The defending Bassmaster Angler of the Year isn't "playing it safe" this year.
Seth Feider made it clear, he never considered a Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year title possible. His most telling comment: "Stuff like that doesn't happen to people like me."
Flash forward nearly a year and with the 2022 Elite season rapidly approaching, the reigning AOY champ said he's still not thinking about a points title. This time, however, he's speaking as an angler motivated by an unexpected accomplishment.
"It was definitely a good confidence boost, but I think I'm going to fish a little differently this year--I'm going to try to win, instead of playing it safe," Feider said. "You still gotta make sure you make the Bassmaster Classic, but second or 35th in the AOY points isn't any different--you're going to the Classic.
"This year, I'd like to win an Elite event. I've never really won a big tournament. I won the Toyota Bassmaster AOY Championship twice (2016 on Mille Lacs, 2019 on Lake St. Clair), but never a four-day, $100,000 tournament."
An admittedly superstitious person, Feider will fish the 2022 season with several lucky charms he kept in his boat throughout 2021. From a rock collected from the shore of Lake Hartwell prior to his first Classic (2018), to four quarters that rode under his console, to a Star Wars action figure (Han Solo dressed in captured storm trooper gear, from Episode IV: A New Hope), he relishes the good vibes these items provide.
Inspiring, no doubt, but the most important motivators Feider will carry into the 2022 Elite season are the memories of overcoming some tough times and proving that he can deliver.
Hailing from New Market, Minnesota, Feider logged an impressive performance, with four top 10's and a boast-worthy record of making all nine semi-final cuts. Never finishing below 29th, Feider placed third at the season-opener on the St. Johns River, notched a fourth-place finish on Lake Champlain and recorded back-to-back sixth places at the Sabine River and Lake Fork
"I learned a lot last year and honestly, my roughest day was the first day of the season," Feider said of the three-hour fog delay that marred Day 1 of the St. Johns River event. "I had a rough practice and lost 3 hours right off the bat, but I ended up finishing third in that event and ended up winning AOY."
Ask him about key lessons and Feider points to the Elite on Pickwick Lake. Despite placing 25th--his second-lowest finish--Feider said this event was probably the most inspiring.
With a major storm postponing the tournament's start by two days and heavy rains pushing the river well past flood stage, anglers had to completely scrap their practice and fish a new scenario. High, muddy water and ripping current presented a challenging scene, but Feider said avoiding a total bomb was a shot in the arm for his confidence.
"I got more comfortable last year and I have a much better mind frame on how to fish big tournaments than I used to have," Feider said. "I gained more confidence knowing stuff will happen and getting less worried about not catching fish in practice. I became more confident in being able to figure it out as the day goes on versus having real set game plans."
Oddly enough, Pickwick was the only Elite event in which Feider had a good practice. When the lake rose 6 feet by tournament time, he started from scratch, figured out a new game plan and earned a paycheck.
"I didn't have the greatest tournament, but it was a good confidence boost for me," Feider said. "It was reassuring because I had never fished a big tournament that was basically a no-practice tournament."
The 2022 Elite season opens with back-to-back Florida events at the St. Johns River and the Harris Chain of Lakes, then conclude with adjacent August events on South Dakota's Lake Oahe and the Upper Mississippi River. Feider said he's largely optimistic about the schedule, but he'll pace himself to avoid mental clutter.
"It's so hard to repeat AOY; it's more about taking it day by day, rather than an overall season picture," Feider said. "You can't get too far ahead of yourself."
Ultimately, Feider said he believes AOY championships defy prediction or planning. In his view, if it's meant to be, it'll happen.
Perspective set, Feider's ready to kick off a new season with momentum, wisdom and experience gained through his 2021 AOY run.
That, and Han Solo.
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