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Reasons to be Excited for the 2016 Season

Reasons to be Excited for the 2016 Season
FLW International Division

The FLW staff is stoked for the 2016 tournament season! Over the next few weeks we'll be highlighting 10 reasons you should be too. Check back each day for a new update.


10. International Fishing

For the first time ever, anglers in Canada, South Korea, Mexico and China have the opportunity to qualify for the FLW Series Championship in 2016 as part of the Series’ new International Division. Top boaters and co-anglers will qualify for the championship through FLW-sanctioned events in their home countries. The top finisher from the International Division at the FLW Series Championship goes to the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup, making it the first true world championship of bass fishing.

Coolness factor aside, FLW’s International Division is a huge potential growth opportunity for the sport of tournament bass fishing. Anglers around the world won’t have to uproot and come to the U.S. to partake in the most competitive tournaments, and the angler audience has great new opportunities to grow. That’s good for everyone in the industry.


9. The Invitationals

Lake Norman

With two Walmart FLW Tour Invitationals slated for Sept. 15-17 on Lake Norman and Oct. 20-22 on Norris Lake, the fall has some high-level action to look forward to. Especially at Norris, we’re likely to see some legit fall patterns in action from the best in the business.

The Invitational format will also be a fascinating test of the FLW Tour co-anglers who qualify – the top five in the FLW Tour Co-angler of the Year standings get invitations to fish as pros in the fall events. Though expecting co-anglers to compete successfully against seasoned pros right off the bat is a bit of a stretch, there’s the distinct possibility that one of them could post a good showing and set himself up for a permanent spot at the front of a boat.


8. The Next Great Bait

Tournaments are very often the proving ground for innovative lures and rigs. Sometimes it happens at the Walmart FLW Tour level, such as was the case with the umbrella rig and magnum spoon, and sometimes a bait or technique will break out in an FLW Series or BFL event.

Though this year might pass calmly by with no such huge innovations, the fishing world is due to be jolted again by the next big thing. That’s something to be excited for in 2016.


7. FLW Fantasy Fishing

Fantasy Fishing

With fantasy football over and baseball still a long way off, the next fantasy sport to get stoked for is FLW Fantasy Fishing. Sure, fantasy hockey and basketball are going on, but the anticipation of a new season is what a lot of fantasy players love, and this year it’s going to be fun right off the bat for the Walmart FLW Tour opener on Okeechobee. Deciding if Cody Meyer and Stetson Blaylock’s recent Florida success is real and possibly committing big bucks to Brandon McMillan or Scott Martin as an anchor are all tough calls that are sure to get your mind whirring.


6. Rising Stars

Birge picked apart isolated wood cover.

Almost every season we see new faces emerge across all ranks of FLW competition. Some move on to fish the Walmart FLW Tour, while others choose to stay in the FLW Series or BFL ranks. Still, the fun lies in the excitement of seeing who will become the next rising stars of professional fishing. Will there be another Hanselmania-type streak this year? Will a rookie show out as Zack Birge did in 2015? Will an FLW College Fishing champion challenge the pros at the Forrest Wood Cup? As the old saying goes, the cream always rises to the top, and in this day and age it certainly doesn’t take long for some anglers to reach the sport’s pinnacle.


5. The Walmart FLW Tour AOY Race

Who will win the 2016 AOY?

The 2016 Walmart FLW Tour schedule is slated to visit many of the same lakes as the Tour travelled to in 2014, when Cody Meyer and Andy Morgan duked it out in one of the most impressive AOY races in history. Meyer’s points total was nearly record-setting, but Morgan was even better, and no one else was close. It virtually came down to the last few hours of the season to settle the score.

This year, there’s a very good chance the two will duel again. But then there’s Scott Martin, the reigning AOY who has won on two of the lakes on the schedule and who appears to have figured out the key to season-long success. And Clark Wendlandt surged back to the top last season with a win at the Potomac and appears poised to return to his three-time AOY form. Don’t forget Wesley Strader, either. He was the front-runner for most of 2015, before slipping up at stop No. 5. He’ll be looking for redemption and his first AOY title. Toss in Mark Rose, David Dudley, John Cox, Stetson Blaylock and a crew of other capable pros and you have the makings for a dramatic AOY showdown that should be a blast to follow all season.


4. Nixon’s Shot at History

At the moment, 15 different pros are tied for the record of earning three consecutive top-10 finishes on the Walmart FLW Tour. Nobody has yet to string together four top 10s in a row. The only one in the field with an active streak of three is Larry Nixon. If The General can pull off a top 10 at Okeechobee he’ll be in sole possession of the longest FLW Tour top-10 streak ever.


3. Breaking Records at the FLW College Fishing Open

Drew Porto and Zachary Pickle

Last year Drew Porto and Zach Pickle of the University of Arkansas took home a new Ranger and the win in the inaugural FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake. The kicker: They did it in a collegiate fishing record field of 194 boats.

The second annual College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake April 1-2 should be even bigger. With 15 National Championship berths on the line and a new Ranger for the winners, breaking the 200-boat mark and setting a new field-size record is well within reach. Seeing College Fishing expand year over year isn’t just good for the numbers. It’s good for everyone in fishing.


2. Seeing Old Friends

The registration meeting is not only a time to brush up on the rules. It's also a good chance to catch up with friends and talk fishing.

The last time the whole fishing world got together was at the Forrest Wood Cup in August. It’s been a while. The chance to shoot the breeze at registration before tournaments, admire big ones in bag lines and swap dock talk over coffee at the Folgers Morning Takeoff can’t come soon enough.

There are fish stories to tell and news to catch up on. Since the fishing world last got together there have been new births and new jobs and plenty of poorly advised beards grown. It’ll be great to make new friends and see old ones when the fishing starts again.


1. Florida

Boom. Scott 'Hammerbury' Canterbury with a Tiger Lake 8-pounder.

That first flip-flop-clad step onto the boat deck. Miles of vegetation that are home to the fish of a lifetime. Palm trees. Wax-colored legs of Northerners exposed to sun for the first time in months. Power-Poles on everything from canoes to pontoon boats. Gators the size of couches lurking in the shore grass.

It’s hard to beat that first trip down to Florida to get the season started. If you’re not so lucky to be headed to Florida for a tournament or vacation, there’s still the wonderment of seeing FLW Bass Fishing League results boasting 30-pound bags or watching FLW Live to see the next black-as-night 8-pounder in the first FLW Series event of the year. Yeah, Florida is a great place to look at if you’re stuck up north.

Ground zero for giant bass, the Sunshine State nevertheless consistently frustrates plenty of competitors not used to the ways of the native fish or who feel uncomfortable around all that seemingly endless aquatic vegetation. But the top-end is ridiculous, and the competition is fierce. There aren’t many places where a guy can drop 30 pounds on the scale and still be nervous about being overtaken in the standings.

It’s good to be going back.

Tags: flw-staff  blog 

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