Bainbridge angler wins AFT National Angler of the Year

Published 6:27 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bainbridge angler Matt Baty won National Angler of the Year on the American Fishing Tour for the 2116 season after finishing in second in the national championship tournament on Lake Eufaula.

Baty competes in division 114 of the AFT out of Sneads. His division holds six tournaments throughout the year on Lake Seminole. Baty won three of the six tournaments and finished second and third in two of the others to claim the angler of the year award for his division and qualify for a chance to compete for the national angler of the year award at the national championship.

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“They take the angler of the year in each division and the highest finishing angler of the year in that tournament is deemed the national angler of the year,” Baty said.

The championship was held Oct. 19-21 on Lake Eufaula in Alabama and featured 247 of the top anglers on the American Fishing Tour.

“After the first day I was 27th,” Baty said. “I had ten pounds on the first day. After the second day, I caught 15 pounds, I was in eighth place.”

Baty had spent the first two days fishing at the lower end of the lake, but a sudden weather change forced him to change to a different part of the lake.

“I had found my fish way down south in the lower ends of the lake, but that cold front blew in and the lake was so rough that I could not get to my fish,” he said. “I made a last minute decision to turn around.”

The change paid off, as Baty found a “magical spot” that propelled him up the leader board on the final place and into second place overall.

“I didn’t plan on fishing this spot in the tournament,” Baty said. “I just made an instinctive decision to fish that spot and when I did that’s when I caught the 19 pounds in about 45 minutes. I caught eight fish in that spot.”

On the final day, the weights are not announced publically during the weigh in leaving Baty and his fellow anglers in suspense until the banquet that evening.

“I didn’t know what I had won,” Baty said. “I knew I was up there because I had the biggest bag of the day, but I didn’t know what I had.”

He realized that his magical third day must have had a major impact when the tournament director called him before the banquet and said that they needed him to take a polygraph test.

“When she did that that’s when it hit me that I’ve won something big,” Baty said. “They wouldn’t make me take a polygraph test if I hadn’t won something big. That’s when the nerves started.”

With his three-day total of 44.72 pounds, Baty finished second overall in the tournament and first in the competition for National Angler of the Year. With the title, Baty won a 2016 Triton 21TRX boat and a two year lease of a Dodge Ram truck.

“I still didn’t think it was real until they called me up on the stage and said here’s your keys,” Baty said. 

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