Hailing from Ocean Springs, Miss., Andy Niles has now won on Okeechobee two years in a row. In 2019, he picked up the win in the Southeastern Division event on Okeechobee, and this year he got the win in the second Toyota Series Southern Division event of the year. Weighing a total of 44 pounds, 7 ounces, Niles takes home a new Phoenix bass boat for his efforts. Friday was Niles’ son Cooper’s 8th birthday, and though he’s probably not going to get the boat for a present, he’ll at least get a very happy dad.
“It’s nice, it’s pretty cool to repeat. I just went with what I was comfortable with and it just happened to work out,” says Niles, who is from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. “It’s Florida, so you’re not likely to ever fish deep. I grew up on the Pascagoula River and all the river systems in south Mississippi where 10 foot is deep. So, this fits my style.”
Niles dealt with a pretty diverse set of boats and says he caught fish on a buzzbait, a spinnerbait, a fluke-style bait from NetBait and a swim jig with a NetBait Paca Craw as a trailer. The swim jig was probably the most productive bait for Niles, and it accounted for a 5-pounder on the final day.
“Every day was a little bit different,” says Niles. “The first day we went to J&S, the second day was an eelgrass flat, and today was buggy whips and pencil reeds.”
Though Niles has now won a boat two years in a row, he says he’s not tempted to fish from the front of the boat.
“I like being a co-angler, it’s nice,” says Niles. “Most of the time I drive down on Wednesday, get in the boat on Thursday and hope I get a good draw. Sometimes that doesn’t work out, not everybody is going to be on fish, but I really think that if somewhat of my livelihood depended on it, fishing wouldn’t be as much fun anymore.”
Top 10 co-anglers
1. Andy Niles – Ocean Springs, Miss. – 44-7 (15) – Phoenix 518 Pro powered by a 115-hp Suzuki
2. George Kapiton – Inverness, Fla. – 39-4 (15) – $4,729
3. Edwin Bartlett – Casco, Maine – 38-1 (15) – $3,783
4. JP Sims – Port St. Lucie, Fla. – 37-2 (15) – $3,310
5. Aaron Gengler – Lakeland, Fla. – 32-12 (13) – $3,037
6. Roger Gonzalez – Hollywood, Fla. – 32-1 (12) – $2,364
7. Bobby Bakewell – Orlando, Fla. – 30-13 (12) – $1,891
8. John Riddling – Melrose, Fla. – 29-9 (10) – $1,755
9. Christian Greico – Tampa, Fla. – 29-8 (12) – $1,419
10. Brian Toth – Brandon, Miss. – 29-8 (13) – $1,182