Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 10/22/2018

Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos courtesy of Jeff Sprague

Point, TX – When Major League Fishing announced on October 3rd that all 80 spots on the 2019 Bass Pro Tour had been filled, Jeff Sprague was not included on the list.  The Point, Texas pro had just wrapped up his fifth season on the on the FLW Tour and qualified for his third consecutive Forrest Wood Cup, thanks to 13 Top 50 FLW Tour finishes over the past three seasons.  

With the newly formed Bass Pro Tour pulling some of the top names from the FLW Tour for the 2019 season including Justin Atkins, Zack Birge, Jason Lambert, Cody Meyer, Andy Morgan, Britt Myers, Michael Neal, Scott Suggs, and James Watson, Sprague as optimistic that he would be able to capitalize on the opportunity and make a few more appearances on championship Sunday.   

“After the Bass Pro Tour field was set, I immediately turned my focus to my career on the FLW Tour and preparing for the 2019 FLW Tour season,” explained Sprague.  “I just want to catch fish and compete with the best in the world, and I feel like FLW helped me grow my brand and develop who I am as an angler so I was comfortable fishing there.”  

That all changed when Sprague was sitting in his boat working on tackle and preparing to fish the Sealy Outdoors Big Bass Splash on Sam Rayburn this past weekend.  

Sprague received a personal phone call from an MLF representative who offered him a spot on the MLF Bass Pro Tour for the 2019 season.   After signing a non-disclosure agreement and learning about the details of the new tour, he was given a short period of time to make the career-altering decision of either staying on the FLW Tour or moving to the MLF Bass Pro Tour.  

“In my heart, I knew that accepting the invitation to the Bass Pro Tour was an opportunity that I could not pass up,” he explained.  “I just don’t see how any professional angler could pass up the opportunity to be a part of the history-making group that is changing the sport of bass fishing.”

That being said, Sprague still ran his decision by several of his closest friends, most of who fish on the FLW Tour.  “I have very close relationships and personal friendships with guys on the FLW Tour.  I’m talking about guys that I speak with on a daily basis and have lengthy conversations with who have become like family.”

His first call was to fellow FLW Tour pro, Jason Reyes.  “I respect his opinion so much, and it hurt me because he didn’t get an invitation to the PBT and he’s a hammer.  He told me that I had to do what I thought was right for me.”  

In a social media post on Saturday, Sprague posted the following:

“Well it looks like 2019 just got a little more exciting! I have officially accepted an invite to join @majorleagefishingofficial to compete in the industry changing, history making platform that will launch come the New Year! @flwfishing has and always will be the foundation of my career and I am truly thankful for their platform.  I am beyond humbled but never been so hungry.  Let’s go fishing!”  

That same day, fellow FLW Tour pro Anthony Gagliardi also announced that he accepted an invitation to fish the MLF Pro Bass Tour in 2019.  The two spots on the new tour were made available due to Gary Clouse announcing his intentions to fish the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2019 and JT Kenney opting to take a full-time role with the BPT as a commentator and color analyst.  

Sprague said that over the past two years, he’s been in contact with MLF about being a part of the MLF Selects.   “I was on the list (to fish the Selects), but it just never worked out where I was able to fish with MLF during that time,” he explained.  “When it came to filling these last two spots, the panel over at Major League Fishing had to take a hard look at the anglers available to come and fish the Bass Pro Tour.  I think that they used a lot of different factors to come up with a logical explanation why some guys got invitations and other guys didn’t.  I’m just extremely excited to be a part of it.”