BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Martin maintains a commanding lead at Bassmaster Open on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee

February 2, 2024


Slowing down and methodically fishing his areas, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Scott Martin maintained his lead on Day 2 of the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Okeechobee presented by SEVIIN with a catch of 25 pounds, 13 ounces.

Added to his massive Day 1 catch of 33-2, Martin has a two-day total of 58-15 — good for a lead of 7-13 over Tucker Smith of Birmingham, Ala., who is holding down second place with 51-2.

Martin, who grew up in Clewiston and guided out of his family’s marina, which is hosting the event, raved about the opportunity to shine in front of so many familiar faces.

“It’s a blessing to be standing here in front of my hometown crowd, my whole family and friends,” Martin said. “I grew up right here and watched my dad (nine-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Roland Martin) win a Bassmaster tournament here and that was kind of the defining moment for me. I practiced with him and he gave me credit onstage for helping him. That’s when I thought to myself, ‘I might be able to do this.’

“To be able to win this thing, I have a lot of work ahead of me. But this lake has been good to me.”

Martin returned to the general area that produced his Day 1 mega bag, but he worked several different spots. Throwing a mix of reaction baits and pitching-style baits, Martin said a measured pace was essential for producing his bites.

“Like I said yesterday, patience was the key,” he said. “I was just taking it one fish at a time.

“Some of my fish were on beds, but some of them were coming and going. I was just casting around different spots within my area.”

Martin’s day was unfolding less productively than the first until a late-afternoon stop yielded an 8-pound kicker. He’s hopeful he can locate more of the big bites that fueled his first two days’ success, but he said he may need to integrate new water into his game plan.

“I’m not sure where I’m going to fish tomorrow,” Martin said. “The Lord blessed me this week, so I’m just gonna let Him take the reins and just go with it.”

Martin said he’s optimistic that Championship Saturday may bring the week’s most favorable weather. Stable, warming conditions in South Florida could deliver fireworks, but even with a smaller field of Top 10 finalists, Martin knows he’ll need to step on the gas.

“I’m going to have to catch everything I can catch tomorrow,” Martin said. “I’ll have to catch 25 pounds tomorrow, because somebody could catch 30. With those warming conditions, it could be really good.”

After catching 27-6 on Day 1, Smith backed that up with 23-12 to reach his second-place total of 51-2.

“I just found multiple places where they were staging,” Smith said. “Basically, those fish were prespawn and postspawn. So, I think I’m getting the best of both worlds.”

Making the same long run he made on Day 1, Smith found his opportunities more dispersed.

“I had 14 pounds until the last hour and caught most of my weight in that last hour,” he said. “I pulled up on a place and caught three big ones — a 6- and two 4 1/2-pounders — on back-to-back-to-back casts.

“I’m hoping this area will produce tomorrow. There’s good fish in there, but I have to fish as hard as I can and run off gut instinct. That’s what I did today and ended up landing on them.”

Paul Marks of Cumming, Ga., placed third with 46-5. Marks caught a first-round limit of 26-7 and added 19-4 on Day 2.

“It was pretty slow until lunchtime and then I caught a couple big ones on my last stop,” Marks said. “I think maybe the pressure got to them today.”

Marks caught his bass mostly on reaction baits, which seemed to produce best in the stained water he was fishing.

Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla., is in the lead for Big Bass honors with the 10-3 largemouth he caught on Day 1. Tharp placed fourth with 44-14.

California pro Ish Monroe had the Big Bass on Day 2 with a 9-11.

John Goul of Philadelphia, Miss., won the co-angler division with a two-day total of 24-5. Goul, who also won the co-angler title at the 2020 Open at Neely Henry, caught 16-15 on Day 1 and added 7-6 to edge Jason Shapiro or Concord, N.C., by 11 ounces.

Goul caught his first-round bass on a Texas-rigged Senko in junebug, black/blue glitter and black/blue tail colors. He rigged his bait with a 1/8-ounce bullet weight and fished it at a glacial pace.

“I was dragging it really slow and I guess it made those big girls mad,” Goul said. “It was just random casting and pray for a bite.”

Sean Neifert of Lantana, Fla., won the $250 Big Bass award among co-anglers with his 8-10.

The Division 1 season opener includes 175 competitors who have committed to all nine Opens events in the Tackle Warehouse Elite Qualifiers division, which will award Bassmaster Elite Series invitations to the top nine finishers in Angler of the Year points standings.

In addition to the top prize of $49,860, the winning pro angler will qualify for 2025 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic, assuming he fishes all three Division 1 events.

The Top 10 will take off Saturday at 7 a.m. ET from Roland Martin Marina. The weigh-in will be held at the marina at 3 p.m.

All coverage from the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Okeechobee presented by SEVIIN will be available on

The final day of competition will be broadcast live on FS1 Saturday morning beginning at 8 a.m. ET, with streaming available on, as well as FS2 and the FOX Sports digital platforms.

The tournament is being hosted by the City of Clewiston.

The National Angler

Will Harkins Takes Over Logan Martin Lead

With one day remaining, Georgia pro Will Harkins looks to close out NPFL Victory on Showdown Saturday

Will Harkins
After a strong start with 16 pounds and 9 ounces on day one, Will Harkins continued his consistency on
Logan Martin adding 16 pounds and 13 ounces to his tally on day two. With a two-day total of 33
pounds and 6 ounces, Harkins takes a 2-pound, 9-ounce lead into Showdown Saturday.
Fishing on day one with an open mind and covering over 40 different areas, Harkins backed up his
efforts today and caught another eight keepers, but is concerned that added pressure on the lake might
make things interesting for the final day.
“There is a lot of pressure on those types of areas and lots of locals watching and fishing,” he said. The
other thing is they might not be pulling as much water tomorrow, and that also concerns me.”
Harkins is fishing free and exploring new waters and is looking for specific shorelines while driving down
the river. Once he picks it out, he makes quick work of fishing before moving to the next.
“More of the same for me out there,” he added. “The key is more about the contours than it is the
structure. I am stopping on whatever looks good, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Regardless of what happens, Harkins has been in this position in the NPFL before and knows if it’s his
time, there will be nothing he could do wrong.
“Whatever God has for a plan is what will happen. If it is my time, I won’t be able to do anything wrong
out there; regardless, it will be a good day.”

David Williams
“On day two, David Williams had a significant catch, adding 16 pounds and 3 ounces to his day one
weight of 14 pounds and 10 ounces. With a total of 30 pounds and 13 ounces, he secures the second-
place spot going into the final day.
Williams recognizes the importance of landing substantial catches on Logan Martin and successfully
capitalized on some larger bass on day two. He initiated his morning in familiar waters but opted to
switch locations due to increased pressure.
“I think I can catch some fish tomorrow, but you need to get fortunate and hook a bigger one,” he said.
“When I left my primary area this morning, I went to where I caught the 5-pounder on day one, and
culled out my other smaller fish.”
Williams predominantly caught his bass on a reaction-style bait and switched to a jig when he slowed

Brock Bila
With a total weight of 30 pounds and 6 ounces over two days, Brock Bila caught his largest catch on day
two, adding 17 pounds and 11 ounces to his initial day one weight of 12 pounds and 11 ounces. His day
two performance propelled him to the third-place spot with one day remaining.

Sticking with a big fish pattern he located on the final day of practice, Bila started strong this morning
with over 14 pounds early and added two of his bigger fish shortly after to cull to his day’s weight.
“I found a big largemouth deal in practice, but it never worked out for me yesterday,” he said. “I caught
fish but never got a big bite like today. Today, things were working, and I was able to leave them alone
and spend some time looking around for the final day.”
Bila found a shallow flat that was loaded with bass and threw back three solid keepers that would not
help him today, but on the final day would be key.
“I am excited to get in there tomorrow and try to get a solid limit early,” he added. “I am fishing a mix of
two baits and have some good water to fish on the final day.”

Joseph Webster
Joseph Webster began the tournament with 12 pounds on day one and added 17 pounds and 13 ounces
on day two. His two-day total of 30 pounds and 3 ounces puts him in fourth place after two days on
Logan Martin.
Running with a clue he learned on the final day of practice, Webster is focusing on docks and changing
his approach each day, letting the fish dictate their behavior.
“I caught some big fish on that final day and was hoping they would reload as the event progressed, but
they are relocating on the docks,” he said. “It seems like each morning I have to locate them, and each
day has been different.”
With the majority of the field fishing the same type of water, Webster prioritizes targeting the hard-to-
catch bass that may be untouched in his area.
“The easy ones are getting caught, and I am having to fish the Berkley Dime 4 and Frittside 5 in hard-to-
reach places, but the bigger bites are coming that way,” he added. “I am making circles like everyone
else but keeping tabs on which sections are not getting hit to keep finding fresh fish.”

For Showdown Saturday, Webster plans to change things up and start his event closer to the takeoff to
try and capitalize on his least productive time of day.
“I can’t seem to start catching fish until 9 or 10 AM, so I will start up and work my way down the lake,
trying to get a limit in the morning. Docks seem to be the name of the game, and it doesn’t matter if
they are shallow or deep.”

Jason Burroughs
The day one leader with 17 pounds, 2 ounces, Jason Burroughs added another 12 pounds, 12 ounces to
his weight. With only one day remaining, Burroughs holds the fifth-place spot with a two-day total of 29
pounds, 14 ounces.
With a live camera today, Burroughs continued to scrap his practice and cover water with one bait and
one rod that is getting it done for him.
“I caught eight more keepers today, which is getting weird,” he said. “I caught eight in all three days of
practice, eight yesterday, and eight today. I had three hours to catch one more and was not able to
make it happen.”

Running a mix of new and old water, the South Carolina angler is targeting steeper banks where he can
keep his reaction-style bait near the bottom. With more local anglers on the water and tournament
competitors figuring out more of how the fish are biting, Burroughs is going to need more than eight
bites on Showdown Saturday.

“The pressure has drastically increased,” he added. “But I’m going to go hard on them again tomorrow.”
Rest of the Best:
Buddy Gross 29-11
Isaac Peavyhouse 28-6
Kyle Welcher 27-14
JTodd Tucker 27-1
Richard Kee 26-6

Major League Fishing - Bass Pro Tour/Cup Events

Dustin Connell Wins Group B Qualifying Round at B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole

MANY, La. (Feb. 2, 2024) – Pro Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, wrecked them again on Day 2 for Group B, maintaining his position atop the leaderboard, with a two-day total of 40 bass weighing 121 pounds, 7 ounces, to win Thursday’s Qualifying Round at the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole.

Reigning Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) pro Matt Becker of Ten Mile, Tennessee, finished the round in second place with a two-day total of 30 bass weighing 100-2, while pro Michael Neal of Dayton, Tennessee , finished in third, with 27 bass weighing 95-6. Leesburg, Ohio’s Cole Floyd caught 29 bass weighing 95-5 to end in fourth, while General Tire pro Alton Jones, Jr,. of Waco, Texas, also advanced to the Knockout Round in fifth place with a two-day total of 30 bass weighing 94-14.

The remaining 20 anglers – the top 10 from each group – now advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round, where weights are zeroed, and anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to the Championship Round on Sunday. In Sunday’s final day Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

Connell and the other anglers leading the pack in Group B got their work done early during their second day of competition. Connell boated 13 bass for 39 pounds, 9 ounces, Friday — 31-12 of that coming before noon — to bring his two-day total to 121-7. That easily led the group, 21-6 ahead of Becker.

Yet despite the likes of Connell, Becker and Jones Jr. devoting much of the day to exploring new water, SCORETRACKER® lit up early and often with quality Toledo Bend bass, foreshadowing a no-holds-barred slugfest when the Top 10 finishers in Group B meet the 10 best from Group A in Saturday’s Knockout Round. Meanwhile, a tightly bunched battle around the elimination line delivered drama throughout the third period, with pro Jesse Wiggins ultimately claiming the final spot thanks to a pair of catches in the final minutes.

For Connell, Friday was less about how much weight he could add to his total and more about how much of Toledo Bend’s massive surface area he could explore. He burned 30 gallons of gas running new water, focusing on areas that might not have produced during practice but could now hold baitfish and bass based on changing water clarity and wind direction.

He found plenty of fish in the process, as evidenced by his 13 keepers, including one new area he has “high hopes in.”

“I burned a lot of gas, and I ran all over the place just trying to find a new, fresh area that’s good now that the water’s starting to clean up,” Connell explained. “I was trying to play the wind direction and really find the bait, because the bait is moving around a lot. So I just went practicing all day, and I just caught what I caught practicing. It was a fun day.”

Connell’s technique isn’t a secret. Like most of the field, he’s using forward-facing sonar to find groups of suspended bass offshore, then casting to them with a soft plastic minnow on a jighead. Eight of the 10 anglers who advanced out of Group B have caught most of their weight doing something similar.

Connell’s plastic of choice has been the Rapala CrushCity Freeloader, the same bait Jacob Wheeler leaned on to win Group A. He said the pintail minnow is particularly effective in off-color water and when targeting bigger bass, making it perfect for Toledo Bend.

“I’m throwing it around some dingy water, and I think that bait has a lot of drawing power,” he said. “It has a great action, also. I mean, that’s one of the hottest techniques on the market, and that bait is really, really good.”

With so many anglers beaming offshore, Connell said Toledo Bend’s bass are showing signs of pressure. That’s one reason getting an entire day to scope out fresh schools should benefit him during the Knockout Round. He also believes the pressure and stained water have put a premium on presenting the bait accurately — something he spent the offseason perfecting.

“The fish are getting smart,” Connell said. “They’re getting used to seeing that kind of stuff, they’re getting used to hearing the transducers. The biggest key with this whole deal is being able to make a really good cast and know where your bait is at. It’s just all mechanics. … I’ve been doing it all fall for literally three days a week and just practicing this technique, because I came into this tournament anticipating it to be this way. So that’s what I’ve been doing, and practice makes perfect.”

With weights zeroing overnight, Connell knows he’ll have to come out swinging during the Knockout Round. But he’s optimistic that he can catch enough weight to earn a spot in the 10-angler Championship Round without playing all his cards.

“I want to finish in like fifth place, just enough to be alright,” he said. “And you never know, may get to practice some tomorrow. I just want to finish in the Top 10, I don’t care if it’s 10th.”

Toledo Bend’s big bass proved a bit more elusive Friday. For the first time all week, no fish over 7 pounds hit the scales. But Group B’s anglers made up for it with quantity.

The 40-angler field combined to catch 347 scorable bass for a total weight of more than 1,000 pounds. Both of those marks were the highest since the opening day of Stage One. Seventeen anglers racked up more than 30 pounds, the most of any day so far, with five eclipsing the 50-pound mark. As a result, the cut line climbed all the way from 30-13 at the start of the day to 70-10 at the end.

That should portend even more explosive action during the Knockout Round. With the forecast calling for overcast, rainy conditions, Connell predicted Saturday will bring the best bite yet.

“They’re going to bite really, really good,” he said.

The top 10 pros from Group B that now advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round on Toledo Bend are:

1st:          Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 40 bass, 121-7
2nd:        Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 30 bass, 100-2
3rd:         Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 27 bass, 95-6
4th:         Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, 29 bass, 95-5
5th:         Alton Jones Jr., Waco, Texas, 30 bass, 94-14
6th:         Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, 30 bass, 81-1
7th:         Mark Daniels Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., 27 bass, 79-1
8th:         Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., 22 bass, 75-4
9th:         Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan., 27 bass, 73-7
10th:       Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., 23 bass, 70-10

Eliminated from competition are:

11th:      Nick Hatfield, Greeneville, Tenn., 21 bass, 66-14
12th:      Greg Vinson, Wetumpka, Ala., 24 bass, 66-10
13th:      Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., 22 bass, 66-9
14th:      Jacob Wall, New Hope, Ala., 20 bass, 65-3
15th:      David Walker, Huntingdon, Tenn., 22 bass, 63-8
16th:      Shin Fukae, Osaka, Japan, 20 bass, 59-5
17th:      Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., 18 bass, 50-14
18th:      Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 18 bass, 49-1
19th:      Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, 17 bass, 47-12
20th:      Matthew Stefan, Junction City, Wis., 12 bass, 45-14
21st:      Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala., 16 bass, 43-14
22nd:     Dave Lefebre, Erie, Penn., 13 bass, 40-8
23rd:      Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., 14 bass, 39-11
24th:      Mark Rose, Wynne, Ark., 13 bass, 37-12
25th:      Ron Nelson, Berrien Springs, Mich., 11 bass, 34-7
26th:      Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., 13 bass, 33-0
27th:      Randy Howell, Guntersville, Ala., 13 bass, 32-12
28th:      Josh Bertrand, Queen Creek, Ariz., 11 bass, 31-5
29th:      Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., 10 bass, 29-8
30th:      Grae Buck, Green Lane, Penn., six bass, 28-7
31st:      Jason Vance, Battle Ground, Ind., 11 bass, 27-0
32nd:     Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., eight bass, 25-9
33rd:      Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn., seven bass, 24-5
34th:      Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif., eight bass, 20-11
35th:      Jacopo Gallelli, Florence, Italy, five bass, 14-8
36th:      Britt Myers, Lake Wylie, S.C., two bass, 7-8
37th:      Colby Schrumpf, Highland, Ill., two bass, 6-14
38th:      James Watson, Lampe, Mo., three bass, 6-11
39th:      Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla., two bass, 5-2
40th:      John Murray, Spring City, Tenn., zero bass, 0-0

A complete list of results can be found at

Overall, there were 347 scorable bass weighing 1,020 pounds, 12 ounces caught by 38 pros Friday, which included 35 4-pounders, 9 5-pounders and three 6-pounders.

Friday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award was awarded to pro Jacob Wall of New Hope, Alabama, who weighed in a 6-pound, 14-ounce largemouth that bit his swimjig early in Period 1. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and a $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.

The six-day tournament, hosted by Toledo Bend Lake Country and the Louisiana Office of Tourism, showcases 80 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing for a purse of $659,000, including a top payout of $100,000, and valuable Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST 2025, the Bass Pro Tour championship.

The 40 Anglers in Group A competed in their two-day Qualifying Round on Tuesday and Thursday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Wednesday and Friday. Now that each two-day Qualifying Round is complete, the anglers that finish first through 10th from both groups advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 20 anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to Sunday’s Championship Round. In the final-day Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

Anglers will launch at 7:30 a.m. CT each day from Cypress Bend Park, located at 3462 Cypress Bend Drive in Many. Due to forecasted high winds, MLF has enacted the MLF Trailering Policy for Saturday, February 3, meaning pros can trailer their boats and drive them to any ramp on the fishery closer to where they plan to start fishing. Pros taking advantage of the MLF Trailering Policy will leave Cypress Bend Park at 7 a.m. CT and will begin fishing at 8 a.m. CT (Lines In) with the full field.

Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the park, beginning at 4 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch and takeout events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the SCORETRACKER® leaderboard and event coverage at

The MLFNOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on the final four days of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT. MLFNOW!®  will be live streamed on and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

On Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 3-4, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF invites fans of all ages to visit Cypress Bend Park for the MLF Watch Party. Fans can watch the action from the water live on the MLFNOW! big screen, enjoy free food, enter to win hourly giveaways and cheer on their favorite pros. The first 50 kids 14 and under will receive a free rod and reel from Pure Fishing each day. The final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand at the trophy celebration on Championship Sunday to meet and greet fans, sign autographs and take selfies.

The B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole features the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, in which anglers catch as much weight as they can each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. The tournament features anglers competing with a 2-pound minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. The MLF Fisheries Management Division determines minimum weights for each body of water that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.

The Bass Pro Tour features a field of 80 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2025 championship.

Bass Pro Tour anglers will also compete throughout the 2024 season for the prestigious Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) award and its $100,000 payday. Fishing Clash – an interactive 3D fishing simulation game that’s played by more than 80 million people worldwide – is the official AOY sponsor of the Bass Pro Tour, Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, Toyota Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League.

Television coverage of the B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole Knockout Round will air as a two-hour episode starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, July 20 on Discovery, with the Championship Round premiering on July 27. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on Outdoor Channel.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, BUBBA, Epic Baits, Garmin, General Tire, Humminbird, Lowrance, Mercury, MillerTech, Minn Kota, Mossy Oak Fishing, NITRO, Onyx, Plano, Power-Pole, Rapala, StarBrite, Suzuki, Toyota and U.S. Air Force.