The feel-good moment of the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series season occurred on Championship Sunday on the Elite stage in Waddington, New York: Justin Lucas heartily, genuinely congratulating former roommate Josh Bertrand as Bertrand unseated him for the lead in the St. Lawrence River shootout.
Bertrand was eventually crowned the champion of that event, claiming his first-ever Elite title while Lucas finished second.
And now the Angler of the Year donnybrook is on.
Both Lucas and Bertrand have been routinely excellent from the giddy this season, racking up $272,000 in tournament winnings and 10 Top-20 finishes between them (including seven Top-10s).
Bertrand is the only Elite pro who has cashed a check in every event this season, while Lucas has the most Top 10s.
It’s a race that’s too tight to call.
Lake Chatuge – a 7,000-acre impoundment of the Hiawassee River situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia – is a deep, clear mountain lake loaded with spotted bass.
Advantage: neither. Both Lucas and Bertrand excel under those conditions.
Lucas has been at the top of his game in the second half of the season, finishing 10th, 11th, 9th and 2nd in his last four events. Bertrand won at the St. Lawrence and finished 8th at Lake Oahe, but was 30th and 44th in the two events prior.
Bertrand has finished an average of 10th in the past two AOYs he’s fished; Lucas has a 29th-place average.
And on and on.
We’re not even going to try to choose a favorite, and, frankly, we like both Lucas and Bertrand enough that we’ll be excited, no matter who wins it. Interesting times ahead, though, it’ll be an interesting final lap.