Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 11/02/2018

Story by Matt Pangrac Photos courtesy of FLW Communications

Van, TX - On Thursday evening, veteran professional angler James Niggemeyer posted on social media that he was extended an invitation to return to the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2019 but will remain on the FLW Tour for the upcoming season.  

Here’s what he said in his post:  
“There have been so many changes in our industry as of lately and that has brought different opportunities. I have found that in these choices are all good ones, which can make coming to a decision difficult. Last year I made the move over to the FLW Tour and it felt comfortable, like I was supposed to be there. After a lot of prayer, healthy amount of thought and consideration with my family and sponsors I will be continuing to compete on the FLW Tour moving forward. I want to thank B.A.S.S. for extending an invitation.”

Niggemeyer fished the Elite Series for 11 seasons (2007-2017) and qualified for three Bassmaster Classics during that time period.  After what he called “the worst year of my career” in 2017, the Texas pro moved to the FLW Tour in 2018 and immediately benefited from the chance.  

He recorded four Top 30 finishes during the FLW Tour regular season and finished in 36th place in the Angler Of the Year standings, qualifying for the 2018 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Niggemeyer would go on to finish in 2nd place in the Cup and earn a total of $102,000 over the course of 2018 with FLW.  

Following his 2nd place Cup finish in August, Niggemeyer said that he felt like he was in a really good place in his career with FLW and was looking forward to the 2019 FLW Tour season packed with stops on powerhouse fisheries at the ideal times of the year.  

Then the announcement of the Pro Bass Tour came from Major League Fishing that drew over 10 FLW Tour anglers and nearly 70 Bassmaster Elite Series anglers away from their respective leagues.   As the future landscape of the three professional bass fishing trails began to take shape over the following month, Niggemeyer started to realize that he may possibly have to face a career-altering decision.  

“There was a period of a couple weeks there where it seemed like I was asked several times a day what I was going to do, because there was a general consensus that past Elite Series competitors fishing on the FLW Tour would get an invite to return to the Elite Series,” he explained.  

The invitation came unexpectedly.  

“I was at the Strike King media event about three weeks ago and I was packing up to come home when I missed a call from an Arkansas phone number,” he explained.  “I’ve been trying to sell my boat, so I thought that it might have been someone interested in buying it.  When I called the number back, it was someone from B.A.S.S. letting me know that I would be getting an invitation to return to the Elite Series in 2019.”  

As he began exploring his options, Niggemeyer sad that some of his first calls were to his sponsors.  “Every single one of my sponsors told me that they were 100% behind me and that I needed to make the best decision for me and my family. I couldn’t have asked for better support – it was incredibly comforting to hear that.”  

Niggemeyer said that during the decision process he had lengthy discussions with close friends on the FLW Tour, Bassmaster Elite Series, and even outside the world of professional bass fishing.  “I vacillated between the FLW Tour and the Bassmaster Elite Series during the weeks that I had to make my decision,” he stated.  “I cannot even begin to tell you how difficult the decision was.”  

Part of the dilemma Niggemeyer faced was the fact that he didn’t think there was a bad option on the table and he saw opportunity with both the FLW Tour and the Bassmaster Elite Series.   

“Man, I prayed about this thing and tried to figure out what to do because I fished the Elite Series for 11 years and my last year on the Elite Series was the worst year of my career, performance wise.   When I made the move to FLW in 2018, they were so great to work with and it was such a seamless transition.

“During the season last year, I had people come up to me and talk about how relaxed I looked and how much fun it looked like I was having.  I know that a big part of that was the fact that I was performing well on the water and cashing checks, but it was just such a positive year for me in 2018 and I gained a lot of momentum.”

After he had made his decision to stay with FLW in 2019, Niggemeyer sent personal e-mails to Bruce (Akin), Chase (Anderson), and Trip (Weldon) at B.A.S.S. thanking them for the consideration and invitation to return to the Elite Series.  “The responses were very positive and each one told me that they understood and that I had to do what I thought was best for my career and my family, so it was great to hear that,” he opined.  

When it comes to the number of FLW Tour anglers who have recently accepted invitations to the Elite Series in 2019, Niggemeyer said that he understands their decision to make the move.  “I get it.  I fished the Elite Series for 11 years, so for the guys who have never fished the Elite Series, I can see why they want to experience that.  I understand why they want a chance to fish in the Bassmaster Classic.  I don’t want to sound like I’m saying ‘been there, done that’ but the fact that I’ve fished in the Classic and fished the Elite Series removed some of that mystery and intrigue.

“The past month has been almost surreal,” continued Niggemeyer with a laugh.  “When the news about the MLF tour came out, I remember looking at all those anglers who had to make a decision and thinking to myself how glad I was that I didn’t have to make a difficult choice.  As it turned out, I found myself in the exact same position between the FLW Tour and the Elite Series.     

“I feel confident in saying that I’m right where I need to be,” he concluded.