UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Potomac River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

AOY Update: Lake Hartwell

AOY Update: Lake Hartwell

It might seem hard to believe considering we’re only two tournaments into the Walmart FLW Tour season, but the Tour’s Angler of the Year race is already one-third of the way over. The early contenders for the title have emerged, while some of the preseason favorites for AOY have slipped out of contention.

Also of note is that a few Forrest Wood Cup preseason favorites are in a dangerous place in the standings and must make up points at the next tournament on Beaver Lake in April if they even want to have a shot at the Cup.

Let’s dig a little deeper on a few of the contenders.

Complete standings

 

John Cox (37-1)

1. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 389 points

Cox is fast approaching the $600,000 career earnings mark thanks to his recent $100,000 victory at Lake Hartwell. The Florida pro is also on an incredible run. He finished second to Scott Martin in the 2015 AOY race and currently sits atop the 2016 standings.

In his last six regular-season events, which include the 2015 season and the first two tournaments of 2016, Cox is averaging a finish of 20.66th place. That’s about what it takes to win AOY – a top-20 finish at every stop.

Cox continues to prove that his minimalist, shallow-centric approach to tournament fishing can produce big results on the Walmart FLW Tour. Generally, the Tour presents him with a string of tournaments that fall on the prespawn, spawn and postspawn seasons, and that’s a big part of why he’s been so successful. There are always hawgs shallow that time of year.

Lake Hartwell was right in Cox’s wheelhouse. The fish moved up, and he was able to sight-fish and target bank-dwellers the entire event. Now the Tour heads to Beaver Lake, where Cox made a top 10 last year and there’s almost always a shallow largemouth bite in spring tournaments, and there could be a sight bite this time. Last year he ran way upriver to an area so shallow and wood-strewn that FLW’s media team honestly considered borrowing a kayak to reach him. Perhaps that strategy will be in play again for Cox and his aluminum rig.

Winning AOY will not come without its challenges for the sixth-year pro. After Beaver, the Tour heads to Pickwick. Most assumed there’d be plenty of fish shallow on the Tennessee River lake, and probably there will be. But with the warm spring most of the Southeast has experienced, it’s highly likely that there’ll be a mix of deep and shallow patterns. For Cox, success could depend on how many shallow anglers he’ll have to contend with, and just how good the offshore bite will be. After that, Kentucky Lake is practically guaranteed to be won offshore – the entire top 20 might come from the ledges. But, there are always big fish shallow there too. The season wraps up on Champlain, where everyone will be catching them and Cox will have to consider making the big run to Ticonderoga in his aluminum modified-V-hull boat. That’s a tough call.

Cox has proved he can catch them shallow anywhere, anytime. Should be exciting to see how the rest of the season goes.

 

#TeamCanada

The Canadian Contingent

2. Chris Johnston – Peterborough, Ontario – 387 points      

6. Jeff Gustafson – Keewatin, Ontario – 364 points

10. Cory Johnston – Cavan, Ontario – 356 points        

Honestly, it’s not fair to lump the Johnston brothers and Gussy together into one group just because they’re all Canadian and all in the top 10 of the AOY standings. Each is a fantastic angler in his own right. Yet, I’m going to do it just this one time anyway.

The three are good friends and room together at some events. The Johnstons share all fishing information, and Cory says they share some intel with Gussy, though Gussy found his own program at Hartwell and rode it to a top 10.

Most importantly, the willingness to work together is a huge advantage on Tour, especially since the Johnstons are rookies. The strategy worked at Okeechobee, where Cory finished third. At Hartwell the Johnstons sight-fished. Next up is Beaver, a lake where pattern fishing wins and having two anglers working together could shorten the patterning process. Oh, and Gussy has done well there before.

After that, the Tour goes to Pickwick. Gussy has a top 10 on his resume there. Then it’s Kentucky Lake, where practice is spent idling for hours on end. Imagine how many schools two anglers could find in three days of searching.

And finally the Tour wraps up on the one lake where you’d most likely expect the Ontario trio to do well: Lake Champlain.

Currently, Chris is just two points behind Cox in a neck-and-neck race. Gussy is 25 points back. It’s a hill, but it’s by no means insurmountable with four tournaments remaining. Ditto for Cory and his 33-point deficit. One of these three will still be in the hunt at Champlain, where Chris and Cory will probably also be duking it out for Rookie of the Year.

 

Jamie Horton (62-9)

3. Jamie Horton – Centerville, Ala. – 381 points         

Though he’s a first-timer on the Walmart FLW Tour, Horton isn’t a rookie angler. The Centerville, Ala., pro spent a few years on the Bassmaster Elite Series before joining the Tour. The switch seems to have suited him well. Horton finished 18th at Okeechobee and third at Hartwell and is only eight points behind Cox.

Horton has a long track record of FLW Bass Fishing League success on Lake Martin, Logan Martin, Neely Henry and Lay Lake, as well as others, and it sounds like his preferred types of fishing line up perfectly with most of the lakes on Tour.

“I’m a big-time largemouth guy versus spots,” says Horton. “My favorite type of fishing is swimming a jig, I love sight-fishing and I like fishing ledges a lot. My weak points are finesse fishing and clear water. The only way I can catch them in clear water is if I can see them on beds.”

Obviously, the conditions at Hartwell played right into Horton’s hand. It’s a clear lake, but he was able to sight-fish the entire tournament. He’s also been putting in the prep time. Horton works four 10-hour days each week as a fabrication manager for a construction company. On Fridays, he bugs out and practices for events that are within a reasonable drive, or on lakes that are similar to those on the Tour schedule.

“Beaver is going to be extremely challenging for me, especially if they’re not on beds,” he adds. “I have spent a lot of time in the last month or so preparing for the two together, Hartwell and Beaver. By that I mean I’ve spent a lot of time fishing clear water. I know that’s the weakest point I have. It scares me more than anything. I’m learning that fish bite better in clear water probably than dirty water. You just have to change what you’re doing, and it’s more of a head thing for me.”

Horton says he’s more comfortable than ever now that he’s with FLW. He’s fishing around old friends, and his confidence on the water is high. If he can get on a few at Beaver, expect more solid finishes from the Alabama pro.

 

Scott Martin waits on his turn to weigh.

Previous AOYs        

7. Clark Wendlandt – Leander, Texas – 363 points    

8. Scott Martin – Clewiston, Fla. – 361 points

Cox can’t be comfortable having these two just a few spots behind him in the AOY race. Martin ruined Cox’s AOY dreams last year when Cox slipped at the Potomac and Martin made the top 10. Martin should stay strong the next few events. He has as much experience as anyone on Beaver Lake and probably doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves as a solid ledge fisherman. And if this race comes down to Cox and Martin at Champlain, the nod has to go to Martin, who’s won there before.

Wendlandt is a three-time AOY who has returned to his old form the last couple of seasons. Expect him to stay right at the top of the standings after Beaver Lake. After all, he used to be known as Mr. Beaver Lake because of his success on the White River impoundment – he won there twice. If Beaver becomes a sight-fishing contest, Wendlandt is one of the best ever at “lookin’ at ’em.”

One of these veterans will be in the top five when the season ends; you can almost bank on it.

 

Cup contenders on the bubble

It’s early, sure, but a few anglers who most would consider to be favorites at the Forrest Wood Cup on Wheeler Lake – if they make it – are already at risk of not qualifying. The top 35 in the standings go to the Cup.

- Jonathan Newton doesn’t live far from Wheeler. He’s in 34th place and is safe for now – but barely.

- Wesley Strader is in 36th, one spot out of the cut.

- Jay Kendrick is a Tennessee River stick who’s in 38th right now.

- Alex Davis, in 40th, finished runner-up at Okeechobee but bombed at Hartwell with a 105th-place finish. He’s a guide on Guntersville, which is one lake upstream from Wheeler.

- Ledge master Michael Wooley is 42nd.

- Cody Meyer might not be known as a Tennessee River stick, but it’s noteworthy that he’s in 52nd in the standings. Since 2011, he’s never finished lower than 15th.

- One of rookie Luke Dunkin’s motivating factors to move from co to pro this year was the Cup site at Wheeler, which is one of his home lakes. He’s in 56th. 

- Bryan Thrift recovered from his 132nd-place showing at Okeechobee by finishing fifth at Hartwell and now sits in 57th place in the standings.

- Tom Redington is an offshore whiz, but he’s currently in 93rd.

- The most notable angler who’s in danger of missing the Cup is Jason lambert. Currently in 159th, Lambert is probably the local favorite if he makes it to Wheeler.

 

Current Top 10

1. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 389 points

2. Chris Johnston – Peterborough, Ontario – 387 points

3. Jamie Horton – Centerville, Ala. – 381 points

4. Jeff Sprague – Point, Texas – 374 points

5. Darrel Robertson – Jay, Okla. – 367 points

6. Jeff Gustafson – Keewatin, Ontario – 364 points

7. Clark Wendlandt – Leander, Texas – 363 points

8. Scott Martin – Clewiston, Fla. – 361 points

9. Jim Tutt – Longview, Texas – 360 points

10. Cory Johnston – Cavan, Ontario – 356 points

Tags: curtis-niedermier  post-tournament  2016-03-17-lake-hartwell 

Top 10 Patterns from Clear Lake

Top 10 Patterns from Clear Lake

An unwavering commitment to one fish-laden area enabled Kyle Grover to earn his first Costa FLW Series win with a three-day total of 66 pounds, 13 ounces at the Western Division event at Clear Lake. The tournament was presented by Ranger Boaters and hosted by Konocti Vista Casino Resort & Marina. READ MORE »

2019 BFL All-American Roster

2019 BFL All-American Roster

The 98 best boaters and co-anglers from FLW’s grassroots ranks will compete on the Potomac River May 30-June 1 in the 2019 T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American presented by General Tire. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Clear Lake

Top 10 Baits from Clear Lake

Even though cold, windy and rainy conditions challenged the field throughout the event, Clear Lake still showed the caliber of fish that swim in it during the second stop of the Costa FLW Series Western Division season, which was presented by Ranger Boats.   READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns From Table Rock

Top 10 Patterns From Table Rock

Fishing at Table Rock during the Costa FLW Series Central Division event, presented by Power-Pole, was pretty remarkable, at least until it wasn’t. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Table Rock

Top 10 Baits from Table Rock

It really didn’t matter what pros threw at Table Rock. The fish were probably going to eat it. Yet, despite a banner practice, things certainly got tougher throughout the Costa FLW Series Central Division event, which was presented by Power-Pole. Thus, pros needed to continually adapt to the conditions with their offerings.Here’s a look at the lures that helped the top 10 anglers.  READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Chickamauga

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Chickamauga

The timing of the FLW Tour event at Lake Chickamauga was both a curse and a blessing for the top 10 finishers. There were plenty of fish to be had – and on a multitude of patterns – but the big double-digit females Chick is known for were hard to track down. READ MORE »

ROY Update: Lake Chickamauga

ROY Update: Lake Chickamauga

We didn’t bother with an update on the Polaris FLW Tour Rookie of the Year race after the fifth stop of the FLW Tour season at Cherokee Lake. At that point, Miles Burghoff had the overall lead in the AOY standings and a 108-point lead for ROY. It looked like it was locked up. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake Chickamauga

Top 10 Baits from Lake Chickamauga

Most people probably don’t equate Lake Chickamauga to spinning rods and finesse techniques, but both were prevalent during the FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude on Chick. Plenty of pros threw swimbaits, jigs and crankbaits, but the common thread among most of the top 10 is the use of a stick bait (usually wacky- or Texas-rigged) to target bedding or postspawn fish still hanging in the shallows.  READ MORE »

Korostetskyi Crowned Kayak Champ at Nickajack

Korostetskyi Crowned Kayak Champ at Nickajack

Bogdan Korostetskyi won the Dee Zee FLW/KBF Kayak Open presented by YakAttack at Nickajack Lake with a two-day total of 174.25 inches of largemouth bass. He caught his winning fish on a ChatterBait. READ MORE »

Korostetskyi Leads Kayak Open on Nickajack

Korostetskyi Leads Kayak Open on Nickajack

Bogdan Korostetskyi leads day one of the Dee Zee FLW/KBF Kayak Open presented by YakAttack at Nickajack Lake with a total catch of 92 1/2 inches. All of his fish were largemouth bass that he caught using aggressive baits on very precise spots. READ MORE »

Emergency Eye Surgery Derails Horton’s Cup Hopes

Emergency Eye Surgery Derails Horton’s Cup Hopes

On Thursday, for the first time in eight years as a pro and 25 years as a competitive bass angler, Jamie Horton won’t cross the weigh-in stage on a tournament day when he’d planned to compete. Instead, the Alabama pro will be back in his Centerville home recovering from emergency eye surgery to repair a severely detached and torn retina in his right eye.  READ MORE »

Nichols Wins Southeastern AOY, Shot at Tour

Nichols Wins Southeastern AOY, Shot at Tour

Within the FLW tournament hierarchy, there’s plenty of youth and enthusiasm to go around, but only so many spots on the FLW Tour. That’s why 27-year-old Cody Nichols of Fayette, Ala., isn’t going to let his opportunity to join the Tour pass him by in 2020. Nichols is the 2019 Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division Strike King Angler of the Year. By finishing in the top five in the division standings, he qualifies to join the Tour next season. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Santee Cooper

Top 10 Patterns from Santee Cooper

Santee Cooper is full of 30-pound stringers. It’s also been known as a lake that will humble an angler quick. Bradford Beavers had experienced that before, having twice before weighed in 30-plus-pound stringers in tournaments on his home lake only to bomb the next day. Well, third time was the charm. After weighing in 31-02 on day one of the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division event presented by Power-Pole, he managed to back it up on day two by fishing both lakes for his first signature victory. Of course, he had to hold off some hard charges from some veteran locals to do it. Here’s how they and the other top pros managed to carve out their own patterns and stay consistent on Santee. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Santee Cooper

Top 10 Baits from Santee Cooper

There were three predominant patterns at Santee Cooper: Pitching wacky rigs to cypress trees, sight-fishing and the shad spawn. Yet, they weren’t the only patterns, as a couple locals managed to do plenty of damage with some locals-only offshore patterns at the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division season finale presented by Power-Pole. READ MORE »

Catch Fish, Cure Childhood Cancer

Catch Fish, Cure Childhood Cancer

There may never have been a better excuse to go fishing than curing childhood cancer. Now, if you participate in the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation (NPCF) All American Fishing Tournament, you can help be a part of funding critical research to do just that. The All American Fishing Tournament is a one-of-a-kind multi-species nationwide event. It started April 6 and ends Sept. 28. Participants can target 10 species of freshwater and saltwater fish during the tournament, with prizes of $500, $300 and $200 awarded for the three largest catches of each species.  READ MORE »

The Miles Burghoff Master Plan

The Miles Burghoff Master Plan

Miles Burghoff is in a rare position. He’s a rookie on the FLW Tour, and he’s leading the 2019 Angler of the Year race with two tournaments left to fish. Traditionally, the AOY frontrunners are veteran pros in the prime of their careers, not rookies who are often still trying to learn their way around a full season of Tour competition. Burghoff, however, isn’t your traditional rookie. READ MORE »

Backlash with Jordan Osborne

Backlash with Jordan Osborne

FLW Tour pro Jordan Osborne discusses life in Texas, the business of running a pawnshop and how, as a self-taught bass angler, he's leaned on his competitive drive to overcome the doubters in his quest to make it at the highest levels of tournament bass fishing. READ MORE »

Cup Bubble Boys with Two to Go

Cup Bubble Boys with Two to Go

The top 40 pros in the 2019 FLW Tour standings qualify to fish the FLW Cup on Lake Hamilton Aug. 9-11. For about a dozen pros, the final two events of the season will decide whether they make it in or out. READ MORE »

How to Choose a Swim Jig for Bushes

How to Choose a Swim Jig for Bushes

Allen Boyd’s spinnerbait tactics are featured in the Spring 2019 issue of FLW Bass Fishing magazine. Here’s his advice on choosing and using swim jigs in flooded woody cover. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Cherokee Lake

Top 10 Patterns from Cherokee Lake

Targeting spawning smallmouth bass was by far the dominant pattern when the FLW Tour visited Cherokee Lake in east Tennessee in April. With a few exceptions, the top 10 pros targeted various combinations of rock and gravel banks where the fish were bedding. Finesse baits such as shaky heads, Ned rigs and small swimbaits saw the most work. READ MORE »