AOY Club: Jay Yelas

Category: Tournament

 Oct 15th, 2014 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Oct 15th, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Earning the title Angler of the Year (AOY) is certainly a goal for many aspiring and current pro anglers. Many anglers, if not most, view the AOY title as more important and a greater achievement than winning the Bassmaster Classic or the Forrest Wood Cup. Taking home the AOY title is a sign of a complete angler who has been consistently good, if not great, for a full season. Not someone who achieved greatness at one event.

One such angler who has achieved such elite status is Mercury pro Jay Yelas. In fact, Yelas has achieved the AOY title three times. Twice in the FLW in 2002 and 2007. Once with B.A.S.S. in 2003. Yelas shares his insight into his three AOY titles and how he’s been able to achieve such lofty status.

Multiple AOY title holder Jay Yelas (Joel Shangle)

Yelas just stumbled into the AOY title.

“Seriously, I’m not sure there ever was a plan on how to win the AOY title,” said Yelas. “You kind of stumble into them as the season goes along. Sure, you want to win it. It is the most coveted title among the pros. Earning the title kind of unfolds as the year goes on. It just falls into place.”


“In 2002, I was second in the FLW standings behind the venerable Kevin VanDam going into the last event,” said Yelas. “I was something like 46 points behind him. The last event of the year was taking place at Lake Champlain, a northern lake that many observers thought was perfect for Kevin.

“Well, Kevin stumbled. He didn’t make the cut and I needed to finish 12th or higher to win the title. I believe I finished 9th. I barely snuck in to win.

“I used a spinning rod for almost all of my fish I weighed in 2002. I was steady and consistent. I never thought you could win the AOY fishing with spinning gear all year.”


“I won the Bassmaster Classic the previous year in 2002,” said Yelas. “This was the first year I wasn’t thinking about trying to win the AOY. It was not a goal. I was in great demand. I missed a lot of practice days. I was being run ragged making appearances as the reigning Classic champ.

“That year B.A.S.S. had 10 events. We fished from coast-to-coast, from California all the way to Florida. Somehow I was in the lead heading into the last event on the Alabama River. I ended up winning AOY.

“Looking back at the fish I weighed that year, over 40 percent were caught using a spinnerbait. Totally different from my first FLW AOY in 2002.”


“I will always think of my 2007 AOY win in the FLW as the year of the swimbait,” said Yelas. “I was one of the first guys on tour throwing a swimbait. In my case, it was a hollow-bodied swimbait. The bass had never seen it much before. I certainly had an edge lure-wise in 2007.”

Yelas can’t tell fish what to do.

“You need to listen to the fish if you want to win the AOY,” said Yelas. “You can’t tell the fish how you want to catch them. You can’t be rigid or set in your ways if you want to be a consistent angler who has a chance to win AOY or qualify for 20-plus consecutive Classics or Forrest Wood Cups.

“Sticking with one or two techniques may lead you to more individual victories over a career, but that won’t get you an AOY title.”

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