Speak now or forever....

image courtesy of BASSMASTER.com

image courtesy of BASSMASTER.com

The Elite takes a pause after the completion of the Guntersville tournament on June 24 until St. Lawrence practice starts on August 12, a hiatus of seven weeks.

Some of the older and injured pros among them will use the off time to heal their bodies.

Some of the ones close to the bottom of the AOY race will have to lick a different kind of wound.

Some of the young ones (and they seem to get younger every year) will spend the time going to summer camp, studying for the SAT, or making some extra pocket change by mowing Old Man Wilson’s yard.

But there’s a group of 10 or 15 who would be well-served by joining Toastmasters International and improving their public speaking skills. It’s not that they aren’t already sufficiency polished for day-to-day pro bassing interview obligations, but there’s a pretty good chance that someone who’s never contended for a major title is going to be handed the AOY trophy at the end of the year.

Look at the top 10 or 15 in the current AOY race and you’ll see that for a variety of reasons they don’t have a lot of experience contending for that sort of title. Scott Canterbury has a top 10 in the FLW AOY race, and a runner-up finish in the Forrest Wood Cup, but this elder statesman (he turns 43 next week) is the exception to the rule. Younger guys like Patrick Walters, Drew Cook, Micah Frazier and Shane LeHew appear to know a hell of a lot about bass fishing, but they’re still young enough that they don’t know what they don’t know.

Yes, there’s still a lot of fishing left to go, and a veteran like John Crews (currently 15th), Mark Menendez (17th) or Matt Herren (18th) could easily make a second half push to the title, but right now it’s the relative newcomers who have the tour by the short hairs.

I know it’s bad luck to clear a place on the mantel for a trophy you are not yet close to acquiring, but these guys have a tremendous opportunity ahead of them if they get a few more cards to fall their way. Right now, BASS is at the top of their media game, relentlessly promoting individual anglers, the tour as a whole, and season-long stories. Some might also say that to some extent they are in competition with the other tours. They are going to promote the AOY until he doesn’t want to see another microphone, tape recorder, note pad or TV camera –although he’ll probably still be willing to visit the teller at his hometown bank. The angler who is prepared for that opportunity is going to see a media blitz unlike any other the sport has known, in the past 20 years, since Denny Brauer sat in the guest chair on David Letterman.

Even when things were two-tour normal, there were some Classic champs and AOY’s who made the most of their opportunities (Swindle, Ike, KVD) and others who did less with the title (Cliff Pace). Ultimately, that’s their choice, and while I’ve noted the differences, I’ve never been upset with the choice that any particular winner has made. This year, I expect that feeling will be different – whoever wins is going to have a platform the size of Greenland and a green light to go along with it. It will be the ultimate career-builder if they put in the work, but a stumble on the ascent to the throne or a case of forgetfulness when asked to speak can stop things before they really get going.