BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Schlapper increases lead on Day 3 of Bassmaster Elite Series 2024 opener at Toledo Bend

February 24, 2024

MANY, La. —

Before this week, Pat Schlapper had never led a day of Bassmaster Elite Series competition. The Wisconsin pro has now led two-straight days of the Gamakatsu Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend and will hold the pole position heading into Championship Sunday with a three-day total of 78 pounds.

Schlapper caught 22 pounds, 7 ounces on Day 3 to add to his 27-4 and 28-5 marks from the first two days. Japanese pro Kyoya Fujita follows in second with 72-0 and Tennessee rookie Robert Gee is third with 69-7.

“I’m very thankful to have the bag I got. I worked hard for it. I’m happy to be in the position to have a chance,” Schlapper said. “It feels really good. I want to win so badly. It is so hard to get into a position to win.

“Last year, I had one opportunity on Seminole and I had a bad first day. So, I’m trying to concentrate and fish to the best of my ability and win. That is all that’s in my mind.”

Throughout the week, Schlapper has targeted bass roaming offshore on a warming Toledo Bend using his Garmin LiveScope, with one particular spot producing the bulk of his weight. He found that spot during his pre-fishing trip last month and then dialed in an exact pattern during practice this week.

The majority of his bass have been caught on one bait in 15 to 30 feet of water.

“Where I am at, a lot of fish are just passing through there,” he said. “So, every day I see new fish. I don’t think I’ve casted at the same fish in three days. They are constantly moving around, or they’re buried in the grass and then come out.”

Each day has gotten tougher for Schlapper. Not only has the amount of local pressure increased in the area, the bass are also in transition as sunny skies and air temperatures over 70 degrees in the afternoons have warmed the waters.

As the tournament has progressed, though, he has put more pressure on his best area.

“I’ve had a sweet spot the whole time, but I didn’t want people to know exactly where it was,” he said. “But today I had to really saturate it. There were so many high school anglers and competitors out there. I had to hang out there today, which paid off because I got two big ones.

“The majority of my big ones have been in that couple-100-yard area.”

By milking that sweet spot, Schlapper was able to generate bites early on Semifinal Saturday. He filled his limit and caught his two biggest bass, including a 6-pounder, before 9 a.m. From there, the bite slowed tremendously as the fishing pressure increased.

“It started out decent,” Schlapper said. “I was able to get a couple good ones pretty early and secure a decent limit to where I knew I was going to make the cut. From there, I picked one up here and there. I got one key cull at the end of the day and lost a really big one.”

With the idea that new bass are moving through every day, Schlapper will be all in on his primary area on the final day. He has other spots where he feels he can catch a bass, but none that have produced as many big bites.

Although he has a sizable lead, the three-time qualifier for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors feels he needs 25 pounds to secure his first Elite Series victory.

“If that area doesn’t produce, we are going to be hurting,” Schlapper said. “I’m 100% committed and I knew that coming into the tournament. I didn’t want any other thought in my mind. If I’m going to win this tournament, this is what I have to do.”

After leading on Day 1 with 31-3 — the Rapala CrushCity Monster Bag of the Tournament to this point — Fujita caught 24-3 on Day 2 before stumbling Saturday with 16-10. Most of the week, the four-time Japanese Angler of the Year has targeted one area of standing timber. He has caught the majority of his bass on a Jackall Drift Fry using after identifying them on Garmin LiveScope.

On Saturday, Fujita returned to his primary spot but did not see the numbers of bass he had witnessed the first two days. The colder morning, along with an increase in fishing pressure around him, contributed to this tough day.

“Changes in lake condition (also). I find many fish in practice. But today, no fish,” he said. “I went to same area, many boat area, in the morning.”

At 10 a.m., Fujita began searching for new bass and slowly worked his way to a limit. His final bass of the day was a 6-pounder, which came from an offshore area he found during his practice period.

“I hit 10 spots today, but no fish,” he said. “In the afternoon, I catch a 6-pounder in a new area. Six-pounder spot, (I will) try tomorrow.”

With a big deficit to overcome, Fujita believes he needs a minimum of 25 pounds to have a shot at his second Elite Series title.

In his first-ever Elite event, Gee qualified for Championship Sunday with bags of 29-0, 22-10 and 17-13. He has bounced back and forth between offshore areas this week, using a Crock-O-Gator Slide Shad.

“It is wild. I never expected to make (the final day),” he said. “I had a gut feeling I might have a good tournament because before I got down here, everything that could go wrong was going wrong. My trailer messed up on the way down here and I had to fix it for four hours on the side of the highway. But it happened for me (on the water) this week. I hope I have one more blessed day.

“Hopefully I can bring in 30 pounds tomorrow. That would be cool.”

Day 3 started well for Gee as he caught a limit in the first 45 minutes. From there, Gee went through his rotation of six or seven areas, but only found bass in two or three of them.

“They are definitely leaving where I am fishing,” he said. “I am going to have to make a change,” he said. “It was a pretty tough day, especially this evening. I didn’t see very many and they were hard to hit.”

With bass leaving his areas, and water temperatures over 60 degrees in places, Gee believes he will have to move shallow at some point Sunday to have a shot at victory. He has an idea of where the bass he was targeting early in the week are going next.

Wisconsin’s Jay Przekurat caught the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day, a 7-15 largemouth. But South Carolina pro Bryan New still holds the lead in the race for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Tournament with the 9-8 largemouth he landed on Day 1.

The Top 10 remaining anglers will launch from Cypress Bend Park beginning at 7 a.m. CT Sunday and return for weigh-in at 3 p.m. The winner will earn a coveted blue trophy and the $100,000 top prize. All anglers are earning points toward the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.

Bassmaster LIVE will be available on FS1 on Sunday from 7-10 a.m. CT before moving to for the afternoon session.

Those wanting to attend will be able to enjoy the “B.A.S.S. on the ’Bend” festival on Sunday at Cypress Bend Park before weigh-in. The festival will feature live music and many local vendors.

The event is being hosted by Toledo Bend Lake Country and the Louisiana Office of Tourism.

Major League Fishing - Bass Pro Tour/Cup Events

Final 10 Anglers Set for Championship Sunday at Major League Fishing Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes

CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. (Feb. 24, 2024) – For most of his first three days on the water at the Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at the Santee Cooper lakes, pro Cole Floyd of Leesburg, Ohio , lurked just behind the leaders – safe from the cut line but never really threatening to overtake for the top spot on SCORETRACKER®. He qualified for Saturday’s Knockout Round by finishing ninth in Group A, then hovered in the middle of the Top 10 throughout Saturday’s action.

Until the final few hours, that is.

During an explosive Period 3 that saw Santee Cooper’s big bass start snapping for just about everyone in the field, Floyd boated eight bass weighing a combined 28 pounds, 6 ounces. That brought his total on the day to 46-9, vaulted him into the top spot on the leaderboard and sent a clear message to the rest of the field that he’s not to be overlooked during Sunday’s Championship Round.

Seeking his first win as a touring pro, Floyd will have his work cut out for him. Looming within the top five were pros Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Alabama, who stacked up an epic 42-6 on just six bass; Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, the six-time Bass Pro Tour champion; and pro James Watson of Lampe, Missouri, who caught a pair of 8-plus-pounders Saturday.

The final 10 anglers are now set, and competition resumes Sunday morning with the Championship Round. In the Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

Floyd, who hasn’t had a camera in his boat all week, doesn’t mind operating outside the spotlight. He said he relishes the underdog role.

In fact, he wasn’t necessarily trying to finish the Knockout Round in first place. He spent much of Saturday running new water, and he just happened to hit a productive area in Lake Marion during the final couple hours. He added to his total as he sampled the bass population living there.

“Every time I got off pad with my boat, it seemed like I could get a bite,” Floyd said. “Everything was just kind of going my way.”

Like much of the field, Floyd has caught his fish winding a bladed jig – in his case, a Strike King Thunder Cricket – around cypress trees, “trying to cover as much water as [he] can.” He believes the key to his hot afternoon was the west wind, which picked up speed as the day progressed and pushed water into his section.

“The wind just seemed to blow in all that mud, that dirty water from the other side of the lake, and it just helped my area a lot more,” Floyd explained. “Stained it up and got it more active.”

Floyd is optimistic that the area he found has plenty of bass to carry him through the Championship Round. However, the forecast – sunny skies, cooler temperatures and a light breeze out of the north – has him concerned that he might have to switch up techniques.

“Obviously, I had a good day today,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a good area to possibly win it, but I feel like the weather is going to hurt me more than anything. I think it’s going to be calmer tomorrow, and it’ll just make the bite tougher.”

Floyd, who will compete in his second career BPT Championship Round, is no stranger to tournament success. He won multiple events at the college level, plus took home three straight Angler of the Year titles in the LBL Division of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League from 2017-2019.

A BPT victory, however, would represent a whole new frontier. Floyd called the prospect of landing his first national win “life-changing.”

“It would be a dream come true,” he said. “I’ve worked my ass off – I’m not super old – my whole life just to have this opportunity, so it would be something very special, that’s for sure.”

The top 10 pros from Saturday’s Knockout Round that now advance to the final day Championship Round on Santee Cooper Lakes are:

1st:        Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, 14 bass, 46-9
2nd:       Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala, six bass, 42-6
3rd:       Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., 10 bass, 39-14
4th:        Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 11 bass, 34-1
5th:        James Watson, Lampe, Mo., seven bass, 32-3
6th:        Dean Rojas, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 12 bass, 30-8
7th:        Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa., nine bass, 29-0
8th:        Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 10 bass, 28-4
9th:        Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., 10 bass, 28-0
10th:     Jesse Wiggins, Cullman, Ala., 10 bass, 26-14

Eliminated from competition are:

11th:     David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., six bass, 25-8
12th:     Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, six bass, 25-1
13th:     Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., nine bass, 22-0
14th:     Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., six bass, 21-13
15th:     Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., three bass, 14-14
16th:     Ron Nelson, Berrien Springs, Mich., four bass, 13-1
17th:     Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., three bass, 12-6
18th:     Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., five bass, 11-4
19th:     Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla., four bass, 6-10
20th:     Marshall Robinson, Landrum, S.C., zero bass, 0-0

A complete list of results can be found at

Overall, there were 145 bass weighing 490 pounds, 4 ounces caught by 19 pros Saturday. The catch included six 6-pounders, three 7-pounders, and five 8-pounders.

Pros Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Alabama, and James Watson of Lampe, Missouri, tied for Saturday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award, as each weighed in a largemouth totaling 8 pounds, 15 ounces. 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 the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce, 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. After the two-day Qualifying Round was complete, the anglers that finished first through 10th from both groups advanced to Saturday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights were zeroed, and the remaining 20 anglers competed to finish in the top 10 to advance to Sunday’s Championship Round. Sunday, in the final-day Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

On Sunday, Feb. 25, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF welcomes fans of all ages to visit the John C. Land III landing for the MLF Watch Party. Fans can watch the pros 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, and 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 final 10 anglers will launch at 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday from the John C. Land III Landing, located at 4404 Greenall Road in Summerton. Sunday’s General Tire Takeout and Championship Celebration 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 MLFNOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at .

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

The Suzuki Stage Two at Santee Cooper Lakes Presented by Fenwick 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 1-pound, 8-ounce 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 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 Suzuki Stage Two at Santee Cooper Lakes Presented by Fenwick will premiere as a two-hour episode starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Sept. 21 on Discovery, with the Championship Round premiering the following Saturday on Sept. 28. 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, Fishing Clash, 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.