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

AOY Update: Harris Chain

AOY Update: Harris Chain
Chris Johnston

With two tournaments down, the FLW Tour points north to finally leave the Sunshine State – something many anglers welcome. Florida can often be the place where pros make or break their shot at qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup, and it ruins many Angler of the Year runs before they ever start.

With the next Tour stop scheduled for Lake Lanier, the AOY standings will likely see some shuffling as the fishery type shifts dramatically from shallow Florida grass lakes to a deep highland impoundment.

As of now, third-year pro Chris Johnston is in the driver’s seat for the coveted AOY title with a slim lead over Jared McMillan.

There’s a lot of season left and plenty can change, but the AOY race is finally starting to ramp up. Here’s a breakdown of the standings after back-to-back Florida events.

 

1. Chris Johnston – Peterborough, Ont. – 391 points

In his first season on Tour back in 2016, Johnston finished the AOY race in second place. Last year, however, the sophomore slump hit, and he finished 59th – missing the Forrest Wood Cup. It seems as though he’s back in form this year as he posted a top 10 on Okeechobee to start and locked down his first win on the Harris Chain last week.

Johnston has proved over the years that he can crush them up north in the Northern Division of the Costa FLW Series where he has won two AOY titles and posted four other finishes in the top 10 of the points. Since joining the Tour, he’s also shown he can hang with the best of them across the country with six top-10 finishes now to his credit.

The nice thing for the Canadian is that the rest of the schedule plays into his hand nicely. Johnston is a very versatile angler and an excellent sight-fisherman. The next three events should allow him to fish as he sees fit. The Kentucky Lake Tour stop might be the biggest challenge he’ll need to survive to make a run at AOY.

It might seem weird not hearing about Bryan Thrift or Andy Morgan atop the leaderboard this early in the season, but the fact is that Johnston has set himself up nicely for a shot at the title. Obviously, with the last event on a smallmouth venue (St. Clair), it looks pretty good on paper for Johnston to be in contention when this thing winds down come summer.

 

2. Jared McMillan – Belle Glade, Fla. – 389 points

Younger brother to Brandon McMillan, Jared has dabbled in Tour events as a pro a few times, but only to jackpot Okeechobee tournaments. This year, he decided to fish the full Tour schedule because he felt like the time was right and the first two events were in his home state.

Well, he showed that he came prepared after posting back-to-back top 10s, and now sits just two points behind Johnston in the standings. Now Jared has to prove that he can catch them outside of Florida – especially on a non-grass lake.

There’s no doubt Jared is a good angler, but how will he handle a new environment? Certainly, he’ll have his older brother there to bounce ideas off of, but Lanier will be the first real test for Lil’ Mac this season.

 

3. Brandon McMillan – Clewiston, Fla. – 365 points

While this is technically Brandon’s seventh season fishing Tour-level events, it’s only his fourth season fishing the full FLW Tour schedule. In his first season in 2013, when Brandon had to trek outside Florida and compete, he survived, finishing 53rd in the points. Since then he has progressed with each season, finishing 27th in 2016 and 16th last year.

He has broken out of his all-braid, big-rod stereotype and really adapted well to new situations, showing his versatility. Heck, he has even come to realize that having a few spinning rods isn’t a bad thing.

Even though Lanier is known for the phenomenal spotted bass fishery it supports, Big Mac should have no trouble dialing in on the plentiful largemouths that roam the lake. He’s an excellent flipper, and for the next several events he’ll be able to target wood and docks to try and keep the momentum rolling.

 

4. Brandon Mosley – Choctaw, Okla. – 355 points

Last season was Mosley’s first season on Tour, and it was a tough go. His best finish was 49th on the Potomac River. In the other six events he settled somewhere in the triple digits.

Mosley has come out this season refreshed, kicking it off with an 11th-place finish on Okeechobee and 36th on the Harris Chain. Two tournaments in a row cashing two checks has to do wonders to your confidence.

Before joining the Tour, Mosley spent his time doing work regionally around Oklahoma in T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League and Costa FLW Series competition. Most of the lakes around there aren’t known for their grass, so Mosley has to be feeling great about his position in the standings heading to some lakes that look a lot more like home.

 

5. David Williams – Maiden, N.C. – 351 points

Though he's not a rookie, Williams is fishing in his first year on the FLW Tour and for sure no amateur when it comes to catching bass. He’s well known on the East Coast and is now starting to show that he can roll with the big boys.

His season started similar to Mosley’s, with a 17th-place finish on the Big O and 34th on Harris. Also like Mosley, Williams should be confident heading into the next few events on lakes that fit his style and comfort level.

The biggest hurdles for him are Kentucky Lake and St. Clair at the end of the season. But as of now, the next few events comprise a great time to cash some checks and keep his name in the AOY race.

 

Notable mentions

If you’re curious where some of the perennial AOY contenders are in the mix, here’s the scoop.

Anthony Gagliardi is right behind Williams with 351 points, and considering how strong he is in the prespawn and spawn periods, he just might keep climbing the standings.

Mark Rose came out of Florida nice and safe and sits in ninth with 337 points. He is very versatile and excellent with a crankbait, which should be a factor in almost every event left on the schedule.

Cody Meyer is in 11th. He survived Florida, which is the bane of his existence, so things are looking great for one of the most consistent anglers on Tour. He checks in with 334 points.

Bryan Thrift is patiently waiting in 21st right now and is very likely to just top 10 in every event from here on out and make a run at yet another AOY.

Andy Morgan has probably left himself out of the AOY race for the first time in a long time since he is currently 99th in points. He’s just as likely to top 10 in the next five Tour stops, but a 148th-place finish at Okeechobee really hurt his cause.

Tags: aoy  -flw-tour  kyle-wood  article 

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