When the anglers in the T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) All-American start competition on the Potomac they’ll be up against the absolute cream of the crop of FLW’s grassroots ranks. Among the field are the top six boaters and co-anglers from each of the six 2018 BFL Regionals, the top six boaters and co-anglers from the 2018 BFL Wild Card, and the top seven boaters and co-anglers from the 2019 The Bass Federation National Championship.
They’re fishing for the title of All-American champion, an accomplishment that follows an angler for life, but there’s more on the line as well. The All-American boater champion earns a six-figure payday and a spot in the 2019 FLW Cup, and the highest-finishing boater and co-angler from each Regional and the Wild Card at the All-American earn spots in the 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship.
So, here’s how the field breaks down, from some potential favorites to how much money the anglers have won on the water.
Though the competitors come from all over the country, the seven anglers from North Carolina comprise the largest contingent from any one state. Robert Walser, Travis Young, Scott Beattie, Michael Fox, Bryan New and Dylan Fulk make up the boater side of the Tar Heel squad. Repping from the co-angler side are Khris Williams and Tristen Trull.
A whopping 15 states are represented by only one angler – boater or co-angler – at the All-American, and though in some cases the lack of representation makes perfect sense, it’s truly surprising to see a bass-fishing Mecca such as Texas with only one angler.
As for possible local favorites, Michael Nelms is the only boater in the field from Virginia, though Ronnie Baker, David Williams, Wayne Smelser, Ben Dacey and Larry Freeman Jr. are in it on the co-angler side. From Maryland, Steven Wiseman and Moo Bae represent as boaters, and Danny Vass caries the flag on the co-angler side.
Below are the competitors who are the only anglers from their state:
Matt Finkeldei, Iowa
Jacob Sloan, Kansas
Daniel Dumais, Michigan
Brad Leifermann, Minnesota
Brent Ladnier, Mississippi
Jason Crone, Montana
Henry McKee, New Jersey
Jordan McMorris, New Mexico
Andrew Hays, Nevada
William Allie, New York
Cameron Rhodes, Rhode Island
James Moore, Texas
Scott Green, Vermont
Dusty Kinley, Washington
Randy Wieczorek, Wisconsin
At the time of the tournament, four anglers will be 70 years old or older. Wayne Miller (74), Wayne Kilgore (73), Dickie Reece (73) and Danny Vass (70) are all competing as co-anglers. While three of the veterans haven’t made more the $2,500 with FLW, Kilgore has earned more than $60,000 and is the only one who has fished the All-American before.
On the younger end of things, there are nine anglers who will be 25 or younger for the tournament. Of them, 18-year-old co-angler Cameron Rhodes is the youngest in the field and the only angler under age 20.
In the 25-and-under crowd, Lake Blasingame has the most winnings to his name, with more than $46,000 already accumulated in his young career.
Taken all together, the average age of the All-American field is 43.7 years old.
A total of 28 boaters (the majority) in the All-American have never fished the championship before. It’s a measure of how hard it is to make the All-American that nobody in this year’s field on the boater side has even fished it eight times, despite the All-American being held for nearly four decades. In the lead is Robert Walser, who’s been seven times before. Dennis Berhorst and Lloyd Picket Jr. each have been six times.
Qualifying for the All-American multiple times as a co-angler seems to be even harder, as only three anglers in the field have even fished it twice before. Those three are David Williams, Wayne Smelser and Michael Nelms.
Though making the All-American multiple times is wicked tough, winning it just once is even tougher. This year, there are two past champs in the field – Troy Morrow (2010) and Wade Ramsey (2005). Both won as boaters, and they’re both fishing as boaters again this year.
Of the anglers in the field, nobody has a shot at becoming a bass-fishing millionaire because of the All-American alone, though qualifying for the FLW Cup and then winning it would do it for Troy Morrow. In fact, Morrow, who is an FLW Tour pro and won the All-American in 2010, leads the pack with more than $777,000 in FLW earnings. Behind him, Robert Walser has earned just less than $550,000, and Lloyd Picket Jr. has earned a bit more than $503,000.
The money-winningest co-angler in the field is David Williams of Fredericksburg, Va., who has pocketed more than $107,000 throughout his career. Behind him, Dewey Larson, Michael Bahnweg and Wayne Smelser have each racked up more than $68,000 in their careers.
A whopping 35 anglers in the field (more than a third of the total field of boaters and co-anglers) have 10 or more top-10 finishes in BFLs, but five of them have truly stretched the bounds of competition with 40 or more top 10s to their credit. Leading the way, Robert Walser has 56. Dennis Berhorst is second with 50. Behind them, Kip Carter (46), Mike Feldermann (44) and Lloyd Picket Jr. (41) all have more than 40 top 10s in BFL competition.
Back in 2017, tidal river legend Bryan Schmitt rolled west and won the FLW Tour event on the Mississippi River. Not long after, Mississippi River legend Tom Monsoor won the Potomac River FLW Tour event in Schmitt’s backyard. Though comparing fisheries head-to-head is always a dicey proposition, we figured a look at the background of pros with experience on the Mississippi, the Chesapeake Bay, the James River and the Potomac was worth it.
In all, the field has accounted for 111 top-10 finishes on those fisheries, nine of them being wins. On the co-angler side, David Williams has three wins on rivers (two on the James and one on the Potomac), and Michael Banweg has one at the Chesapeake Bay.
On the boater side, the five river wins are split between just two anglers: Mike Feldermann and Joseph Thompson. Feldermann’s wins are all on the Mississippi River, but Thompson has won on the Potomac, and just last year he won on the Chesapeake in the BFL Regional. Hailing from Pennsylvania, Thompson has a legit argument to be the favorite at the Potomac this year, and would no-doubt be a top pick if FLW Fantasy Fishing was a thing for the All-American.
As far as days on the water go for boaters, Feldermann has a ton of experience in addition to his three wins. With 54 total river BFL events under his belt, he’s got a major edge over most of the field. However, Ronnie Baker has fished 52 events on rivers, mostly on the East Coast tidal fisheries, and he’s a very close second to Feldermann. Fishing on the co-angler side, David Williams blows everyone else away with 74 events fished on tidal rivers.
The only guarantees
Past performance is the best indicator of future success, so analyzing All-American contestants’ histories gives us a good idea of who to watch going into this season’s championship. But the only guarantees we can make are that winning the All-American against a stacked field won’t be at all easy, and someone will make history when they do it.
Follow the All-American
You can follow the All-American via the FLW Live Leaderboard all three days of the tournament. Travis Moran, Chris Jones and Luke Dunkin will host the FLW Live broadcast from the studio on days two and three.