UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2018 - Lake Okeechobee

Another Top 20 Puts Sprague in the AOY Lead

Jeff Sprague

It generally takes an average finish of 20th place or better per tournament to win the Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year race. Yet no one has ever won AOY and actually finished in the top 20 at every event.

Maybe history will be made this season. With his 14th-place finish at Pickwick Lake, Keystone Light pro Jeff Sprague is the new AOY leader, and he’s on pace for the top-20 sweep. Sprague also has finishes of 15th at Lake Okeechobee, 13th at Lake Hartwell and third at Beaver Lake.

So let’s get one thing straight: Sprague is on fire right now. He’s got youth. He’s got momentum. And he’s got a two-point lead over former AOY No. 1 John Cox.

The Tour can’t seem to throw anything at Sprague that he can’t handle. From Florida bass to sight-fishing to multi-species options to the postspawn transition, he’s navigated every obstacle.

The next stop at Kentucky Lake should be prime for a ledge-fishing showdown, and Sprague’s power-fishing background will jive well with those conditions. Then it’s on to the finale at Champlain, where anything goes in terms of tactics – deep, shallow, grass, rock, smallmouths, largemouths. Sprague should be able to find something at Champlain that fits his style and fishing preference.

Sprague and Cox have started to separate themselves from the pack now that the Tour is two-thirds finished, but there’s no guarantee that either will be atop the standings when this thing wraps up. Two events is a tall, tall hurdle. Just ask Wesley Strader, who led the AOY race with two tournaments to go last season but ended up finishing sixth.

That means there’s plenty of drama left in store for the 2016 AOY race.

Here’s a quick review of Sprague’s closest competitors.

 

John Cox

2. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 757 points

By no means did John Cox slip up at Pickwick. He finished 21st and cashed a $10,000 check. Twenty-first just isn’t good enough to keep up with Sprague’s pace. That dude’s on fire.

For the record, if Cox had finished one spot higher at Pickwick, he’d also be on pace to sweep the top 20s. For now, he’s a couple of points back of the leader.

Looking ahead, Cox could be at a disadvantage at Kentucky Lake if he chooses to stick to his shallow-or-die mantra. That derby is almost guaranteed to be an offshore event. The entire top 20 might come from the ledges. Rough water is also always a possibility at Kentucky and Champlain, and that might factor into this race since Cox runs a smaller boat than many in the field.

Realistically, however, there’s no slowing Cox down. He finds fish everywhere he goes, and he’s the hottest hand in bass fishing over the last two seasons. If the season ended today, Cox would have logged two consecutive runner-up finishes in the AOY race. That’s pretty dang good.

 

Jeff Gustafson

3. Jeff Gustafson – Keewatin, Ontario – 722 points

“Gussy” is within striking distance of Sprague with two events left. He’ll be a favorite at the finale on Lake Champlain, where his Northern expertise ought to help him decipher the big, clear-water natural lake, and he should have a positive outlook on Kentucky Lake in between.

Including at the latest event on Pickwick, Gussy has cut checks in five straight Walmart FLW Tour events that were held on the Tennessee River system. Kentucky Lake could make it six, and if he can keep his momentum up and make a top 20, he’ll be right in the thick of it with Sprague and Cox.

 

Jamie Horton

4. Jamie Horton – Centerville, Ala. – 709 points

In his first season on the FLW Tour, Jamie Horton is holding tight at the top of the AOY standings. If not for a 70th-place hiccup at Beaver Lake, he’d be right there with Sprague. Horton’s other three finishes this season were 18th at Okeechobee, third at Hartwell and fourth at Pickwick.

Horton predicted his struggles at Beaver. He says he doesn’t like clear-water reservoirs. With the Tour headed for Kentucky Lake, he should feel more at home, just like at Pickwick. Horton will probably need the guys ahead of him to slip up if he wants to win AOY, but we’ve seen that happen before.        

 

Andy Morgan

5. Andy Morgan – Dayton, Tenn. – 705 points

What would an AOY race be without Andy Morgan in it? The Dayton, Tenn., pro is 54 points back of Sprague. That’s a big deficit, but this is the Greatest of All Time we’re talking about here. If Sprague’s smart, he won’t even look at the standings, because it can’t feel good to see Morgan just a few spots behind him.

Morgan has posted back-to-back top-20 finishes in the last two Tour events. Now he’s headed to Kentucky Lake, where he has as much or more experience than anyone else on Tour. Of course he’ll be in the conversation as this race winds down.

 

The Rest of the Top 10

6. Chris Johnston – Peterborough, Ontario – 703            

7. Stetson Blaylock – Benton, Ark. – 698    

8. Michael Neal – Dayton, Tenn. – 682      

9. Jacob Wheeler – Indianapolis, Ind. – 677         

10. Darrel Robertson – Jay, Okla. – 676     

Complete standings

Tags: curtis-niedermier  article 

/tips/2017-12-14-flw-podcast-171-sheldon-collings

FLW Podcast 171 - Sheldon Collings

READ MORE »

/tips/2017-12-13-tour-rookie-miles-howe

Tour Rookie: Miles Howe

California’s Miles Howe is the latest Costa FLW Series Western Division standout to take his shot at the FLW Tour READ MORE »

/tips/2017-12-12-2018-flw-tour-roster

2018 FLW Tour Roster

Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) announced today the complete professional angler roster for the upcoming 2018 FLW Tour season, the 23rd season of the FLW Tour. The 2018 FLW Tour features seven regular-season tournaments around the country with competition kicking off when FLW returns to Lake Okeechobee, Jan. 25-28 in Clewiston, Florida, and is headlined by the world championship of bass fishing, the Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Ouachita, Aug. 10-12 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-12-12-gift-ideas-for-every-angler

Gift Ideas for Every Angler

Picking out a holiday gift for an angler can be a pretty tough task if you aren’t intimately familiar with their fishing needs, but it’s not impossible. Almost any of the below would be worthy gifts, and with a little tweaking they might be adaptable for someone who is particularly difficult to shop for. If none of the below fit the bill or budget, then there’s always the old standby of a Tackle Warehouse gift card, which will be appreciated by any angler. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-12-11-the-most-memorable-fish-of-2017

The Most Memorable Fish of 2017

The single most memorable fish of the 2017 FLW Tour season might have been caught at the first tournament of the year, when Mark Rose made one last cast and caught a 6-pounder to best Bryan Thrift at the opener on Guntersville. Of course, there were thousands of other bass hooked the rest of the season, so it’s not like Rose’s fish stands alone. The following fish are the ones that are still stuck in the minds of Tour pros – for both good reasons and bad. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-12-07-jay-kendrick-q-a

Jay Kendrick Q&A

I don’t want to come off cocky or overconfident, but I don’t remember having that feeling like I’d made it or anything. I never doubted I would. It was just a matter of time. Just like I have no doubt I’ll win an FLW Tour event. It’s just a matter of time, though I think that’s close. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-12-06-neko-rig-basics

Neko Rig Basics

The Neko Rig is a relatively new phenomenon in the bass community. Basically, it is a weighted version of a wacky rig with a weight inserted into just one end of the soft plastic, giving the bait a unique action as it falls and allows it to stand straight up once it hits the bottom. The rig is quickly becoming a staple for many bass pros and weekend warriors alike for one reason – it puts fish in the boat. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-12-06-how-do-you-value-yourself-

How Do You Value Yourself?

The most common questions I get from aspiring fishermen are about how to obtain sponsors and the industry norms when it comes to negotiating deals with them. All are great questions, but there are no simple answers. That’s because there is no right or wrong approach. Every professional goes about it differently. I’d like to give you my thoughts on the subject. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-12-05-it-s-time-to-move-to-the-front

It’s Time to Move to the Front

Fishing with some of the greatest pros in the West has been awesome. Sure, it’s been challenging at times, given that a co-angler’s fishing space is limited, but I wouldn’t change anything about it. I’ve made good friends with many of the FLW Series anglers and it’s been awesome learning from them. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-12-01-review-berkley-snap-jig

Review: Berkley Snap Jig

The Snap Jig appears to be a spinoff of the popular Rapala Jigging Rap and Snap Rap, which I mention not to knock Berkley for going the copycat route, but for background on why folks would get excited about a bait that looks more like ice fishing fodder than bass food. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-12-01-locating-winter-jerkbait-water

Locating Winter Jerkbait Water

Stay open minded. Although these tips will give you some good starting points, ultimately the fish are where you find them. Give an area 20 minutes or so, then move on. If they are not where they are supposed to be, try something off the wall. Keep an eye on your electronics when idling and running. Capitalize on opportunities as they arise. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-11-30-hollowell-s-1-2-umbrella-rig-punch

Hollowell’s 1-2 Umbrella Rig Punch

A half-dozen years ago, it was the hottest thing in the sport. Now, the umbrella rig is just another tool in bass anglers’ arsenal. Todd Hollowell is more than OK with that. Now that the multi-lure rigs have descended to the level of other ordinary bass options, there are times when he feels like he has them all to himself. And there are times when he makes them pay off in a big way. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-11-30-flw-podcast-170-cameron-gautney

FLW Podcast 170 - Cameron Gautney

READ MORE »

/tips/2017-11-29-20-questions-with-michael-matthee

20 Questions with Michael Matthee

The 31-year-old is a longtime winner in the South African tournament circuits who has earned alpha status in his home country with a blend of undying determination, skill and versatility. Look no further than his meteoric rise in the first ever sanctioned FLW South Africa fish-off. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-11-28-more-family-less-fishing

More Family, Less Fishing

For me and my professional fishing career, the heart of the season lies in the first half of the year. Some would assume this leaves the second half wide open to just kick back, relax and catch some football games instead of fish. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-11-27-buddy-gross-q-a

Buddy Gross Q&A

I’ve never been one to watch all the tournaments on TV. I’m not a good spectator; I’d rather be actually fishing. Now my best friend and tournament partner, James Milling, he’s always watching them and keeping me informed. He shows up all the time with the latest and greatest fishing lures. He gets on me about it. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-11-24-5-proven-late-season-patterns

5 Proven Late-Season Patterns

Another year’s on its way out, but there’s still plenty of bass fishing left to do, and several seasonal patterns worth noting. So, amid those shortening days and declining temperatures, consider these late-season opportunities. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-11-22-be-a-tackle-tinkerer

Be a Tackle Tinkerer

One of the few benefits of living in Wisconsin and having long, miserably cold winters is I have a lot of time to mess with my tackle. One of my favorite things to do is to custom-build baits and rods. I’ve done it all – pouring my own lead, building spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, pouring plastics, hand-tying skirts and hair jigs, powder-coating, airbrushing, and most recently building my own rods. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-11-21-cranking-in-the-deep-and-cold

Cranking in the Deep and Cold

A lifetime of fishing offshore on Pickwick and other Tennessee River lakes has also taught him that while the fish will go shallow for the gizzard shad spawn in the fall, there’s usually a solid population that filters back offshore come September and October, schooling up in predictable spots just like they would in the summer. READ MORE »

/tips/2017-11-20-scott-martin-s-video-series-in-africa

Scott Martin's Video Series in Africa

Back in October, 14 countries competed for the title of world champion at the XIII Black Bass World Championships on the Vaal River in South Africa. Among the competing nations was the United States, which made its first appearance at the event and was represented by an all-star lineup of hammers, including team captain Scott Martin, Scott Canterbury, David Dudley, David Fritts, James Watson, Fred Roumbanis, Mark Rose and Lionel Botha. Martin brought his media team along to produce a series of videos documenting the team’s journey throughout the competition. READ MORE »