Todd Auten PAA AOY

Neely Henry Lake has been pretty doggone good to Ranger Boats pro Todd Auten.

The quiet veteran from South Carolina came here two years ago and won a storm-shortened PAA Tournament Series event in spring. Twenty-eight months later, in the heat of summer, Auten returned last week to make a run at another title.

He locked up the PAA Angler of the Year award in a runaway as his two closest competitors faltered. Only eight points in the season standings separated Auten from Gene Larew pro Tommy Biffle of Oklahoma and Hefty pro Mike McClelland of Arkansas.

By Friday night, Auten was the only man left standing. Neither Biffle nor McClelland made Saturday's final-day cut. Auten was in fourth place going into the day, charging hard at the win and trying to make it a weekend double.

Auten joins Biffle (2010) and Kinami pro Steve Kennedy of Auburn (2009) as PAA Anglers of the Year. Auten will receive free entry into the 2012 Bass Pro Shops PAA Tournament Series along with a MinnKota trolling motor and T-H Marine Atlas Jackplate.

Consistency proved to be key this season and has been part of Auten's low-key approach during his career.

"I'd say here lately that yeah, I've been consistent," he said. "Just a few years ago, though, it was up and down, up and down. I think one thing that helps is we go to lakes that favor my style of fishing. If we were somewhere like Kentucky Lake where everything's deep it might be different."

During his career Auten has accumulated more than $707,750 in winnings and 25 finishes in the Top 10. He's a perennial threat to make a cut in any event, but seems to shine more in the brutal summer heat that perplexes some anglers.

One of Auten's go-to baits, maybe his primary one, is a white vibrating jig or a swim jig. In summer when conventional wisdom says fish go deep, Auten will be in skinny water flinging the wiggling, jiggling bait. It's something he enjoys, he covers water, it's pretty easy and, most of all, it works.

Auten took the point standings lead after the PAA Tournament Series event on Table Rock in June. Biffle and McClelland knew overtaking him, even just a few points behind, wouldn't be easy on Neely Henry.

"Todd's a tough angler wherever we go," Biffle said. "He likes that shallow stuff like I do and it seems like he's always going to be right there."

Auten cut his teeth on Lake Wylie in South Carolina, "which is loaded with docks," he said, "and if you didn't learn how to fish docks then you were going to get your tail whipped. I just learned to fish them and what to look for around them."

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