Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 03/05/2018

Story by Matt Pangrac – Photos courtesy of FLW Communications

Moore, OK - After starting the season on Lake Okeechobee in late January, the FLW Tour continued its 2018 Florida swing with a stop on The Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, Florida in late February.  

This marked the first time since 2005 that the FLW Tour kicked off a season with back-to-back stops on Florida fisheries.  When the Tour started with two stops in Florida in 2005, Greg Hackney eventually earned the Angler Of the Year title, edging Japan’s Toshinari Namiki by a slim eight point margin.  

That season, just four Florida anglers finished inside the Top 40 in the final Angler Of the Year points standings (Koby Kreiger, JT Kenney, Bobby Lane, and Sandy Melvin).   

There are currently six FLW Tour anglers from the state of Florida inside the Top 40 cut in the 2018 FLW Tour AOY standings after the Florida swing, led by Jared and Brandon McMillan who sit in 2nd place and 3rd place, respectively.  

After just one week off the Tour now heads to Lake Lanier this week in Georgia for the third stop of the season, and a quick look at the AOY standings shows that there are some interesting things happening.  For example, there are as many Canadians in the Top 40 of the AOY standings as there are anglers from Alabama.  

Peterborough, Ontario’s Chris Johnston leads the AOY standings after finishes of 10th place on Okeechobee and 1st place on The Harris Chain of Lakes.  Keewatin, Ontario’s Jeff Gustafson sits in 26th in the AOY standings with finishes of 87th on Okeechobee and 2nd on the Harris Chain, and Cavin, Ontario’s Cory Johnston sits in 37th after posting a Top 10 on Okeechobee.  

Former Elite Series anglers who made the move to FLW for the 2018 season are also making a splash early.  North Carolina’s David Williams sits in 5th place it the AOY standings with back-to-back top 40 finishes.  John Hunter is in 7th place, Chad Morgenthaler is in 8th, and Brett Preuett sits in 13th.  

2017 FLW Tour Angler Of the Year, Bryan Thrift, started the season off with a 65th place finish on Okeechobee but rebounded with a 13th on the Harris Chain to close out the Florida swing in 21st place in the AOY standings.   Interestingly, Thrift has some experience working his way back in the AOY hunt after a slow start, in 2016, 2014, and 2012 he had a finish below 60th place in one of the first two stops of the season.  In all three instances he rebounded with Top 20 finishes in the AOY standings.    

After winning the first two Tour stops of the 2017 season in record-setting fashion, Mark Rose is off to another strong start in 2018.   He finished in 3rd on Okeechobee but missed a check on the Harris Chain with a 62nd place finish.  Despite the bobble, he’s still in 9th place in the AOY standings and in good position to track down his first FLW Tour AOY title after seven Top 10 AOY finishes over the course of his career.

Brandon Mosley is also in the AOY mix after the first two stops of the season, and perhaps has one of the most impressive turnarounds on the FLW Tour.  After finishing in the triple digits in each of his first six events as rookie in 2017, the Oklahoma pro finished last year off with a 49th place finish on the Potomac River.  He started 2018 with an 11th place finish on Okeechobee and backed it up with a 36th place in the Harris Chain.  He is currently in 4th place in the AOY standings.