UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Detroit River

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

Bertrand Back on Top at Erie

Bertrand Back on Top at Erie

Weighing the biggest bag of day three, Josh Bertrand re-took the lead in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Erie. Bertrand’s 22 pounds, 14 ounces boosted him to the top with a 62-12 total. READ MORE »

Hall Secures ROY

Hall Secures ROY

Kyle Hall entered the 2020 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit season with 28 other rookies looking to set the tone for their future in professional bass fishing. While Hall wasn’t necessarily keen on trying to win the Polaris Rookie of the Year title, making four straight day-three (or better) cuts to end the season helped earn the Granbury, Texas rookie the top honor, along with a Polaris Ranger 1000. Not a bad tone to set for a 23-year-old.  READ MORE »

Gleasons Don’t Want Party to End

Gleasons Don’t Want Party to End

Darold Gleason has been a part of the fishing industry for over a decade. He’s a legendary guide on Toledo Bend and a field staff staple for Toyota Bonus Bucks, Carhartt, and Yamaha Power Pay, as well as a talented regional competitor and one of the good dudes of the sport. So, when Gleason qualified for the FLW Pro Circuit at the end of 2019, he and his wife, Randi, knew what they were getting into. And they were all-in.  READ MORE »

Nelson Clinches AOY

Nelson Clinches AOY

Winning the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Angler of the Year title is no mean feat, but Ron Nelson made it look easy this year. Finishing 11th or better in the first three events at Sam Rayburn, the Harris Chain and Lake Martin, the Michigan pro kept it rolling in the second phase of the season when the Super Tournaments started. At Chickamauga he made the cut and finished 41st, then finished 12th at the Mississippi River and locked up the title by making the top 50 (currently in 18th place) at Lake Erie. For his win, Nelson will get his 2021 Pro Circuit entry fees paid, as well as a nice piece of hardware for his mantle. READ MORE »

Bertrand Starts Strong on Erie

Bertrand Starts Strong on Erie

Day one of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Erie started off fairly rough and made the run to St. Clair long and grinding. As a result, many anglers who focused on Lake Erie did very well on day one, and Josh Bertrand was chief among them, weighing 22 pounds, 6 ounces of feisty Erie smallmouths to take the day-one lead. Behind him, six other pros weighed more than 20 pounds, and with calmer weather in the forecast on day two, things could really shake up. READ MORE »

Matt Lee’s Smallmouth Keys: Bright Braid, Smelly Baits

Matt Lee’s Smallmouth Keys: Bright Braid, Smelly Baits

MLF pro Matt Lee may have cut his teeth fishing for largemouth and spotted bass south of the Mason-Dixon line, but the Alabama native has proven his smallmouth chops time and again throughout his professional career. Lee looks forward to the yearly northern swing, when tournament trails head north to famed bronze-bass fisheries. READ MORE »

FLW Live Schedule for Lake Erie

FLW Live Schedule for Lake Erie

The final event of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit season takes place this week on Lake Erie out of Sandusky, Ohio. Not only will this event showcase some of the best smallmouth fishing in the country and hand out a $125,000 payday to the winner, but it will also crown Angler of the Year, Rookie of the Year and set the field for the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit TITLE presented by Toyota. READ MORE »

ROY Update: Mississippi River

ROY Update: Mississippi River

The most recent Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament presented by OPTIMA Batteries at the Mississippi River was a pivotal one for the season-long points races. On the Angler of the Year side of things, Ron Nelson widened his lead tremendously. In the Polaris Rookie of the Year race, Kyle Hall roared from third place into first. READ MORE »

TITLE Bubble Watch

TITLE Bubble Watch

There’s a lot at stake in the final Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Erie. Aside from someone taking home the $125,000 top prize, Angler of the Year and Polaris Rookie of the Year will be crowned. But there is another important thing to be settled on Erie: finalizing the field for the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota on Sturgeon Bay. The top 50 anglers in the points will qualify, and while some are already just about locked in, others will need to fish down to the wire. READ MORE »

AOY Update: Mississippi River

AOY Update: Mississippi River

Ron Nelson has led the way in the Angler of the Year race in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit since the very early going. Now, with just one event left, he’s opened up a fairly massive gap between himself and the rest of the field. READ MORE »

Breaking Down Poche’s Disqualification

Breaking Down Poche’s Disqualification

Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Rule No. 12 regarding Boat and Horsepower Regulation recently came under scrutiny after Major League Fishing pro Keith Poche’s day one weight was disqualified at the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit at the Mississippi River presented by OPTIMA Batteries. READ MORE »

FLW Live Schedule for the Mississippi River

FLW Live Schedule for the Mississippi River

With just two events left in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit season, it’s time to turn attention to the northern part of the country. Presented by OPTIMA Batteries, the Pro Circuit Super Tournament on the Mississippi River out of Stoddard, Wis., will not only crown a winner with a $125,000 payday but also shape the Angler of the Year race. READ MORE »

Alvin Shaw Withdraws from Remaining Super Tournaments

Alvin Shaw Withdraws from Remaining Super Tournaments

Citing emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder, pro Alvin Shaw announced today that he is withdrawing from the remaining two 2020 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit events. Shaw, a 16-year FLW pro, has 15 top-10 finishes and two career victories in FLW competition. READ MORE »

MLF Analyst Marty Stone Joins "FLW Live"

MLF Analyst Marty Stone Joins "FLW Live"

FLW, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, and Major League Fishing (MLF) announced the addition of veteran MLF NOW! analyst Marty Stone to the FLW Live broadcast team. READ MORE »

2nd Place Earns MDJ Bonus Bucks

2nd Place Earns MDJ Bonus Bucks

Major League Fishing pro Mark Daniels Jr. took home $3,000 of Toyota Bonus Bucks thanks to his second-place finish in the final Bass Pro Tour event of the 2020 season. “MDJ” had an extremely close, back-and-forth battle with eventual winner Justin Lucas on Sturgeon Bay before finishing the Championship Round as the runner-up. READ MORE »

Northern Division Returns to Sandusky

Northern Division Returns to Sandusky

FLW, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, announced today that the organization will shift its Aug. 18-20 Toyota Series Northern Division event from Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, New York, to Lake Erie and Sandusky, Ohio. The move was made in response to New York’s expanded travel restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic. READ MORE »

Under the Cap: Look Inside Justin Lucas’ Truck

Under the Cap: Look Inside Justin Lucas’ Truck

Although he makes his living fishing on the front deck of his Phoenix boat, MLF pro Justin Lucas spends as much (or more!) time in between competition rounds and Bass Pro Tour events working out of a four-wheeled tackle garage that includes an A.R.E. Z Series truck cap. READ MORE »

BFL Winning Patterns – July 18-19

BFL Winning Patterns – July 18-19

The weekend of July 18 featured eight Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine events spread across six different divisions. With a pair of double-headers mixed in, it was an action-packed weekend on the water. READ MORE »

Assessing the ROY Race

Assessing the ROY Race

With the final two events of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit regular season slated for the Mississippi River and Sandusky Bay, on Lake Erie, there’s really no candidate that is perfectly suited for both. Because of that, the final two events set up well to test true fishing talent, and it won’t be easy for someone to get on a roll to close it out. READ MORE »

Pro Circuit Events Move to Great Lakes

Pro Circuit Events Move to Great Lakes

FLW, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, announced today that the final two Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit events of 2020 have been moved. The final Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament scheduled for Aug. 11-14 has been moved to Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio, while the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota, scheduled for Aug. 24-29, has been moved to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. READ MORE »