By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
From a points perspective, Bill Lowen is having the best season of his 14-year tenure on the Bassmaster Elite Series. He's happy about that, naturally, but he says the campaign could be going even better.
The veteran from Indiana sits at No. 4 on the Angler of the Year points list with just one regular-season event remaining. He's finished 23rd or better in the last seven events after a 47th-place showing in the season opener at the St. Johns River, but some of those placements could've been even better if some key fish hadn't eluded his grasp.
The farmed bites haven't been greater in number than any other year, he said, but they've come at inopportune times. Several have occurred on day 3 when he had a chance to get into the final-day field (top 10) – he has finishes of 11th, 12th and 14th on his ledger in addition to his season-best 7th at Lake Hartwell in April.
"It's just one of those years when I've lost some key bites that would've been huge difference-makers," he said. "A lot of people don't realize how important one bite can be, whether it be making a top 10, picking up four or five more points here or there or maybe even winning an event.
"When you get the right bite and you lose it, it's not good. I hate to harp on lost fish, but I don't care how good you are, you've got to have a little luck to win."
First was the Worst
The missed bites that haunt Lowen the most occurred at the St. Johns.
"I had 9- and 5-pounders on back-to-back casts on the second day of that tournament," he said. "If I catch just one of those, I make the cut (to the top 35 after day 2). And it wasn't like I lost them way out there – they were both right-beside-the-boat kind of deals.
"I stubbed my toe the first day with 8 pounds and the second day I had 19. I had a chance for that bag to be in the high 20s."
Missed opportunities or not, he's been on a strong run ever since that derby and is a shoe-in to qualify for his ninth Classic. He's also a good bet to top his career-best points finish (9th in 2012).
"This year I haven't been fighting it; I've been fishing my style from start to finish at every tournament. I've gone and done what I do and to (heck) with everything else.
"I've been fishing shallow, which is the way I like to fish. Like at Cayuga (where he finished 21st three weeks ago), I spent three practice days out in the deep grass because I knew that was where it was going to be win, and by the time it was over I'd only had eight bites and I hadn't been to the bank yet. Fortunately I'd been there enough to know where to go when I needed to catch them on the bank."
Ready to Taste Victory
Lowen has competed in 144 B.A.S.S. events and is still seeking his first victory (he's finished as the runner-up in Elite derbies three times – in 2015 at the Chesapeake Bay, 2010 at Clear Lake and 2008 at Old Hickory). He'd love to check that box sooner rather than later, but would rather walk away with this year's AOY trophy.
He'll go into next week's regular-season finale at Oklahoma's Lake Tenkiller (an event that was moved from nearby Fort Gibson Lake due to high water) trailing leader Scott Canterbury by 27 points. Rookie Drew Cook and the red-hot Chris Zaldain sit between him and Canterbury.
"I think the AOY title would mean more," he said. "I've always prided myself on being very consistent and I've had a reputation for that, and that goes back to when I was coming up and having to cash a check every time out to keep going.
"Winning and event would be amazing and winning the AOY would be over the top, but I'll take either one."
He admitted that his position in the points race might have affected his intial approach at Cayuga.
"I think that last event it was really in my head, just because practice didn't go good and I didn't want to drop. I was freaking out, basically.
"I managed to get through that one and for this next one I'll just go fishing and whatever happens will happen. It should be a pretty tough bite and that's normally when I excel."