Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 09/29/2017

Story by Matt Pangrac -  FLW Photo courtesy of FLW Communications

MOORE, OK – This past season of professional bass fishing was a year that will be remembered for the high caliber class of rookies on both the Bassmaster Elite Series and the FLW Tour.  

On the Elite Series side, there were 11 rookies in 2017.  On the FLW Tour side, there were 30 rookies in 2017.  

2017 FLW Tour Rookie Of the Year, Bradley Dortch, finished in 18th place in the Angler Of the Year standings.  The Alabama angler also won the third stop of the FLW Tour on the Harris Chain, weighing-in 73-9 over four days to beat JT Kenney and John Cox (2nd and 3rd place finishers).  

Dortch would finish the season with three Top 15 finishes on the FLW Tour and earnings of $144,700.  

2017 Elite Series Rookie OF the Year, Dustin Connell, finished in 12th place in the Toyota Angler Of the Year point standings.  Also hailing from Alabama, Connell won the fourth stop of the Elite Series season on Ross Barnett in Mississippi edging out Kevin VanDam on the final day to lift the trophy with a total weight of 64-13.  

In nine regular season tournaments and the TOAY Championship on Mille Lacs, Connell posted eight Top 50 finishes including five Top 25 finishes.  He ended the year with earnings of $185,500.  

In total, four of the 11 rookies on the Bassmaster Elite Series qualified for the 2018 Bassmaster Classic next march on Lake Hartwell.  In addition to Connell, Jamie Hartman (13th), Mark Daniels, Jr. (18th), and Jesse Wiggins (double qualified with 37th place TAOY finish and Bassmaster Open win) all have a date in South Carolina.  

Four rookies also qualified for the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray in South Carolina including Bradley Dortch, Justin Atkins (22nd in AOY), Joey Cifuentes (37th in AOY), and Aaron Britt (39th in AOY).   

Justin Atkins won the Forrest Wood Cup, with fellow rookie Aaron Britt from California finishing in 10th place.  

In addition to a Forrest Wood Cup win and FLW Tour regular season win in 2017, the FLW Tour rookie class combined for a number of memorable finishes throughout the year.   Oklahoma’s Chad Warren closed out the regular season with a 2nd place finish on the Potomac River, and Arkansas’ Dylan Hays finished in 3rd place on Lake Travis.  In total, nine FLW Tour Top 10 finishes were credited to rookies during the 2017 season.  

The rookie presence was felt strongly at the top of the leaderboard on the Elite Series side as well.  All 11 rookies had at least one Top 50 finish over the course of the nine regular season tournaments, and six of the Elite Series rookies had at least one Top 12 finish during the year.  

While Connell collected the Elite Series ROY hardware, fellow rookie Jamie Hartman collected the most Top 12 finishes by a rookie in Elite Series history.  The New York had finishes of 2nd place at Cherokee Lake, 3rd place at Toledo Bend, 6th place at Lake Dardanelle, 7th place at the St. Lawrence River, and 6th place at Lake St. Clair for a grand total of five Sunday cuts.  

After winning the first Bassmaster Southern Open of the  year, Elite Series rookie Jesse Wiggins finished in 3rd place at the season opener on Cherokee Lake.  Mark Daniels, Jr. closed out the full field Elite Series season on Lake St. Clair with a 3rd place finish was joined in the Top 10 by rookie Gerald Spohrer (7th place).  Alton Jones, Jr. also notched a Top 10 during the year with am 8th place finish on Sam Rayburn.  

Combined, rookies won the Forrest Wood Cup, one FLW Tour Tournament and one Bassmaster Elite Series tournament.   A total of eight rookies qualified for either the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup or the 2018 Bassmaster Classic.   20 times over the course of the season, a rookie made the final day cut on either the Elite Series or the FLW Tour.