Story by Justin Brouillard | Photos by Tanner & Travis Lyons
With only Lake Lanier left on the 2023 schedule, Todd Goade takes a 12-point lead into the final event in Georgia on October 26-28. The final stop of the year will decide who takes home the golden crown and wins the 2023 Progressive Angler of the Year title.
On the line for the top 25 is a berth to the first NPFL Championship, where anglers will compete for a top prize of $100,000 and a piece of the $200,000 total purse payout to all 25 qualifiers. The winner of the AOY will receive $20,000 with paid entry fees for the 2024 season.
Leading the pack, Todd Goade has fished flawlessly in 2023 with his worst finish being a pair of 10th-place showings at the first event of the season, Lake Pickwick, and the last event on Eufaula. Sandwiched between, Goade secured a 5th place at Wright Patman, a near victory 2nd place at Santee Cooper, and a 6th place at Saginaw Bay. Goade holds a 12-point lead over Jesse Wise, who’s only slip-up was a 16th-place finish at Saginaw Bay. Goade and Wise have fished near perfect this season with a 2023 NPFL schedule that spans from March through October. Anglers faced different conditions in different months in different regions of the country. The winner will have earned $20,000 and the golden trophy.
With plenty of history fishing Lake Lanier, Todd Goade knows the intricacies of catching the bigger-than-average bass. And with his previous knowledge combined with three days of practice, the event cannot come soon enough for the Progressive AOY leader.
“I just have to keep doing my job,” he said. “I have managed to do it all season, and I am looking forward to practice and figuring out what’s happening out there. Checking places from the past and looking for new places, but also expanding on areas will be a good time.”
With age comes experience, and with experience comes handling pressure. Goade had handled his fair share this season and has fished clean all season, with only one fishing day of the season coming up short of a limit.
“I weighed in a limit every day this year besides the first day of the season at Pickwick,” he added. “I lost two fish but it clued me into how I ended up catching them the rest of the week and I finished tenth place. I had the confidence I was going to catch five and it worked out and ultimately set up my season.”
Goade’s mindset has been the same all season; weigh in 15 bass. His plan for Lanier is more of the same and he notes with his experience, a limit a day will put him where he wants to be.
“If I fish the way I am going to fish, and do that (a limit each day), I’ve done my job and will be okay. I have a game plan for this event and with changing conditions during our event, and conditions changing daily in the fall, I have seen it and will adjust accordingly.”
Having a phenomenal season himself, Jesse Wise can’t look back and not be thrilled with the way things turned out, regardless of what happens at Lanier. He has a championship qualification secured and is ready to get down to Georgia and finish the season out however it was meant to happen.
“I am a firm believer in the fact that things happen how they are supposed to,” he said. “Only the good lord knows and if it’s not my time, I’ll say congrats and come back strong next season.”
Wise spent some time before the off-limits and did a lot of looking around. He believes the NPFL field will catch some fish and thinks the overall bite should be good. As good of a season as he has had, each day comes with decisions and like Goade, he has been able to put five fish in the boat every day at every event – besides one.
“At Eufaula, on day two, I lost a 2.5-pound bass and was one fish shy of a limit. I lost a four-pounder on day one but still had a limit,” he added. “Those two fish would make this final event even closer than it is, and seven places in Oklahoma would have made it more interesting. Hats off to Todd for executing and getting another top ten.”
Wise knows he is in a great position, but needs to both do his job and hope others struggle. For a chance at winning, he is setting his sights on a top three to give a fighting chance.
“I won’t wish bad upon anyone, but I need to sneak in and win this event to have a shot. Todd also needs to struggle, which for him, will still get paid and have a good finish. So, I have nothing to lose and I am going for the win.”
In pre-practice, Wise located both spotted and largemouth bass, and although spots would be the consistent pattern, the fall presents an opportunity to catch a big largemouth and move up in the standings.
“Solid 3-pound fish will do well, but adding in a kicker largemouth will put you up. I don’t know yet how I will fish, but I have nothing to lose; I made the championship and I need to win. I’ll be fishing differently at this event. I don’t need to get paid; I need to win.”
Catching them at lakes all across the country is not easy, but Wise credits his travel partners for making the season not only successful on the water but also making the time away from home a good time.
“I travel with some great guys, and breaking down water with a few other folks goes a long way. Our group’s success this season has shown, and I root for those guys, and they root for me. I like for those guys to succeed, and they mean everything to me; it’s been awesome,” he added.