AOY Update: Lake Chickamauga - Major League Fishing

AOY Update: Lake Chickamauga

Nelson holds the lead into the home stretch
Image for AOY Update: Lake Chickamauga
Ron Nelson Photo by Sean Ostruszka. Angler: Ron Nelson.
June 30, 2020 • Jody White • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

Though Jacob Wheeler won the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Chickamauga in grand style, his win didn’t impact the Angler of the Year standings. Only the original Pro Circuit anglers were competing for AOY points. That means the AOY focus is still on Ron Nelson, who slipped off his blazing pace a bit, but still holds the lead heading into the final two regular-season events in July and August on the Mississippi River and the Detroit River, respectively.

Full standings


Ron Nelson

762 points – Ron Nelson

Nelson started the Chickamauga event off in eighth place and looked like he was on cruise control. Unfortunately for him, a tough day two and day three dropped him to a 41st-place finish. Historically, that’s far from a deal-breaker for an AOY title, but it did give his competition a chance to make up some ground on him.

Though Matt Becker (formerly in second in the AOY race) was stymied by Chick again, Nelson’s lead still slipped from 29 points to 26 points. Moving up from third to second, Jon Canada can now apply the heat to Nelson in the final two events.

The next two tournaments on the Mississippi River and Detroit River (which includes Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie) set up well for Nelson. Though he doesn’t have a tremendous amount of history on any of those bodies of water, he’s succeeded plenty of times in conditions that are at least in the ballpark. As far as being comfortable in those final events, the Michigan angler has more time on the water fishing up north than anyone in the top 10 by a wide margin.


Jon Canada

736 points – Jon Canada

Canada is hot as a pistol this year. By finishing 25th at Chickamauga and mounting a furious comeback on days two and three to do so, the Alabama pro has put himself well within striking distance heading to a shallow, grassy river where he ought to feel right at home.

Canada had a pretty rough rookie season on the FLW Tour in 2019, but this year, as a sophomore pro on the Pro Circuit, he seems to have really come into his own. It’s not entirely a surprise considering his stellar record in the tough Southeastern Division of the Toyota Series, but competing for an AOY this soon is remarkable.

Closing a 26-point gap is not a huge task, and based on Canada’s skills, he could do it at the Mississippi River and nobody would be surprised. But, finishing ahead of Nelson on the Mississippi feels like an entirely different proposition than beating him in a smallmouth derby on the Great Lakes. So, Canada is not out of it by any means, but he’s still got a bit of a hill to climb.


John Cox

736 points – John Cox

If it was a guarantee that Cox was fishing the whole season, he would have easily been the odds-on favorite for AOY. As is, he’s right in the hunt and has been able to fish every event so far. In the world we’re in, scheduling tournaments is more in flux than ever, so it wouldn’t actually be a surprise to see Cox somehow finish out the entire season without having to miss a Pro Circuit event for an overlapping Elite Series event.

If Cox does manage to finish the season, he’s got to be accounted for. A good finish at the Mississippi River is a virtual certainty. The fishery is perfect for him, and he only barely missed the cut in last summer’s Bassmaster Open there. Similar to Canada, Cox isn’t really built for the Great Lakes, but he does have a walleye boat and an offshore win under his belt already this year, so it’s hard to say anything is impossible when it comes to Cox.


Spencer Shuffield

708 points – Spencer Shuffield

Sitting 54 points off the lead and 28 points out of second, Shuffield is a bit of a longshot with just two events left. Still, he’s been fishing at a feverish pace in the last two events, finishing third at Martin and powering to a 12th-place finish at Chickamauga in the Super Tournament.

Shuffield is beginning to look like the kind of angler that you expect to win a national AOY at some point. Looking ahead to the final two events, you can’t really see much opportunity for a misstep. Still, he’s got a lot of ground to make up and some capable anglers that are likely to stand between him and the title.


Grae Buck

700 points – Grae Buck

In Buck’s fourth year as a pro, things finally seem to be clicking. The Pennsylvania pro really hasn’t had a bad finish all season, and though he hasn’t contended for a win like the rest of the top five, he’s been right there in basically every event.

The rest of the schedule should be a piece of cake for Buck. Though the Potomac and Chesapeake aren’t perfectly analogous to the Mississippi, you can’t deny that Buck has a wealth of experience on grassy rivers. As for the challenge of Great Lakes smallies, there probably isn’t a tournament outside the TITLE that has him more pumped up.


Miles Burghoff

The rest of the pack

The rest of the top 10 in the standings is packed freakishly tight and loaded with young pros that are coming into their own at lightspeed. Tenth-place pro Miles Burghoff is just 14 points back of Buck, who’s in fifth. Between them are Dylan Hays, Jacob Wall, Joshua Weaver and Matt Becker. Depending on the line you want to take, you could build an argument for any of them to rip off a pair of top-10 finishes the rest of the way. Though knocking off Nelson will be hard, don’t be surprised if the top five in points ends up looking a lot different by the end of the season.


The current top 10

1. Ron Nelson – Berrien Springs, Mich. – 762 points

2. Jon Canada – Helena, Ala. – 736

3. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 735

4. Spencer Shuffield – Hot Springs, Ark. – 708

5. Grae Buck – Green Lane, Pa. – 700

6. Dylan Hays – El Dorado, Ark. – 699

7. Jacob Wall – New Hope, Ala. – 692

8. Joshua Weaver – Macon, Ga. – 688

9. Matt Becker – Finleyville, Pa. – 688

10. Miles Burghoff – Soddy-Daisy, Tenn. – 686

Full standings