Mercury pro Josh Bertrand one step from B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year
Hiawassee, Ga. – It’s been a season of firsts for Team Mercury pro Josh Bertand.
Not only did the sixth-year Bassmaster Elite Series angler capture his first career Elite win last month on the St. Lawrence River in New York, he’s also racked up his most Top 10 finishes in a season (three so far) and has finished in the money more times than ever before (he’s currently 9-for-9).
And if Bertrand fishes well at this week’s Angler of the Year Championship on Lake Chatuge in northern Georgia, he’ll record another first that dwarfs all the others: his first Elite Series Angler of the Year title, which comes with a $100,000 purse.
Bertrand is second in the AOY standings with 707 points heading into the championship event (Sept. 20-23), just nine points behind one of his longtime best friends, Justin Lucas (716). It’s already the highest AOY finish for Bertrand, and a position the Arizona pro didn’t expect to be in when the season started in February.
“When I looked at the schedule at the beginning of the year, I saw a couple tournaments that I was excited about because I knew I should probably do well, but I was a little indifferent about the rest of the year,” Bertrand. “I thought it was a schedule that I would do okay with, but did I think I’d be in a position to win Angler of the Year? Not in a million years.”
Getting a quick start
Bertrand put himself in this position by being routinely excellent the first two days of each competition.
In five of the eight 2018 regular-season events, he emerged from Day 1 in the Top 12. At the other three events – at Lake Martin, and the Sabine and Mississippi rivers – he recovered from lackluster Day 1 limits to climb an average of 31 places on each Day 2.
“I’ve caught a lot of good breaks, but I think I’ve also made the right decisions on starting spots,” Bertrand said. “Sometimes your whole tournament is dictated by where you start on your first day. I pick spot A, B or C and it ends up being the right spot. I beat someone else to that spot, capture that big bag, and lay a stake to that spot from Day 1. That’s happened several times this year.”
Running “full-out, top speed, all day long”
Bertrand suspects that some of his Day 1 success resulted from a rigorous practice schedule.
Unlike previous seasons, when he would travel to tournament locations prior to the official off-limits period so he could scout the fishery and graph possible fishing locations, Bertrand this season has relied solely on the three-day practice window prior to each Elite event to develop his game plan. That has translated into lengthy, fast-paced days on the water where he’s demanded the most from his 250hp Mercury Pro XS.
“I put a ton of hours on that motor this year, and pushed it harder than I ever have,” Bertrand said. “Instead of having the luxury of cruising around at 4,000 rpm during practice, it’s full-out, top speed, all day long. I’ve never run wide open so much, and we’ve fished some massive bodies of water. Lake Oahe is 280 miles long, and I ran all over that lake. The St. Lawrence River required 40- to 50-mile one-way runs every day. To push your boat and motor that hard every single day and not have a hiccup is pretty awesome.”
NOTES: Mercury anglers have won 10 of the past 11 B.A.S.S. Elite Series AOY trophies … Mercury pros occupy six of the top seven positions in the AOY standings … In addition to Bertrand, the top seven includes Mercury anglers Bradley Roy (657 points), Ott De Foe (634), Brent Chapman (632), Jacob Powroznik (623) and Aaron Martens (619) … The site of the 2018 AOY Championship, Lake Chatuge, is a 7,200-acre impoundment of the Hiawassee River that straddles the Georgia/North Carolina border (120 miles north of Atlanta).