UPCOMING EVENT: TACKLE WAREHOUSE PRO CIRCUIT - 2020 - Harris Chain of Lakes

2018 Tour Predictions

2018 Tour Predictions
Andy Morgan

There are a lot of unknowns at the start of every FLW Tour season. How good will the fishing be? Will a new star emerge? Will anyone manage to beat Andy Morgan?

Rather than simply debate the topics, a few members of FLW’s media team dug out their crystal balls and decided to make a few predictions. Some of the prognostications contradict those of other members of the team. Some predictions are bold, while others won’t garner much disagreement from anyone. A few are probably just wishful thinking.

What do you think?


California dreamin’

Cody Meyer will pick up his first win in the FLW Tour at some point during the 2018 campaign. After a lot of near misses, the California pro is zeroing in on an elusive victory. Since joining the FLW Tour ranks as a pro in 2010, Meyer has chalked up 13 top-10 finishes, for a career total of 24 with FLW. The California pro’s strong suit is finesse fishing, which should serve him well in 2018, given the schedule will land on a few finesse-friendly lakes. – Colin Moore, FLW Editor Emeritus 

 

Cue the confetti

That Bryant Thrift has never won a Forrest Wood Cup is insane, but that’s about to change. The North Carolina pro has been tiptoeing around winning the Big One for the past several years, and in 2018 it will be his turn to hoist the trophy. There’s no particular reason for that prognostication, other than that the defending AOY has reached the zenith of his prowess as a competitor. Consider: Thrift has been a pro since 2007 and hasn’t missed qualifying for a Cup yet. Also, in the last six championships, he hasn’t finished lower than seventh place. Granted, Lake Ouachita – site of 2018’s championship – hasn’t been all that kind to the two-time AOY, but he did score a sixth-place showing there in the 2015 Cup, after placing 29th in the 2011 championship on the lake. In 2018, he gets his due. – Colin Moore

 

Shane LeHew wins one

If I had to bet, I’d put my money on Lewis Smith being the lake where Shane LeHew finally gets his first FLW Tour win. That is, if he doesn’t win at Lake Lanier the month before. Both are clear reservoirs with spotted bass (though I bet LeHew cracks the shallow largemouth code at Smith this year, too). He should find plenty of opportunities to finesse fish with small swimbaits or drop-shots, and to catch fish on a jig around docks, points or shoreline cover. I predicted LeHew would have a big season in 2017, and he turned out another quality showing, but 2018 is when he gets his breakout moment. – Curt Niedermier, FLW Editor-in-Chief

 

Birge wins a tournament, too (or AOY)

Have you forgotten about Zack Birge, and how just a few years ago he won the Costa FLW Series Championship? And how the next year he dominated the Rookie of the Year race, while also contending for Angler of the Year most of the season? Yeah, he had a tough sophomore showing on Tour, but he bounced back in 2017 to finish 35th in the standings. Based on how his career is trending and the schedule of events in 2018, if he’s slipped a little from your radar, you might want to re-tune your frequencies.

Birge has had good success in Florida, where the Tour will make two stops this spring, and he threatened for the win the last time the Tour went to Lewis Smith. Kentucky Lake this year could very well be a bush-flipping, shallow-pattern event, which should be just right for Birge. And I suspect he’ll figure out the shallow largemouths at Cumberland. I can’t predict how he’ll fare at Lanier in March or St. Clair this summer, but I promise you the odds are low that he’ll bomb at either tournament.

All this equates to two things: Zack Birge puts himself in contention to win a tournament on more than one occasion this season, and by the time we head north for the finale, he’s somewhere near the top of the AOY standings. – Curt Niedermier

 

Josh Weaver makes his first pro Cup appearance

The 2018 Tour schedule favors Weaver’s strengths right off the bat. Since coming on Tour, Weaver is two-for-two on top-10 finishes at Lake Okeechobee and Harris Chain. Not to mention, he posted a second place finish at Lake Okeechobee in last year’s Costa FLW Series Southeastern event. Based on his recent success in Florida, Weaver should be on your radar in the first two events of the 2018 Tour season. As long as the Georgia pro can ride a strong start, look to see him at Lake Ouachita in August. – Drew Aspinwall, FLW Communications & Social Media Specialist

 

Bryan Thrift goes back-to-back as AOY Champion or wins the Cup

Thrift has countless accomplishments throughout his career. The only things left to check off his list would be winning the Forrest Wood Cup and going back-to-back as AOY Champion. He has six straight top-10 finishes at the Cup and since 2008 Thrift is 9/10 on finishing top-10 in the AOY race. There is a realistic chance we see the reigning FLW Tour AOY hit another milestone in 2018. – Drew Aspinwall

 

Jared McMillan wins Lake Okeechobee event

I predict a McMillan will win the 2018 FLW Tour season-opener on Lake Okeechobee, but not the one you’d expect. I think Jared McMillan, the younger brother of FLW Tour veteran Brandon McMillan, will take the trophy this time around. McMillan has spent the past few years picking apart Lake Okeechobee through the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Gator Division (which only competes on Okeechobee), and the ultra-competitive Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division. He’s posted multiple top-10 finishes on the Big O, including a second-place showing as a boater in the Series in 2014. This year, I think he’ll have both the knowledge and the confidence to give the grizzled veterans a run for their money. – Brian Johnson, FLW Communications Specialist 

 

Jay Yelas earns top-10 finish flipping bushes on Kentucky Lake

Normally when the FLW Tour visits Kentucky Lake, it’s a steamy June slugfest out on the ledges. This year, the FLW Tour arrives in May, which means a lot of fish could still be up shallow. Yelas earned his last top-10 finish on the FLW Tour in 2013 when he flipped buck brush on Grand Lake in early June. I expect the 15-year Tour veteran to capitalize on similar conditions this time around. – Brian Johnson

 

The Johnston brothers make the Cup

Cory and Chris Johnston had a blazing debut in the Tour in 2017. Cory earned a top 10, finished 29th in the point standings and qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup. Chris did even better, earning Rookie of the Year honors, finishing second to Andy Morgan in the Angler of the Year race and booking a pair of top 10 finishes himself. Both Canadians fell off hard in 2017, missing the Cup and really only excelling (as usual) in the Northern Division of the Costa FLW Series. This year sets up well for the Johnston duo, with Okeechobee, the likelihood of a lot of fishing spawning at Cumberland and a smallmouth slugfest to finish things off. As such, I think both brothers will get over their sophomore slump and make the Cup – with a little luck, it wouldn’t shock me to see one of them in the running for AOY. – Jody White, FLW Associate Editor

 

Jeff Sprague gets a win

The Texan has picked off one top 10 finish each of the last two years on Tour and finished in the top six in the AOY race both times. There’s no doubt that Sprague is fishing at the top of his game; he’s just lacking a signature accomplishment – be it a win or an AOY. His two best chances are probably in the grass in Florida, but he’s versatile enough that anything is possible. – Jody White

 

Big O starts with big bang

Every time the FLW Tour kicks things off in Florida, thoughts of a slugfest captivate anglers and fans alike. I mean, after all, Florida is the land of giants and January and February can be prime months to produce big bags of bass. The only issue is the last few trips to the Sunshine State have been somewhat lackluster.

Sure, hefty limits have been taken to the scale, but we haven’t seen a monster event from start to finish since Randall Tharp won back in 2012 with over 100 pounds – and even then the rest of the field struggled. But this year will be different. In 2018, I think that it’ll take 100 pounds to win the event.

How do I know this? Well, for starters, the lake has been kicking out some very solid bags throughout various tournaments in 2017. But the more important factor is the moon. This year the Tour event will line up closely with the full moon – a proven factor that triggers a push of big females to spawn during Florida’s winter months. The full moon will actually occur a few days after the event, but still, it’s close enough to have an effect on the bass.

The last few Tour trips to Okeechobee saw the full moon occurring a few weeks after the event. Pending any crazy cold front, it could be the perfect storm for hawgs. Pop some popcorn for this one; it’s going to be good! – Kyle Wood, FLW Senior Writer

 

Half of the Minnesota crew makes the Forrest Wood Cup

Last year there were four anglers from the Land of 10,000 Lakes on the FLW Tour and while only Austin Felix managed to qualify for the Cup, I’m willing to bet that the number will increase this coming season. Veteran Jim Moynagh will be joined by Andy Young, Josh Douglas and Felix on the Tour in 2018. They will welcome David Larson (who fished the last two Tour seasons as a co-angler) and longtime Tour pro Chad Grigsby.

Minnesota is quickly becoming recognized as a great place to hone fishing skills, and for good reason. The similarity between Minnesota fisheries and the lakes on the Tour schedule are numerous – grass, smallmouths, largemouths, deep structure, clear water, dirty water and so on. Back-to-back Florida events will provide a great starting point for the six pros and capping the season on a stout smallmouth venue only sweetens the deal. Expect a strong season from the Minnie boys. – Kyle Wood

 

Another two-time winner

Last season, Mark Rose became the first pro in FLW Tour history to win back-to-back events in a row. I’m not necessarily predicting back-to-back wins will happen again in 2018, but I think the possibility exists for someone to win two or go back-to-back. 

The main reason I think it’s a possibility in 2018 is because there is some strong “venue similarity” among several of the events. The first two tournaments will be held in Florida. Lake Okeechobee is not far from Harris Chain and both involve shallow, natural lakes full of vegetation and Florida-strain largemouth bass. If a new lure or technique pops up that Florida fish have never seen and only a few guys have their hands on it, they could score big in both events.

I remember when new innovations such as tungsten weights, the ChatterBait, the Horny Toad and even the Senko first showed up in Florida in season openers – if a guy had some of these “magic wands” in his possession, he was at the top of the leaderboard.

Beyond that, the venues of Lake Lanier, Cumberland and Smith are all similar in that they are highland, clearwater impoundments with mixed species. Same principle applies here: If a pro discovers one of those never-before-seen Japanese lures or uncovers a forgotten-but-still-productive technique that dominates on these kinds of lakes, there is a possibility he could ride such a proprietary lure or technique to two victories. – Rob Newell, Field Editor

 

The Millennial matrix will get stronger

In the modern era of tournament bass fishing, “local information” is quickly paling in comparison to real-time information. Not only have stricter rules come into play on the national tours regarding local help, but yesterday’s “secret spot” is today’s community hole. For that reason, the most premium information in today’s top tier events is the bite that happened two minutes ago – or say, the bite your trusted roommate/confidante had two minutes ago.

The 2017 FLW Tour and Bassmaster Elite Series both shed light on the new era of young pros who are not afraid to “crowd source,” so to speak, among themselves as competitors for the sake of sharing real-time information, which is both legal and lethal. Yes, pros on tour have always shared information with their pro buddies to some degree. But this information today is of a different quality and magnitude in terms of detail and the tools being used.

This sort of millennial matrix of young, sharp anglers working together to draft off each other’s real-time information to improve all their positions in the standings is something we’re going to see more of in 2018. – Rob Newell

Wiley X Teams with FLW

Wiley X Teams with FLW

FLW, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, announced today a multi-year sponsorship agreement with Wiley X, one of the most trusted brands in the world for safety eyewear, high-performance sunglasses, and optical/protective sports eyewear for youth. Effective immediately, Wiley X becomes the official sunglass provider of FLW and assumes title sponsorship of the FLW High School Fishing Camp, the ultimate summer camp for serious high school anglers, their parents, boat captains and coaches. In addition to the High School Fishing Camp, Wiley X has also been named the presenting sponsor of the new Major League Fishing (MLF) College Faceoff events. READ MORE »

Dortch’s Flipping Setup

Dortch’s Flipping Setup

After growing up on the Tensaw River in Alabama and spending much of his early fishing career in Florida, Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit pro Bradley Dortch naturally has a very good handle on flipping. Especially around matted cover, Dortch is quick to put a big stick into action, and his preferences fit him perfectly. If you’re looking for a new flipping plan, or maybe just thinking about tweaking around the edges, his advice could be applicable to you. READ MORE »

Co-angler Opportunities Expand in Toyota Series

Co-angler Opportunities Expand in Toyota Series

For 2020, FLW has partnered with Toyota to roll out a host of enhancements to its Triple-A league known as the Toyota Series – including great new opportunities for co-anglers. READ MORE »

Abu Garcia Partners with FLW, MLF

Abu Garcia Partners with FLW, MLF

FLW and Major League Fishing (MLF) announced today a sponsorship agreement with Abu Garcia, a legendary fishing brand and industry-leading manufacturer known for its high-quality, innovative rods and reels. Abu Garcia will immediately assume title sponsorship of FLW College Fishing circuit. READ MORE »

Toyota Series: Best Value in Fishing

Toyota Series: Best Value in Fishing

For 2020, FLW has partnered with Toyota to roll out a completely revamped Triple-A league known as the Toyota Series, with many enhancements over the previous FLW Series that were requested by competitors. READ MORE »

Register Now for High School Camp

Register Now for High School Camp

Registration is now open for the 2020 Wiley X High School Fishing Camp presented by Tackle Warehouse, which runs from July 22-24. The registration period will continue through June 30 or until all camp spots have been filled.  READ MORE »

Toledo Bend Midday Update – Day 3

Toledo Bend Midday Update – Day 3

The final day of the Toyota Series Southwestern Division event on Toledo Bend is an absolutely glorious one, in terms of weather. A light breeze and sunny skies greeted anglers for the first time all week, and while it may be pleasant to be outside in, it hasn’t done much to help the fishing. READ MORE »

Toledo Bend Midday Update – Day 2

Toledo Bend Midday Update – Day 2

It was another cloudy, cool morning to start day two of the Toyota Series Southwestern Division event on Toledo Bend. With water temperatures hovering around 52 degrees, the fish weren’t in much of a biting mood throughout much of the morning. READ MORE »

Fish BFL, Series for Chance to Win Polaris

Fish BFL, Series for Chance to Win Polaris

Just as it did last season, Polaris is teaming up with FLW in 2020 to give away a pair of ATVs and a UTV. READ MORE »

Toledo Bend Midday Update – Day 1

Toledo Bend Midday Update – Day 1

Day one of the Toyota Series Southwestern Division season opener on Toledo Bend has been about what the competitors figured it would be – a slow and steady grind. A misty rain and light fog greeted anglers at takeoff, followed by a decent wind out of the north bringing a chill to the air, which wasn’t exactly forecasted. READ MORE »

Previewing the St. Johns River

Previewing the St. Johns River

With the addition of new divisions on the 2020 Toyota Series schedule, Florida anglers (and anyone else hoping for a full schedule of Florida fisheries) get a trio of Sunshine State staples on the docket this year, starting with the St. Johns River on February 13. READ MORE »

Toyota Sponsors MLF and FLW

Toyota Sponsors MLF and FLW

Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) announced today a formal sponsorship of Major League Fishing (MLF), professional bass fishing’s newest premier tournament organization, and home to Team Toyota professional anglers Mike Iaconelli, Terry Scroggins, Kevin VanDam, and Jacob Wheeler. The partnership includes Fishing League Worldwide (FLW), the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, as title sponsor of the Toyota Series. READ MORE »

Sharing Forrest Wood Stories

Sharing Forrest Wood Stories

In the few days since Forrest Wood passed away, thousands of people have taken to social media to share their favorite “Forrest Wood story” in public tribute to one of bass fishing’s most iconic men. In keeping with the trend, we reached out to people within the FLW family and the broader fishing industry and invited them to share a Forrest Wood story or two, or to reflect on what Forrest meant to them. READ MORE »

Forrest Wood’s Legacy

Forrest Wood’s Legacy

Surrounded by his family, Forrest Wood passed away in a Mountain Home, Ark., hospital just after 9 a.m. Saturday, four days after suffering a heart attack in his home. Wood, who was 87 at the time of his death, was the founder of Ranger Boats of Flippin, Ark. A pioneer of bass tournament fishing, he helped launch the careers of hundreds of aspiring tournament anglers through sponsorships. During his 20-year span at the helm of the company he founded with his wife, Nina, Forrest is credited with laying the groundwork for the modern bass boat through his innovative designs and engineering advancements. READ MORE »

Forrest L. Wood, 1932-2020

Forrest L. Wood, 1932-2020

FLW is saddened to report that Forrest L. Wood, the namesake of our organization and a longtime member of the FLW family, passed away today at age 87. He spent his final days surrounded by his family, including his wife of 68 years, Nina. READ MORE »

Daniel Fennel to Direct Pro Circuit

Daniel Fennel to Direct Pro Circuit

At the registration meeting for this week’s Pro Circuit season opener at Sam Rayburn Reservoir, FLW announced that Daniel had been promoted to senior director of tournament operations for the Pro Circuit, FLW Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League, with responsibilities to include directing the Pro Circuit. Bill Taylor, who served as tournament director for the FLW Tour from 2001 through 2019, has been promoted to senior director of operations, where he’ll lend his expertise acquired through more than two decades as a tournament director toward logistics, angler relations and event planning for all FLW circuits. READ MORE »

2020 Pro Circuit Predictions

2020 Pro Circuit Predictions

The Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit is at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Brookeland, Texas, this week to kick off what promises to be another great season of professional bass fishing for FLW. In anticipation of great things to come during the inaugural Pro Circuit season, a few FLW staff members and one Pro Circuit pro decided to play pundit and make a few predictions.  READ MORE »

John Cox Making Most of Opportunities

John Cox Making Most of Opportunities

In addition to finishing second in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit standings last season, John Cox finished runner-up in the Bassmaster Central Open standings and fourth in the Eastern Open standings, qualifying him to fish the Pro Circuit and Bassmaster Elite Series this year. While many pros were faced with some either-or decisions this offseason, Cox chose both – fishing the Pro Circuit and Elite Series – and he’s not even a bit nervous about doing both. READ MORE »

Tackle Warehouse Teams with FLW

Tackle Warehouse Teams with FLW

FLW, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, announced today that it has reached a sponsorship agreement with Tackle Warehouse, the sport’s leading online retailer that offers the guaranteed lowest prices on bass fishing tackle from every top brand. Effective immediately, Tackle Warehouse becomes the official tackle retailer of FLW and assumes title sponsorship of the FLW Pro Circuit, professional bass fishing’s premier five-fish-limit tournament series. READ MORE »

Rookie Profile: Laramy Strickland

Rookie Profile: Laramy Strickland

Being a rookie on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit can be daunting no matter what age you are. This year, there are 28 newcomers eager to prove themselves against some of the best in the game. And while the bulk of them have been chasing the dream for a while, 22-year-old Laramy Strickland of Bushnell, Fla., will be one of the younger pros looking to make a name in the industry. READ MORE »