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Morgan clinches AOY, Martin moves into lead
6/28/2013
Credit:
Brett Carlson, FLW press release
28.Jun.2013 by Brett Carlson
DAYTON, Tenn. – One of the most consistent anglers in bass fishing finally clinched the prestigious Angler of the Year title as Andy Morgan put in a workmanlike effort on Lake Chickamauga, his home water, to seal the deal. Meanwhile, a Walmart FLW Tour rookie desperately seeking to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup jumped into the lead at the halfway point in the tournament.

The hometown crowd got exactly what they wanted Friday. Not only did Morgan clinch AOY, but the other two prominent locals Michael Neal and Wesley Strader, caught 20-pound plus stringers and sit near the top of the leaderboard.

For Morgan, the AOY win was special, but not surprising. For the better part of a decade the Dayton, Tenn., pro has threatened for AOY, but with no true smallmouth fishery and the season ending in east Tennessee, this was Morgan’s year.

“You called it earlier in the year, my chances at winning without a true smallmouth fishery on the schedule were so much greater,” Morgan said. “But after Beaver Lake, where I took 68th, I thought I had no chance, no chance. Usually there is one person who goes all year without a slip-up.”

Morgan gained some ground on Keystone Light pro Brent Ehrler at Lake Eufaula and then surged into the lead at Grand Lake. On his home pond, he never looked back – fishing mainly deep brush and stumpy ledges.

“I took it slow, one cast at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time. How sweet it is to win it right here in the hills and hollers of Dayton.”

While the AOY race is over, Morgan isn’t done fishing as he made the top-20 cutoff in 14th place.

Martin surges into the lead

Coming into the final qualifier of the year in 54th place, Casey Martin knew he’d have to catch to make the Forrest Wood Cup in his rookie season as a pro. While he’s extremely comfortable fishing deep patterns in the summertime, not even Martin expected a start like this. After catching 22-15 on day one, the New Market, Ala., pro caught 27 pounds on day two, the heaviest limit of the tournament thus far. Martin’s 49-15 gives him a 7-pound, 9-ounce lead at the halfway point in the tournament.

“It was crazy,” said the pro leader, who shared water with Mark Rose, JT Kenney and Anthony Gagliardi. “On my third cast this morning I caught one and then it was one after another. I left that spot with about 17 pounds and culled once on my next stop. Then I visited a place I caught two big ones yesterday and I caught a 6 and that 7-11. I spent a total of six minutes there and I left. And as far as I know, nobody is fishing it.”

The 7-11 was the 3M ScotchBlue Big Bass of the day. While his other areas have bigger fish, Martin likes to start on the crowded ledge, which shouldn’t be crowded tomorrow as none of the other three made the top-20 cut.

“That first spot is a mega school. Having a limit there before I go hop around really puts me at ease.”

Martin said he’s catching his fish on a Picasso School-E Rig, a 3/4-ounce Omega football jig (Ozark special color) and a Strike King 10XD (sexy blueback herring color). The School E-Rig produced the early flurry and accounted for three of his five weigh fish.

With a sizeable lead Martin is beginning to change his mentality from qualifying for the Cup to winning the tournament.

“When I was leading at Okeechobee, I admit I was a little star struck. I think I’m more prepared for this one. And the lake is setting up exactly like Guntersville. Believe me, I want to win.”