important,” added Chapman. His change in attitude towards fishing allowed him to have a greater focus when he was competing.

In addition, he counts organization and physical fitness as other keys to his success this year. In 2011, the season ended early. “So I had months to prepare for the new (2012) season. I spent more time getting all of my tackle and gear organized and working out,” adds Chapman. He feels that a more relaxed and less rushed time preparation period before the start of the season allowed him to plan each event better. As a result, when tournament time came, he was ready. His focus on physical fitness and health also allowed him to be in better shape when he was required to spend weeks on the road and on the water.

David Dudley ~ 2012 FLW Tour AOY

2012's Top Five Anglers of the Year

David Dudley ~ 2012 FLW Tour AOY (Photo: Bill Bjork)

As the current #1 ranked angler in the world (according to BassFan rankings), David Dudley has proven himself over the past several years. His earning the 2012 FLW Tour AOY title would not come as a surprise to anyone who follows FLW Outdoors events. He is a threat to win each event he enters and the only thing stronger than his fishing skills is his competiveness. When asked what the difference was for this AOY season compared to others, he echoed Brent Chapman’s statement “At this stage of the game, everyone has peaked at their skill level. You are not going to get any better, the difference comes down to decision making on the water,” says Dudley.

While Dudley wasn’t able to pinpoint a specific reason why this year was more successful than others, that’s probably because recent years are rather equally successful for him. This is his third FLW Tour Angler of the Year title in five years (2012, 2011, 2008).

Dudley shared that instincts, experience and time on the water are what separates those at the top. According to the Virginia pro, “There is no manual for being Angler of the Year, there is not something you can do and automatically you will win it. It’s a combination of several things; with decision making and relying on your instinct being a big part of it,” adds Dudley.

Gary Clouse ~ 2012 PAA Tournament Series AOY

2012's Top Five Anglers of the Year

Gary Clouse ~ 2012 PAA Tournament Series AOY (Photo: Bill Bjork)

Tennessee’s Gary Clouse is a successful businessman and owner of Phoenix Boats. This year he showed the ranks of professional anglers that he can also compete against the top anglers on the PAA Tour. His Angler of the Year title was a major accomplishment and he feels it is almost entirely due to the time he spent on the water. Now that his company has grown to a point where he can travel more and run smoothly while he is not there, he spent every spare minute on the water. “I was always on the lake from daylight until dark during practice this season. Some only fish until 3:00 or so, but I want to be out there as much as possible because you never know when you are going to find a spot that will get you that one more keeper you need during the event,” adds Clouse.

He also says that if you are not solely focused on fishing or your mind is on other things, you will get beat. His approach this year was to spend more time on the water and also focus on the mental and physical side of fishing. “I started working out a lot more this year because it gets hard to fish for a week straight, by the end of it you are starting to drag. It makes all the difference and your physical side is tied very closely to the mental side of bass fishing,” explained Clouse.

Brandon Card ~ 2012 Bassmaster Elite Rookie of the Year

2012's Top Five Anglers of the Year

Brandon Card ~ 2012 Bassmaster Elite ROY

Brandon Card started off the Elite season with a bang and cashed checks in his first five events. When asked what the key to his success was, he recounted each event one by one and what technique or bait he used at the event. After he finished, it became clear that each event was totally different, “I think the biggest thing was being consistent and adjusting with the fish at each event. The only two events where I did the same thing were at Okeechobee, FL and Oneida in NY, both were punching mats,” adds Card. He talked about the Lake Oneida tournament and said he hardly caught anything punching mats during practice, but when it got tough during the event he fell back into his confidence technique. “I have learned that when it is tough, sometimes you have to fall back into your comfort zone. I am a power fisherman and that’s what I have most confidence in,” adds the Rookie of the Year from Tennessee. This approach allowed him to salvage the tournament and secure the ROY award and his first Bassmaster Classic berth; also his first Toyota Texas Bass Classic.

Aside from being versatile and relying on your confidence techniques, Card adds “You have to be willing to abandon things completely and follow your gut sometimes. I did that at several events this year, I started doing something totally different in the middle of a tournament day and it worked out.”

Clent Davis ~ 2012 FLW Rookie of the Year

2012's Top Five Anglers of the Year

Clent Davis ~ 2012 FLW ROY (Photo: FLW, Gary Mortenson)

Alabama’s Clent Davis had a stellar rookie season; winning the FLW Rookie of the Year while also qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup and Toyota Texas Bass Classic. He feels that his success came down to his preparation and research months before the events took place. As a rookie, he was already at a disadvantage over seasoned pros who return to the same bodies of water each year; with that in mind he took to the internet to formulate his plan for each event. “A good example of this was at Table Rock; everything you always read about it is to throw a Wiggle Wart in the spring. I knew that and that’s what I did for the entire event,” says Davis. The result was his highest placing of the season and a Top 10 finish.

For his research, Clent will spend hours researching past tournament results and fishing reports for that body of water. “I read everything I can, and most of it is actually pretty reliable as long as it’s fairly recent and during the same time of year,” states the Alabama pro. He will also monitor lake levels and weather patterns well before the event takes place. This extra homework time put in by the former collegiate bass angler proves that those who study hard do well. His study efforts also apply to bait selection and tackle needed. Davis will plan weeks and months in advance to make sure he has everything packed and ready to go when the time comes.

The five biggest awards in bass fishing in 2012 were awarded to five anglers of various background and experience levels, but there were several key themes that lead to their success. Talking with all five showed that the mental approach, preparation, research and staying healthy are things that anglers of all levels can implement into their strategy. While baits, rods and reels are important; there are other factors that play a role in success in tournament bass fishing.

Tyler Brinks

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