UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

Rookie Rundown

Rookie Rundown
Taylor Ashley

No matter how you get to the FLW Tour, you’re only a rookie once. This year, a grand total of 25 pros are in the running for Rookie of the Year, and it’s likely to be one of the most exciting races ever. Chris Johnston nearly won Angler of the Year in his 2016 ROY season, and last year’s race between Bradley Dortch and Justin Atkins went down to the wire, with Dortch taking the trophy and Atkins immediately overshadowing him at the Forrest Wood Cup. Historically, winning Rookie of the Year is very strong indicator of a successful career to come, and there could be new stars throughout this year’s crop of rookies.

 

Taylor Ashley

Warrior, Ala.

Sponsor entry

Profile

2017 got off to a rocking start thanks to Taylor Ashley. Just 19 years old at the time, Ashley hammered out more than 20 pounds a day to win the Costa FLW Series season opener on Okeechobee. Ashley has some experience in T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) events as a boater and co-angler, but 2017 was the first season in the Costa FLW Series for the young angler. There he put up a pair of top-10 finishes in the Southeastern Division and qualified for the Championship.

 

Matt Becker

Finleyville, Penn.

Costa FLW Series Northern Division top 10

Profile

Becker made the most of his first real foray into high-level tournaments in 2017, knocking out a 5th place finish in the Costa FLW Series Northern Division standings and winning the tournament at the 1000 Islands with a stupendous 25-pound bag of smallies on the final day. Becker is an admitted smallmouth lover, so he’s got to be looking forward to the season finale (at Lake St. Clair), but he’s got plenty of experience on the grassier northern fisheries as well and has shown a lot of willingness to put in the travel for pre-practice.

 

Clint Brown

Bainbridge, Ga.

Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division top 10

Profile

Clint Brown could be a contender to watch in 2018. He’s a great sight-fisherman and has a mastery of Lake Seminole – top 10s (with a win) the last two times the Costa FLW Series stopped at his home lake prove that. Additionally, he’s qualified out of the super-competitive Southeastern Division of the Costa FLW Series, finishing 57th in points the first year he fished a full schedule in 2016 and moving up to 8th in 2017.

 

Tim Cales

Sandstone W. Va.

Ranger owner

Profile

After a fairly long and successful career as a co-angler on the FLW Tour, Tim Cales is making a run at it from the front of the boat. Bass Rankings has Cales as the 5th best co-angler on the FLW Tour over the past two years, and he won the Okeechobee event in 2016. In his three years on Tour as a co-angler, Cales has been exposed to just about everything. How he adapts to the front of the boat remains to be seen.

 

William Campbell

Middlesboro, Ky.

Ranger owner

Profile

Campbell is a longtime BFL angler, with a smattering of co-angler action at the higher levels. Mostly fishing the Mountain Division, Campbell earned a win on Barren River in 2010, and has made the Regional frequently. He’s certainly a local to watch on Cumberland, but he doesn’t have a history elsewhere that would suggest instant success. This year is likely to be quite a test for the Kentucky angler, but he feels he’s ready for it. 

 

Todd Castledine

Nacogdoches, Texas

Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division top 10

Profile

It’s finally happening! With over $240,000 in FLW earnings already, Todd Castledine is one of the most accomplished rookies to ever hit the Tour. He and fellow rookie Russell Cecil dominate team tournaments in Texas, and they might project a very Johnston-like feel in their rookie years. Castledine’s tournament history is enviable, and his 2017 season alone was tremendous – not only did he win the Costa FLW Series tournament on Sam Rayburn, but he also won the Southwestern Division AOY for the third time.

 

Russell Cecil

Willis, Texas

Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division top 10

Profile

Castledine’s partner in crime, Russell Cecil, has no less than three Costa FLW Series wins and six top 10 AOY finishes in the Southwestern Division. He’s an all-around hammer and half of one of the most exciting rookie duos we’ve seen. Cecil hasn’t concentrated solely on fishing quite as much as Castledine has, but he’s not lacking in qualification by any means.

 

Sheldon Collings

Grove, Okla.

Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division top 10

Profile

Qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup via this year’s Costa FLW Series Championship, Collings will be the youngest to fish the Cup by 138 days if nobody younger than him qualifies in-between now and August. The last few years have been very successful for Collings, as he’s caught ’em pretty much wherever he’s fished. Though young, he’s brimming with confidence and has a recent history of high success.

 

Matt Garner

Seminole, Okla.

Ranger owner

Profile

Matt Garner is making the jump with relatively light experience. Finishing 57th and 87th in the standings in the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division, he’s accumulated some solid time in and around Oklahoma and Texas, but he’s lacking national exposure. He did pick up a BFL top 10 in 2016, but otherwise, this looks like a leap of faith for the Oklahoma angler.

 

Cameron Gautney

Muscle Shoals, Ala.

Costa FLW Series Central Division top 10

Profile

A guide on the Tennessee River, Cameron Gautney has taken a methodical, but fast route to the FLW Tour. He boasts a bunch of experience at the BFL level, and fished full Costa FLW Series divisions in 2016 and 2017. This year he qualified for the Tour out of the Central Division, which isn’t exactly in his stomping grounds, and capped the season with a 12th place finish in the Costa FLW Series Championship.

 

Cody Hahner

Wausau, Wis.

Costa FLW Series Central Division top 10

Profile

Hailing from Wisconsin, Hahner fished in college for University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and he’s continued rapidly moving up the ranks since then. In 2016 he fished the Costa FLW Series Central Division as a pro and finished 41st, missing the Championship by just one place. In 2017, he moved up to 7th to qualify for the Tour and the Championship. Between the fishing around home up north and his college and triple-A time, Hahner has actually seen a lot of the country, so he’s young, but not entirely short on experience.  

 

Steven Hatala

St. Clair Shores, Mich.

Ranger owner

Profile

Hatala essentially started his foray into tournament bass fishing in 2015, and with the season finale at his home pond he decided to step up to the big leagues for 2018. Hailing from Michigan, Hatala has very limited experience from the front of the boat, but he has locked up three co-angler top 10s in the last three years and his two years as an FLW Tour co-angler have shown him a wide variety of fisheries. Bass Rankings has him as the 30th best co-angler on Tour over the last two years, but going to the front will still be a big step for him.

 

Miles Howe

San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Costa FLW Series Western Division top 10

Profile

Making the jump from the West Coast is always an extra challenge, but Miles Howe is determined to give it a shot and seems to have all the necessary qualifications. He’s finished 16th or better in the Costa FLW Series Western Division each of the last three years and could be an immediate threat with a spinning rod if Western stereotypes hold true. Of course, he’s earned a top 10 on the California Delta as well, and that’s hardly a spinning rod fishery.

 

Freddy Hurley

Somerset, Ky.

Ranger owner

Profile

Hurley has fished a swath of FLW events from St. Clair to Cumberland over the years, giving him one of the oddest-looking resumes of any Tour newcomer. Hurley has fished BFL events as a boater literally all over the place, chalking up 10 top 10 finishes as a boater since 2006. Hurley has actually had some of his best success up north on St. Clair, so despite lacking much high level experience, he’s almost getting two hometown chances this year.

 

Rob Jordan

Flowery Branch, Ga.

Ranger owner

Profile

From the prettiest-sounding town in the country (perhaps), Jordan is a certified hammer on Lake Lanier, with a bunch of success throughout the year in BFL competition, including a 2015 win in early March. Elsewhere, Jordan has notched some success in BASS Opens for some triple-A experience, but he’s not jumping into the Tour with a Castledine-level resume. Nonetheless, it certainly seems like he should have a good chance at Lanier and Lewis Smith and the tools for a successful career could be there.

 

David Larson

Mound, Minn.

Top 10 FLW Tour co-angler

Profile

Fishing the Tour as a co-angler the past two years, Larson has a resume nearly as well-developed as his moustache. In 2017, he won at Lake Travis and finished runner-up in the standings to Gary Haraguchi, and over the past two seasons Bass Rankings has him as the fourth best co-angler on Tour. He’s picked up a few Opens as a boater to gain some experience there, and seems to have the sort of co-angler resume that could lead to success. He’s evidently got a solid understanding of fishing down South – now he’s got to see how it translates to the front deck.

 

Wes Logan

Springville, Ala.

Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division top 10

Profile

This year’s rookie class features some extremely young and exciting anglers, and Logan is no doubt one of them. In 2015 the young Alabama native double-qualified for the BFL All-American as both a co-angler and a boater and then finished a remarkable 12th as a boater on Kentucky Lake. Qualifying out of the Southeastern Division, it sure seems that Logan has the makings of a star.

 

Greg Mansfield

Burnsville, Minn.

Sponsor entry

Profile

Ranking 22nd among FLW Tour co-anglers over the last two years per Bass Rankings, Mansfield has loaded up on BASS Opens as well. Though he hasn’t put up any stunning numbers yet, he’s accumulated a lot of experience. One of his most notable finishes is a 17th place showing in a BASS Open on Lake Erie, and that could bode well for the finale at St. Clair.

 

David Nichol

Gainesville, Ga.

Ranger owner

Profile

Nichol is the 8th best angler on Lanier based on Bass Rankings 2-year ranks, and he’s loaded with BFL experience. Fishing BFLs since 2012, Nichol has accumulated eight top 10 finishes, including seventh in the All-American on Wilson Lake in 2014. Outside of the BFL circuit, Nichol is short on experience, and going to the front at the Tour level is likely to be a big jump for him.

 

Craig Rozema

Simpsonville, S.C.

Ranger owner

Profile

Fishing tournaments since he was in his 20s, Rozema earned the Co-angler of the Year award in the Costa FLW Series Southeastern division in 2017 and has seven top 10 finishes scattered between the boater and co-angler ranks since 2003. The South Carolina angler has a lot of co-angler savvy, and this year he’ll try to transfer his success to the front of the boat.

 

Tyler Stewart

West Monroe, La.

Ranger owner

Profile

Fishing for the University of Louisiana-Monroe, Stewart had a standout career, winning once at the YETI FLW College Fishing level and finishing fourth with partner Nicholas Joiner in the 2017 National Championship at Wheeler Lake. Stewart finished 28th as a co-angler in the 2017 Tour event on Beaver Lake, but that and one BASS Open as a boater is pretty much it outside of college. Suffice to say, he’s got a challenge ahead of him.

 

Joe Thompson

Clayton, Ga.

Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division top 10

Profile

By coincidence and effort, Joe Thompson dominated flwfishing.com in December. After a great year in the Costa FLW Series with plenty of good experience elsewhere to back it up, he’s taking his shot at the pros. He seems well-placed for success, and could be a player at more than his wheelhouse of Lake Lanier.

 

Andy Wicker

Pomaria, S.C.

Ranger owner

Profile

The South Carolina angler has been hitting the local trails hard and enjoyed particular success in the American Bass Anglers series in 2017, qualifying for the Area Championship and National championship and finishing in the top 10 both times. Though he doesn’t have any experience at the triple-A level, Wicker has certainly proved his ability more locally. Making the jump to the Tour will be a big one, but he’s certainly capable of catching bass.

 

David Wootton

Collierville, Tenn.

Ranger owner

Profile

Wootton had a solid year as a co-angler on the FLW Tour in 2017, finishing 14th in the points and cutting four checks along the way. He has a lot of BFL experience and a little Costa FLW Series experience, and notched one appearance in the BFL All-American in 2012. Overall, the Tennessee angler has fished more than 100 FLW tournaments, so his experience should help him.

 

Ronald Young

Lake Wales, Fla.

Top 10 FLW Tour co-angler

Profile

Last year represented something of a breakthrough for Young, who fished three years on Tour as a co-angler with only moderate success before cruising into 8th in the standings in 2017. The Tour has no doubt provided Young’s best preparation, though he’s also put in significant time at the BFL level and some at the Costa FLW Series level. That said, swapping to the front after time as a co-angler is a time-honored pathway, so he’s making the right moves toward success.

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