FLW is hauling a lot of hardware to Maryland this week for the final stop of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River. The world’s largest tournament fishing organization is also going to be writing some fat checks.
That’s because in addition to a regular-season tournament champion being crowned and paid up to $125,000, the 2015 Angler of the Year, Co-angler of the Year and Rookie of the Year will also be recognized. And the roster for the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup will be finalized.
Now let’s take a look at who’s in the driver’s seat to win the biggest titles among first-year pros and amateur anglers.
Birge Dominating ROY Race
Tournament bass fishing is one of the least predictable sports, but in the case of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour Rookie of the Year race, Zack Birge can probably start clearing a spot on his mantle for his ROY trophy.
Birge is in 22nd place in the overall AOY standings with 805 points. The next closest rookie is Andrew Young, who’s in 60th place with 663 points. The maximum number of points an angler can earn at a single event is 200, which is the total awarded to the winner. Assuming Birge weighs a fish, which is necessary in order to earn points at an event, he would have to finish almost dead last and Young would have to win for Birge to give up his 142-point lead – give or take a couple of spots in the Potomac standings.
Birge spent the off week between Chickamauga and the Potomac on the James River, where he and his wife, Kristina, sacked up a 21-pound limit that included an 8-plus-pound fish, according to the Oklahoman’s Facebook page. The James is a tidal fishery like the Potomac, so Birge’s throwdown on the James suggests that he’ll be dialed in on the ways of fluctuating tidewaters, and he’s probably going to be on his game this week.
Also motivating the young pro is that his day-two catch at Chickamauga was disqualified for a rules violation, sinking his chances for a run at the AOY title. On the heels of a disappointing finish in Tennessee, Birge has stated publicly via Facebook that he’s more focused and driven than ever going into the finale. He just might sew up the ROY in a big way this week.
Behind Young in the ROY standings is Nick Hensley in 66th with 650 points. The rest of the 18 rookies on Tour this season are all 75th or lower in the standings.
Co-angler of the Year Race Comes Down to the Wire
The 2015 Co-angler of the Year race is much tighter than Rookie of the Year.
Mathematically, anyone in the top 10 has a shot, though, realistically, someone in the top five will probably earn the trophy and the brand-new Ranger Z518C with 200-hp outboard that come with the title.
John Hunter of Shelbyville, Ky., leads the race with 916 points. He’s 11 points ahead of fellow Kentuckian and veteran Tour co-angler Mike Devere, who’s got 905 points. They’re the only two with more than 900 points.
The rest of the top 10 includes a 2015 tournament winner (Chad Randles, fifth, 836 points), the 2014 COY (Bryan New, seventh, 822 points), and a three-time FLW College Fishing National Championship qualifier and former The Bass Federation Junior World Champion (Kyle Raymer, eighth, 821 points).
Here’s the full top 10.
1. John Hunter – Shelbyville, Ky. – 916
2. Mike Devere – Berea, Ky. – 905
3. Tom Stark – Angola, Ind. – 876
4. Richie Eaves – Nauvoo, Ill. – 870
5. Chad Randles – Elkhorn, Neb. – 836
6. Joshua Weaver – Macon, Ga. – 832
7. Bryan New – Belmont, N.C. – 822
8. Kyle Raymer – Brandenburg, Ky. – 821
9. Joey Cifuentes – Clinton, Ark. – 811
10. Tim Cales – Sandstone, W.Va. – 802
Click here for complete 2015 Walmart FLW Tour pro and co-angler standings. Select the circuit and division (pro or co) that you’d like to see.