Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 10/29/2018

Story by Matt Pangrac

Moore, OK – Since the announcement of the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour that shook the professional bass fishing world in early September, the rosters for all three professional organizations (MLF, B.A.S.S. and FLW) have shuffled.  

The initial 80-angler BPT field that was announced on October 3rd included 11 FLW Tour pros that competed on the 2018 FLW Tour.  Over the past 10 days, several more FLW Tour pros have announced that they will be fishing the BPT in 2019, including Jeff Sprague and Anthony Gagliardi.  Additionally, JT Kenney announced that he will take on a roll in the broadcast booth with MLF and not fish at the professional level in 2019.  

Last week, a number of FLW Tour pros announced that they will be making the move from the Tour to the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2019.  While B.A.S.S. has not released an official statement detailing the invitation criteria, it appears as though a handful of FLW Tour pros were extended invitations to fish on the Elite Series for the 2019 season.  Currently, nine of those invitations have been accepted.  

As of October 29th, 21 anglers have confirmed either via e-mail, phone, or social media that they are moving from the FLW Tour to the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour or the Bassmaster Elite Series for the upcoming 2019 season.  

Anglers who have confirmed they are moving from the FLW Tour to the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour in 2019 include:   
Justin Atkins (2 Forrest Wood Cups and 2017 Cup Champion)
Zack Birge (2 Forrest Wood Cups)
Anthony Gagliardi (12 Forrest Wood Cups and 2014 Cup Champion)
Jason Lambert (2 Forrest Wood Cups)
Cody Meyer (10 Forrest Wood Cups)
Andy Morgan (21 Forrest Wood Cups)
Britt Myers
Michael Neal (6 Forrest Wood Cups)
Mark Rose (12 Forrest Wood Cups)
Jeff Sprague (3 Forrest Wood Cups)
Scott Suggs (7 Forrest Wood Cups and 2007 Cup Champion)
James Watson (3 Forrest Wood Cups)

Anglers who have confirmed they are moving from the FLW Tour to the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2019 include:   
Matt Arey (8 Forrest Wood Cups)
Scott Canterbury (10 Forrest Wood Cups)
Brandon Cobb (4 Forrest Wood Cups)
Clent Davis (3 Forrest Wood Cups and 2018 Cup Champion)
Jeff Gustafson (2 Forrest Wood Cups)
Cory Johnston (2 Forrest Wood Cups)
Chris Johnston (2 Forrest Wood Cups)
Chad Morgenthaler (1 Forrest Wood Cup)
Clark Wendlandt (19 Forrest Wood Cups)

4 – the number of Forrest Wood Cup winners who have announced that they will be leaving the FLW Tour in 2019, including three of the past five Forrest Wood Cup champions (Clent Davis – 2018, Justin Atkins – 2017, Anthony Gagliardi – 2014).

10 – The number of anglers moving to either the BPT or Elite Series who finished the 2018 FLW Tour season inside the Top 20 in the Angler Of the Year standings.

4- The number of FLW Tour Angler Of the Year winners who are moving to either the BPT or Elite Series (including the reigning FLW Tour AOY Champion Mark Rose).

The BASS ZONE spoke with Joe Opager, Director of Public Relations for FLW, who said the following about how FLW is taking the changes:  
“It’s certainly disappointing, but it’s something that we’ve had to deal with for the past few years.   You can’t fault the anglers for doing what they believe is best for their careers.   We need to continue to do what is best for our business and support the anglers who are loyal and did make the decision to stay with FLW.  

“FLW opened up registration for the 2019 FLW Tour several weeks ago, and so far the response rate has been great.  We are right on track for a field of a little over 150 anglers as we work towards that hard cap of 150 anglers on Tour in 2020.  

“We are going to keep doing what we’ve been doing, which is creating stars of the sport.  10 years ago, anglers like Jacob Wheeler, Zack Birge, and Justin Atkins weren’t on the national radar.  Some of the top names of the sport have come up through FLW and they have developed and honed their skills in FLW competition.  We put our media and marketing team behind them, so we are just going to continue to do that.  There are lots of great anglers still competing on the FLW Tour, including some of the all-time greats.  

“We are going to continue to provide the best tournament series that we can.   Although it stings a little bit, we are going to be just fine.   We are not scrambling to fill our field, and it’s going to be business as usual for us.”

Opager went on to detail what fans can expect when it comes to live coverage in 2019:   
“FLW Live at the Tour level will remain the same – it will still be Saturday and Sunday of FLW Tour events.  The FLW Live coverage has grown in leaps and bounds over the past two years.  

“We are expanding the FLW Live coverage, but it’s going to be in other ways. “There’s going to be FLW Live at all of FLW’s championship events including the YETI College Fishing National Championship, the T-H Marine BFL All-American, and the Costa Series Championship.  

“We are also going to start live broadcasting the weigh-in for every tournament that we run, including all of the T-H Marine BFL tournaments.   Once again, we are going to continue to put the focus on anglers who support us at all levels.”    

While the 2019 FLW Tour will be missing the past two Forrest Wood Cup champions and the 2018 FLW Tour Angler Of the Year (Mark Rose), there are still FLW all-time greats that will be launching their boats when the season kicks off in January on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas.  

Bryan Thirft, Scott Martin, and David Dudley have stated that they plan on fishing the FLW Tour in 2019.  Combined, those three anglers have 49 Forrest Wood Cup appearances, two Forrest Wood Cup victories, and six FLW Tour Angler Of the Year titles.