FABIANO CLAIMS 4TH AOY – ROOKIE, FAILS TAKES 1ST AOY & TOC TOP 10
It has been a wild season, actually I take that back – I don’t remember most of it. This seems to be the story of my life the last few years. With the increase and growth in my two small businesses; Arsenal Fishing and Arsenal Customs, my time, energy and efforts have been greatly decreased in order to maintain the growth and keep clientele happy. Unfortunately, my customers always come first over my fishing. Without my businesses, I would not be able to fish and compete the amount I do once the ice comes off our midwestern lakes. With this being said – my practice time and focus was compromised this year and a majority of the events I competed in outside Lunker Squad, I ended up falling short, or being bubble boy as usual in the standings. However, looking back at the season inside and outside of Lunker Squad – I definitely used a lot of knowledge I learned in previous years, along side not listening to any dock talk in order to dissect lakes correctly and find the winning fish. My downfall? I had the worst year in my fishing career in terms of fishing clean. This was the year I had the winning fish on my line almost every event and had mechanical failures, personal flubs, and frustrations that resulted in me loosing all my most important fish during most of my largest events. Don’t get me wrong – I had some epic derbies, and took home a few W’s, and a good amount of Top 5’s and 10’s, but it is time to finally use my consistency and be more goal focused on the Top 3s this coming 2022 season.
Regardless of the hurdles I had to make this year, and pushing myself through extremely long days, and short sleep schedules – I knew if I maintained the course and kept consistent throughout all of our 8 Lunker Squad events and setting specific goals I could potentially make a push for AOY. I had to at least take a first place at one event, and I would need at least 3 Top 3’s in order to really have a shot at Angler of the Year. Balsam Lake was our first event this season and normally it is one of my favorites to fish in our schedule each season. My practices showed out quite well for that time of year. I had a strong confidence I was going to win that event, or at least have a top three, but unfortunately I could not find any quality fish, and brought in a limit of 8lbs, which put me in 13th place. This was my worst finish of the entire season. I knew deep down I would not fall short like that again all season, so I already counted that event as my “one drop” for the year. I was extremely disappointed in myself starting off the season in such a difficult spot, but I knew I could bounce back quickly as long as I kept in that Top 6 range for the rest of the season. The next event was Washington-Stella. Boy was practice unreal! I found fish in both lakes, and areas that were pushing out 15-20lbs of both largemouth and smallmouth. I knew I had a variety of spots to take up our time that day. Unfortunately for me the fun, hook-set filled day came to a rough close when temperatures outside reached over 100, and our smallmouth in the live well were not liking the water temps. Along with the temp issues, my brand new Vexus VX20 was having live well malfunctions and was slowly killing our fish throughout the entire day. I had to race to put the weigh-station together but by the time my partner and I got our fish to the scales, my co-angler’s fish were all dead, and I had lost 3 fish to the heat and boat malfunction. These dead fish costed me a 2nd place, and I ended up winning the tie-breaker in 4th place against Arnold Helgerson. Not only did this cost me premium points in the standings, but a pay-day as well. The next four regular season events I was able to stay in the Top 5, placing 2nd on Green Lake, which is one of my best lakes – again losing because of a few very big missed opportunities, and then grabbing four 5th places. The consistency of my regular season kept me chasing that AOY dream throughout the entire season and putting me in 4th place going into the 2-Day Championship on Lake Le Homme Dieu.
Going into the Championship in 4th Place, I knew I had to put my head down, focus, put in a considerable amount of practice and grind these two days down to the bone. I had about a week of experience on these bodies of water 3 years prior for my first Champions Tour event of my career. Not only did I go home with my very first ChampTour check that day, I also learned a lot about the lake that I was able to apply to my practices and lake breakdown for our Lunker Squad Championship. One sadness I had going into these events was that the leading angler in AOY, Matt Pasma was double scheduled that weekend and after a terrific season was unable to show up and fish for the Championship and protect his potential Angler of the Year title. As much as this disappoints me since I want to beat the best at all circumstances, knowing this put the rest of the others in Top 3 in crazy striking distance. This means no slipping, fishing insanely clean and capitalizing on every opportunity that comes your way. Prior to blasting off that morning Arnold Helgerson approached me and asked where I was starting knowing very well I was fishing the same areas as himself. We gave each other professional courtesy and pre-talked about where and how we would both start on the same strip of shoreline. My strip was extremely windy were I told him I would start so I rushed through that area. We ended up playing hop-scotch on one another for a good 200-300 yard stretch. After Arnold hopped me the first time, the very next dock I caught my first fish which was a 4.81 largemouth that instantly put me in the correct mood, and got my kicker off my back. This allowed me to fish calm, be accurate with my flips, pitches and skips for the remainder of the day. I was able to put my favorite jig in my hand the entire day and I capitalized on every cast I took. Having the confidence in knowing my favorite bait was going-off I knew I could really do damage. However, the conditions were not ideal, and I knew this would hurt the majority of the group, or at least spin most of them out. This is where my consistency with grabbing limits would come into play and work for my benefit on Day 1. I ended up coming in 2nd Place with 13-10 and winning Big Bass with that 4.81. The weather for Day 2 was forecasted to be even worse, which in term – spun a handful of guys out once again. I knew it would not effect my efforts, and I would do exactly what I did Day 1, but moving water fast, and fishing stretches I passed up in the area on Day 1. I put my Arsenal Sniper Swim Jig in my hand and immediately went to work in the morning with my co-angler. The wind was brutal and it made both Arnold and myself fish much faster and adjust to new areas. I noticed Helgerson leave the area within an hour, and as much as it was pushing me to move out of the area as well, I knew if I put my head down and put my bait in very specific areas I would get bites that he missed, or bites he passed up. I combed through my areas for nearly 6 hours and I couldn’t do wrong. I would call my shots to my co-angler Xavier. He was amazed how I would get my swim jig in the tightest areas, and flip continual 2.5-3.0 pounders into the boat throughout the course of most of the day. The last two areas we ran around the rest of the lake in hopes to find a kicker fish, and help Xavier get his limit. I was glad that we took the risk to new water, because within 4-5 docks I called another shot and stuck a 3.75 that culled out a 2lber and really jumped me into that high 16lb range. I didn’t feel confident that I would take the W, but I knew I would be flirting for the Championship Cup and AOY with the fish I found that day. I ended up battling it out with Arnold Helgerson. I weighed 16-13 giving me the W for the Day over Arnold, but unfortunately Arnolds two day total beat me by .33 ounces, which crowned him the 2-Day Championship winner. Overall with my consistency this year, fishing all events, and my two best finishes during the Championship earned me my 4th Angler of the Year victory in the Lunker Squad Series out of the 7 running seasons. Don’t think that this old man is going to let off the gas – I am coming for you all in 2022.
TREY FAILS SEASON REVIEW
Prior to the 2021 Season, I knew I wanted to dive deeper into the world of Tournament Fishing and put my skills/knowledge to the test against other anglers in the state. I was trying to find a club that would challenge me at every event, but also a club that would help younger anglers improve their skillsets and prepare them to fish at the next level. After talking with some people that were both current and past members of Lunker Squad, who had nothing but positives to say about the club, I decided to sign up as a Co-Angler for the 2021 season and give it a shot.
Coming into the season, I really wanted to keep an open mind. I didn’t want to set a bunch of unrealistic goals and find myself frustrated after every event when I didn’t meet them, so I kept them simple. I only had 3 goals coming into the season; 1) Learn as much as possible. 2) Bring in a limit every event. 3) Win 1 of the 6 events on the schedule. I met all but one goal after failing to bring in a limit on the river in our 3rd event of the season, but was able to secure my very first tournament win and I can confidently say I learned a lot more in Lunker Squad than I ever imagined I could learn in one season of fishing.
Without having high expectations during the year, I found myself fishing loose and thoroughly enjoying every minute on the water. Other than the river event (which I used as my drop), I was able to finish in the top 5 during the first few events of the season, which put me at the top of the leaderboard for AOY Points. These consistent finishes in the beginning of the season qualified me to fish the 2021 MNBASS State Tournament. This was a 2-Day event down on the river, where I had my worst event of the season, so my stress levels were high. That being said, I was able to pull it together and took 8th place overall which put me on the MN State Team to fish the Regional Tournament in 2022. I rode the momentum I gained from State into the rest of our Lunker Squad Club events and remained at the top of the AOY leaderboard for Co-Anglers, securing the Angler of the Year Title my first year in the club! After the first club event, I would never have guessed I would have been fishing in the State Tournament, let alone finishing in the Top-10. And I really didn’t think I would be the 2021 Co-Angler of the Year in one of the biggest and most competitive clubs in the state. Keep your mind open and enjoy the process, you never know where the process will take you!