Breaking the 20-pound mark in a bass tournament is a solid accomplishment. To do it on the final day of a tournament as a co-angler is even more impressive.
Co-angler Andy Niles of Ocean Springs, Miss., shocked the final-day field and crowd when he weighed the biggest bag of the event from either the pro or co-angler side – 21 pounds, 15 ounces – and handily won his first Costa FLW Series title with a total weight of 40-8.
The Southeastern Division event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Power-Pole was a grind no matter if you were in the front of the boat or back. Bites were few and far between, and as a co-angler just catching a keeper or two kept you in the hunt. Niles started strong with an opening-day limit worth 18-9 to have him in the lead. On day two, he cooled off and brought a goose egg to the stage. Still, his day-one weight carried him to the final round where he started the day in fourth. Paired with Brett Preuett, Niles got to work Saturday.
“I threw a homemade spinnerbait all week, and I didn’t change that today,” says Niles. “It’s a 1/2-ounce with a 4-inch grub as a trailer. I just have confidence in it. I caught that first big one and thought ‘man, this is awesome.’ Then I caught another big one right after it and knew I had a chance to win. If I did the math right on those two fish alone I had 13-13. Before I caught those, I had one keeper.
“Once I got my limit today I cut my spinnerbait off and gave it to Brett,” says the 42-year-old. “I knew then that I had a really good shot, and I wanted to help Brett fill his limit. It’s the right thing to do.”
Niles, who works as an electrical engineer for Ingalls Shipbuilding, couldn’t be happier to take home more than $6,000 in cash along with a Ranger Z175 with a 90-hp engine, but he’s more thankful for the people that support him.
“Thirteen or 14 years ago I won a buddy tournament on Clarks Hill and never thanked my dad,” Niles says. “He’s done so much for me, and I regret not telling him thank you on that day. So now, my dad is at home with my wife and kids, and I want to thank him for everything.
“And I have to thank my wife since she stays at home with our two kids while I get to come do this. She deserves a lot of credit.”
Top 10 co-anglers:
1. Andy Niles – Ocean Springs, Miss. – 40-8 – $6,750 plus a Ranger Z175 with a 90 hp engine
2. Todd Scherr – Coral Springs, Fla. – 32-11 – $6,725
3. Rodney Tapp – North Augusta, S.C. – 32-7 – $5,350
4. Kyle Gelles – Pingree, Idaho – 32-6 – $4,350
5. Darin Mitchell – Rutledge, Ga. – 30-12 – $3,650
6. Don Lewis – Jacksonville, Fla. – 27-14 – $3,150
7. James Hatch – Gainesville, Fla. – 27-1 – $2,650
8. Josh Driver – Hiram, Ga. – 24-8 – $2,075
9. Calvin Clatterbuck – Conway, S.C. – $1,630
10. Bryan Ray – Lake Leelanua, Mich. – 19-9 – $1,390