Photo by Joel Shangle
By Joel Shangle - December 13, 2018
Because the 2019 Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour is a new circuit, there technically won’t be a “rookie class” – all 80 of the anglers fishing the eight-event season are “rookies”. However, among the field of 80 are 29 anglers who have never competed in any form of the MLF format (Cups or Selects).
It’s an accomplished group, to be sure: four Angler of the Year awards, four Forrest Wood Cup titles, two Bassmaster Classic trophies and 101 tour-level wins among those 29 anglers.
However, none of those newcomers have ever dealt with SCORETRACKER™. They’ve never had to sit out a 2-minute penalty, or taken a break in between periods. And because they’ve spent their entire careers fishing a traditional “five biggest fish wins” format, they’ve never had to manage their fish based on an “every scorable bass counts” framework.
“It takes a while to really understand the differences in the format,” said MLF Cup veteran Ish Monroe. “I know it took some time for me to understand, you can’t just go flip and throw a frog in a place that’s loaded with bass. I’m a big-fish guy who’s programmed to go find the five biggest fish, so I can tell you from experience, there can be a learning curve.”
Which newcomers to watch?
So which of the incoming anglers could prove to be dangerous in the MLF Bass Pro Tour format? Monroe has one immediate choice: “Andy Morgan, obviously,” he says.
It’s a logical choice. Morgan, a 22-year FLW Tour pro, won three FLW Angler of the Year awards in four years from 2013 to 2016, and racked up an astonishing 66 Top 10s in his FLW career (the most in FLW Tour history).
“Morgan is a natural-ability fisherman who just fishes what’s in front of him,” Monroe said. “That’s a guy who won’t get rattled by SCORETRACKER. He’s one of the smoothest guys down the bank I’ve ever seen. He’ll bend down to switch rods, and he’s casting in the same motion as he’s standing up. And he never tries to force-feed fish to bite. He’ll just keep covering water, and eventually, he always finds the fish.”
Michael Neal points to another veteran to keep an eye on in 2019.
“Luke Clausen has a very proven track record, and is one of the few guys to win both the Forrest Wood Cup and Bassmaster Classic,” Neal said. “I actually fished with Luke as a co-angler at an FLW event, so I’ve seen him in action firsthand, in addition to competing against him for several years. He’s a West Coast guy who’s known as being well-versed with a spinning rod, but he’s just a well-rounded angler who has won many events with different techniques.”
Here are other MLF pros’ thoughts on new anglers to watch in the Bass Pro Tour format:
Brent Chapman: “I think Jacob Powroznik and Josh Bertrand will both be tough. Powroznik is just one of those guys who always catches them, no matter where we fish. And Bertrand is such an excellent finesse fisherman, I think he’s always going to catch a lot of fish.”
Ott Defoe: “I would say Bradley Roy. He’s coming off such a great year (in the Bassmaster Elite Series) and has a lot of confidence.”
JT Kenney: “Shin Fukae! He’s always been good at catching a bunch of fish, I think he’ll do well in this format.”
Randy Howell: “I think a guy like Dustin Connell could do well in this format. He’s versatile, and he fishes and processes information fast.”
Cody Meyer: “Morgan, Powroznik, James Elam, Clausen – all of those guys are going to crush it. They’re all ‘mega-bite’ guys who can catch numbers, and I think that’s what it’s going to take (in the Bass Pro Tour format).”
Jacob Wheeler: “I’d say watch out for Adrian Avena. I believe he’s super versatile, and does a better job of fishing the moment than a lot of other guys.”
Wesley Strader: “My top pick would be Jesse Wiggins. He’s young, and most of the time, the younger guys seem to compete well without having any prior expectations of a body of water.”
Andy Montgomery: “I have to second Andy Morgan. That’s a dude I’ve looked up to from when I started in FLW. I know he’ll be a handful in Cup formats. Thanks for reminding me he’s in. I should sleep well now … not!”