Today FLW announced its 2019 schedule and a key rule change for the 2019 FLW Tour season at a press conference on the ICAST show floor. Starting in 2019, the longstanding FLW Tour co-angler program will be replaced with a new FLW Tour Marshal program.
The change enhances opportunities for the sport’s top pros and creates new opportunities for marshals, while FLW will continue as the leading organization for co-anglers with co-angler awards topping $3.9 million in 144 tournaments outside the Tour. The Costa FLW Series and the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL), along with their respective championships, will continue to offer payouts of up to $32,000 and $60,000, respectively, for co-anglers.
“Co-anglers are incredibly important to FLW – so important that we first coined the term ‘co-angler’ in 1999 because ‘amateur’ and ‘non-boater’ did not adequately describe the quality of angler fishing from the back of the boat in FLW tournaments,” says FLW President of Operations Kathy Fennel. “It is an apprenticeship like no other. But times have changed, and the co-angler program is no longer the stepping stone to the professional ranks that it once was.
“Anglers with professional aspirations are now starting in our High School Fishing program and continuing through FLW College Fishing. The majority of FLW Tour co-anglers fish other FLW circuits, and most only fish one or two FLW Tour events a season. Going forward, FLW will continue to provide the very best opportunities for co-anglers while expanding our offerings to include the new FLW Tour Marshal program.”
The FLW Tour Marshal program will provide the same learning opportunities that the co-angler program offered, along with the opportunity to win cash and a new Ranger Z518C powered by a 200-hp Evinrude or Mercury outboard, without impacting the outcome of the tournament. Each Marshal will attend a VIP dinner and seminar with select FLW Tour pros on the Wednesday before each tournament, plus get behind-the-scenes access to the biggest events in bass fishing. They will receive exclusive FLW clothing and play a vital role in live coverage of each FLW Tour event.
Marshals will be eligible for a top cash award of $2,500 at each regular-season FLW Tour stop based on the combined weight of the pros they are randomly paired with. Marshals will also receive one entry into an exclusive Ranger Z518C giveaway for each day they complete. One lucky marshal will be randomly selected to win the new boat after the season concludes.
The 2019 FLW Tour features seven regular-season tournaments and the Forrest Wood Cup. Each tournament is streamed on FLW Live and broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network and the World Fishing Network, showcasing the best bass anglers in the world competing in the sport’s most competitive circuit.
Along with the change from co-anglers to Marshals in 2019, the FLW Tour will also switch from a priority-entry system to a qualifying system with a 150-boat field starting with the 2020 season. This system will reward performance and ensure that the FLW Tour field does not balloon to 186 boats as it did in 2018.
The qualifying guidelines that will govern entry into the 2020 FLW Tour are:
As FLW transitions to its new qualifying system for the FLW Tour, pros who did not finish in the top 100 in 2018 will not be left out. They will have the opportunity to enter in 2019 based on the priority-entry guidelines published in the 2018 FLW Tour and FLW Series rules. Qualification for 2020, however, will be based on the criteria outlined above. While the FLW Tour is moving to a 150-boat field in 2020, more than 150 boats will likely fish during the 2019 transition year. If that happens, additional places will be added to the payout at each FLW Tour event.
Along with the $125,000 paycheck that is awarded to FLW Tour winners, FLW will pay out at least $10,000 to pros down to 50th place with 51st through 60th place now paying $5,500. The entry fee is $35,000 for the season.
In FLW Tour competition anglers will compete for valuable points in hopes of qualifying for the 2019 FLW Cup, the world championship of bass fishing. The date and location for the 2019 Cup will be unveiled later this year.