In 2016, Cory Johnston became the first angler to assemble three Costa FLW Series Angler of the Year titles, earning all of his in the Northern Division. This year, Texas pro Todd Castledine joined him as a three-time AOY by topping the Southwestern Division for the third time. He earned the 2017 title handily with a win in the first event at Sam Rayburn, a 10th-place finish at Grand Lake (shortened to a two-day event by bad weather) and a 20th-place showing in the season finale at Texoma. Castledine’s historic achievement caps an impressive run of dominance, as he has now been tops in the division three of the last seven years.
Still a special achievement
After three AOY titles and more than $240,000 in winnings with FLW, you might think that success would begin to run together for Castledine. Per Castledine, that isn’t at all the case, and this is perhaps his most meaningful title yet.
“It means a lot, to be honest with you,” he says. “The first time I won it was kind of the first year I’d really done good consistently in all of them, and I had to win it the last day of the year. That was a big deal, and on your first one, you never know if you’re going to have that chance again. The second one was good, but nothing really extraordinary happened.”
This year, he went into the final event at Texoma as keyed up as he’s ever been.
“I was really nervous because I do really good there and really bad,” says Castledine. “I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous for an event. I don’t usually sleep great before the first day, but I could barely sleep at all before the first day or the second day. I don’t know why I wanted to win it so bad, but I just did. I didn’t know if anyone else had ever won three, and you kind of want to do something that’s never been done before.”
If Castledine’s career trajectory continues, he’ll undoubtedly run into more history. Though he’s dominated in Texas, the cool-headed pro has shown flashes well outside the Lone Star State. With Costa FLW Series top 10s at Dardanelle and Kentucky Lake and a fourth-place finish in the 2014 T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) All-American on Wilson Lake, it’s obvious he can catch ’em elsewhere as well. Yet, he’s hoping to prove it in other ways.
“I really want to win the Angler of the Year in the Centrals,” says Castledine, who has fished two Costa FLW Series divisions each of the last three years. He’s currently in 39th in the Central standings going into the final event on Lake of the Ozarks. “The first time I fished them I was second in the final event, and I dropped a big bomb. I’d really like to do it in two divisions.”
The Tour challenge
Next season, Castledine is planning on upping his game even more. In 2018, Castledine and his team partner, Russell Cecil, who finished second in the Southwestern Division standings, are taking it on the road in the big leagues of the FLW Tour.
“Last year I had one of my worst seasons in the Southwestern Division [55th place], so I wasn’t on great terms last year with fishing,” says Castledine. “It’s neat that we finished first and second in the points and that we’re both going into the Tour. There’s a lot of momentum, but we’re both very realistic about this. I’m pretty cautious about fishing, but I’ll take all the momentum I can get.
“I have zero goals for Rookie of the Year, Angler of the Year, top 10s or stuff like that,” says Castledine of his first Tour foray. “I know how it can turn on you, and sometimes it’s hard to get out of those bad turns. Excited might not be the right word. We’re going into it like any other tournament, to try to do as good as we can and see what happens.”
Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Feb. 23-25
Castledine has now earned four FLW wins on Sam Rayburn, and he’s got a knack for catching them any time of year on the big Texas reservoir. The first two days he relied on sight-fishing, which is one of the tall, eagle-eyed pro’s signature strengths. On the final day he fished shallow grass, sight-fished and finished the day on one offshore spot. On his last cast, he caught a fish that weighed about 10 pounds to move him from ninth to first.
“I’ve caught some 10-pounders before in tournaments. I caught a 9-pounder the day before, but that one [the final-day kicker] was different. I won’t forget that,” says Castledine. “I really didn’t know what I had, but I knew I would only need to beat one person. I figured I had a shot, but when you’re in ninth place you have to pass a lot of people.”
Pass them he did. After plopping 27 pounds on the scale he held the hot seat until weigh-in was over.
Grand Lake, April 20-22
At Grand Lake, Castledine sight-fished his way to fourth with 16 pounds, 12 ounces on day one. Day two was cancelled due to storms, and the entire field ended up fishing in a two-day tournament. Following the cancellation day, Castledine dropped to 10th with 11-3.
Grand showed off his ability to adapt, which turned out to be a staple of his season.
“I think at every event, one of the days I did something different that I had not planned on doing at all in the tournament, and had really good success doing it,” says Castledine. “It would be something back there in my mind, but it was like ‘Plan F.’ That was key this year for it all to work. A lot of times once one thing stops working nothing works, but they all worked. It saved me on every event.”
At Grand, he dropped his sight-fishing stuff on the final day and picked up a Strike King Sexy Dawg to finish out a limit and prevent a free-fall.
Top 10 patterns from Grand Lake
Lake Texoma, Sept. 21-23
Castledine came into Texoma with a decent lead in the AOY race, but he wasn’t at all sure of success.
“We’ve won some there, and I fished a BFL Regional there and came in second, but we usually either do really well, like top three, or we have epic bombs,” says Castledine of his and Cecil’s success at Texoma. “It’s such a finicky, weird place. On day one I knew something was off instantly, and I canned practice pretty quick. That’s why it scared me. I like it, but it has fooled me real quick before.
“I only had two fish at 1 o’clock on day two, but when I caught my last one, I knew right there I had it. It wasn’t like pure excitement; it was more relief. You don’t want to lead Angler of the Year every single day and then lose it on the final day.”
To finish 20th on Texoma, Castledine relied on his trusty Sexy Dawg again as well as a Carolina rig with a finesse worm. Had he not lost a pile of fish on day two, he might have banked a third top 10 or even threatened for another win.
Prizes and standings
For winning the 2017 Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division Strike King Angler of the Year award, Todd Castledine earned a $2,000 prize package that includes paid deposits for the 2018 season. The top 40 pros and 40 co-anglers in the division standings qualified for the Costa FLW Series Championship.
The top 10 anglers in the standings, including AOY points earned:
1. Todd Castledine – Nacogdoches, Texas – 722
2. Russell Cecil – Willis, Texas – 705
3. Kyle Cortiana – Broken Arrow, Okla. – 693
4. Eric Wright – Balch Springs, Texas – 687
5. Andrew Upshaw – Tulsa, Okla. – 685
6. Stephen Johnston – Hemphill, Texas – 677
7. Tommy Martin – Hemphill, Texas – 673
8. Sheldon Collings – Grove, Okla. – 659
9. Drew Boggs – Lebanon, Tenn. – 652
10. Brandon Mosley – Choctaw, Okla. – 650