Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 10/25/2017

Story by Matt Pangrac – FLW photos courtesy of FLW Communications

Moore, OK - Over the course of the past season, one question that kept popping up among members of the bass fishing media was whether or not success at the FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) level was a reliable indicator for future success at the Elite Series level.  

While the two trails are entirely independent of each other (The Elite Series is run by B.A.S.S. while the T-H Marine BFL is run by FLW), the majority of Elite Series pros have competed in at least one BFL tournament over the course of their careers.    

Based on an October 5th press release from FLW, “The 2018 T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) will include 128 tournaments in 24 divisions and more than $8.1 million in awards.”  Open to any member of FLW, The BFL circuit is a legitimate proving ground for aspiring professional anglers and local sticks alike.  

The 2017 Elite Series rookie class is a prime example of how success at the BFL level can be an indicator of bigger things to come.  Three of the top four finishers in the 2017 Elite Series Rookie Of the Year standings have had success at the BFL level in previous seasons.   Elite Series ROY, Dustin Connell, has three Top 12 finishes in BFL competition on his record.   

Jamie Hartman, who finished in 2nd place in the Elite Series ROY race, is one of the most accomplished BFL anglers in history with 35 Top 10 finishes and seven BFL victories to his credit between 2004 and 2016.   This past season, Hartman set the record for most Top 10 finishes by a rookie on the Elite Series with five.  

Mark Daniels, Jr. won the FLW TBF National Championship in 2013 which included the Living The Dream package, but he cut his teeth in California and never competed at the BFL level.  Jesse Wiggins, who finished in 4th in the 2017 Elite Series ROY standings, has only fished in one BFL tournament as a boater and finished in 5th place on Pickwick in 2015.   

Moving over to the 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Toyota Angler Of the Year point standings, 13 of the Top 20 finishes in the TAOY points have competed in at least one BFL tournament.  

2017 TAOY, Brandon Palaniuk, competed in two TBF National Championships and won an FLW Tour Co-angler title (Lake Norman, 2010), but he has never competed in a BFL.  

Oklahoma’s Jason Christie (2nd place in Elite Series TAOY) dominated the Okie divison BFL division in the mid 2000s.  He was the Okie Division points champion three times (2003, 2006, 2007), won six BFL’s between 2001 and 2008, and recorded 24 Top 10 finishes in BFL competition between 1999 and 2013.  

Jacob Wheeler (3rd place in Elite Series TAOY) only fished one full season of BFL’s back in 2010, but he won the final BFL on Grand Lake/St. Marys in the Buckeye division and qualified for the 2011 All-American which he won.

Jordan Lee (4th place in Elite Series TAOY) fished in nine BFL’s in three different divisions from 2010 to 2014 and recorded three Top 10 finishes including a victory on Lake Guntersville in 2012.  

Edwin Evers (5th place in Elite Series TAOY) has two BFL Top 10s on his record, and Casey Ashley (6th place in Elite Series TAOY) notched a BFL victory on Santee Cooper in 2005.    

Ott DeFoe 7th place in Elite Series TAOY) has never won a BFL, but he does have seven Top 10 BFL finishes between 2003 and 2010.  

Other anglers finishing inside the Top 20 in the 2017 Elite Series TAOY standings with BFL success include Greg Hackney (two BFL wins in 1998), Gerald Swindle (two Top 10 BFL finishes), Aaron Martens (four Top 10 BFL finishes in 1998), and Bobby Lane (10 Top 10 BFL finishes).  

In total, 32 of the 2017 Elite Series pros (roughly 29%) have won at least one BFL tournament.  

Those 32 anglers have combined for 70 BFL victories.   

Below is the list of 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series pros who have won at least one BFL tournament (including the BFL All-American):  
Jamie Hartman - 7
Jason Christie – 6
Steve Kennedy – 5
Shane Lineberger – 5
David Williams – 4
Hank Cherry – 4  
Randall Tharp – 4
Bill Lowen – 4
Chad Pipkens – 3
Marty Robinson – 2
Jacob Wheeler – 2
Greg Hackney – 2
Skeet Reese – 2
Ish Monroe – 2
Jordan Lee – 1
Casey Ashley – 1
Micah Frazier – 1
David Walker – 1
Jason Williamson – 1
Mike Iaconelli – 1
Dave Lefebre – 1
Adrian Avena – 1
Jacob Powroznik – 1
David Mullins – 1
John Murray – 1
Stetson Blaylock – 1
Tim Horton – 1
Greg Vinson – 1
Stephen Browning – 1
James Niggemeyer – 1
Clent Davis – 1
Britt Myers – 1