BALLY BET AOY: Familiar Faces on Top of Bass Pro Tour Standings Approaching Midseason Mark - Major League Fishing
BALLY BET AOY: Familiar Faces on Top of Bass Pro Tour Standings Approaching Midseason Mark
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BALLY BET AOY: Familiar Faces on Top of Bass Pro Tour Standings Approaching Midseason Mark

Jordan Lee, Wheeler lead AOY race, Howell enjoying resurgence powered by big fish
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Just shy of the midway point of the 2022 Bass Pro Tour season, the Bally Bet AOY race is taking shape. Anglers: Jordan Lee, Jacob Wheeler, Randy Howell, Tommy Biffle.
April 26, 2022 • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour

The 2022 Bass Pro Tour regular season has reached the point in the schedule where the Angler of the Year race is taking shape. With three regular-season tournaments down and four events to go, some trends are emerging in the Bally Bet Angler of the Year standings, with what looks to be a spirited battle to the end for the $100,000 reward and AOY trophy.

A handful of anglers are poised to have tremendous bounce-back years, some rookies are making noise, and other anglers have a lot of work to do if they hope to salvage the season.

J-Lee, Wheeler: No Surprise at 1-2

It’s a little hard to fathom that defending BPT AOY Jacob Wheeler is not leading Angler of the Year points after three consecutive Top 10s to start the Bass Pro Tour season. Wheeler also notched a Top 10 at REDCREST in a non-points event for good measure, but he still finds himself in second place in the standings to Jordan Lee.

However, 2020 AOY Jordan Lee has also been stellar this year and enters Bass Pro Tour Bass Boat Technologies Stage Four at Lake of the Ozarks with 226 points (two points above Wheeler’s 224), with two Top 10s of his own to go with a 12th-place showing at Stage Two on Lake Fork. Both Lee and Wheeler are fishing extraordinarily well, just as they’ve done since virtually the start of their careers, and there’s not a tournament fan alive who wouldn’t love to watch two of the biggest names in bass fishing compete for the top prize until the very last day of the season.

Oh, and by the way, two other major threats are also lurking: two-time FLW Tour AOY Bryan Thrift is third (203) and eight-time tour-level AOY Kevin VanDam is fourth (198)

Howell’s Great Start to the Season

Alabama pro Randy Howell has had a tremendous start to the year after a disastrous 74th-place AOY finish in 2021. Howell finds himself ranked fifth for AOY with 194 points, thanks to some solid finishes and memorable catches.

Howell broke the MLF big-bass record at Stage One in February with a 10-11 on Caney Creek, and then broke it the next day. His 12-14 giant from Bussey Brake was one of the most impressive bass ever caught on camera, and Howell has ridden that momentum since, finishing 33rd at Lake Fork and 10th at Stage Three on Smith Lake.

Howell is in a great position to make 2023 REDCREST and is leading the 2023 Heavy Hitters race to date with 23-15 on just three qualifying fish. After missing out on both of those events this year, he’s in an excellent spot to make both of those events next season.

New Faces in REDCREST 2023?

Judging by the current Bally Bet standings, several anglers will likely be fishing their first REDCREST next year. With the combination of anglers having great seasons and the addition of six rookies from the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, the Bass Pro Tour championship event will almost certainly see some new faces.

  • One of those may be Tommy Biffle, who’s 29th in points after three events. Since joining the Bass Pro Tour in 2019, the Bass Fishing Hall-of-Famer’s best AOY finish was 62nd (in 2021), and he’s poised to improve on that this year.
  • Marty Robinson is another veteran who got off to a solid start in 2022: he’s 32nd heading into the Lake of the Ozarks tournament. His best finish was the inaugural season in 2019, where he wound up 44th.
  • Another angler who may make his first REDCREST is Arizona’s Roy Hawk. He’s made no secret that he’s not been proud of his fishing since joining the BPT, and after two abysmal seasons, he ended up 59th in 2021. He heads into Stage Four in 46th and is just one good event away from jumping inside of the Top 40.
  • Half of the 2022 Bass Pro Tour rookie class is inside the Top 40, headlined by Dakota Ebare. The Louisiana pro finished second at Lake Fork and is 22nd in the points. Jeremy Lawyer (31st) and Cole Floyd (40th) have also started strong in their first BPT seasons.

Just about halfway through the season, the races for the Bally Bet AOY, REDCREST and General Tires Heavy Hitters are just getting interesting. Buckle up, it should be a thrilling race to the finish.