Categories
Major League Fishing - Bass Pro Tour/Cup Events

Wheeler Earns Seventh Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour Victory at Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes

CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. (Feb. 25, 2024) – During the final period of the final day of Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick, the Santee Cooper lakes that had churned out chunky bass all week simply shut down. At one point, the 10 pros duking it out during the Championship Round went 45 minutes without boating a scorable bass. They combined to catch just 18 fish, none breaking the 4-pound mark, during the final frame.

The one angler who managed to manufacture consistent action – Rapala pro Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee. Wheeler accounted for five of those bass, which combined to weigh 14 pounds, 2 ounces. That boosted his final-day total to 47-4, lifting him past Suzuki pro Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, by 5 pounds for his seventh career Bass Pro Tour victory.

Bucking conventional Santee Cooper tactics by fishing offshore with a jighead minnow, Wheeler did what he’s done for the past six years, seemingly willing bites into existence. He started the third period 2-8 back of Rojas but promptly took the lead with a 3-12 largemouth. A little more than an hour later, with everyone else at a standstill, he boated three fish over 2-pounds in about 10 minutes. After Rojas closed within 2-6 in the final 30 minutes, Wheeler ran across Lake Marion to hit one more spot, where he added a 2-10 to all but seal the victory.

“I stuck to my game plan this whole week, and I stayed out offshore and I tried to fish isolated stuff,” Wheeler said. “It really came down to just keeping my head down and keeping my rotation going. I tried to make other tactics work, but those last two periods really came down to throwing that Freeloader, locking it in my hand. I’ve got so much confidence in it; I know it’s going to generate the bites if they are going to bite at all.”

Both Wheeler and Rojas, who pulled away from the rest of the pack Sunday, largely ignored the fishery’s innumerable cypress trees, with Wheeler fishing offshore and Rojas skipping boat docks.

Wheeler said he had 30 to 40 spots that he cycled through during the event, mostly located in the middle and lower sections of Lake Marion. He primarily targeted brushpiles but also found a few productive locations that featured stumps or hard spots on the bottom.

“I didn’t feel like it was the winning pattern,” Wheeler said. “But I basically was able to find enough stuff that I could keep to myself and rotate on myself and really manage that it ended up being that way. And it was a combination of the right bait, the right area, the right stuff.”

While most of the field focused on cypress trees or submerged vegetation, Wheeler wasn’t the only angler in the Championship Round fishing offshore. Justin Lucas stacked up 42-6 on six bass doing virtually the same thing during the Knockout Round.

What separated Wheeler was his ability to generate strikes amid the tough, postfrontal conditions that greeted the field on Sunday.

His final-period flurry will likely be remembered as the winning moment, but surviving the first period might have been more important for Wheeler. The morning brought chilly, windy conditions that made fishing offshore difficult. Seeing that fish were tucked tighter to the bottom, Wheeler pulled out a jig and used it to catch his first bass of the day, a 5-10. Without that fish, his biggest of the day, he would’ve fallen 10 ounces shy of Rojas’ total.

“I just felt like the fish were on the bottom,” he said. “When the wind blows, a lot of times, those fish will suck down to the bottom. Basically, all I was using ActiveTarget for then was just making the right casts.”

As the wind died down and the water warmed, Wheeler turned to the Rapala CrushCity Freeloader, a soft-plastic, pintail minnow of his own design. The Freeloader has become a confidence bait for Wheeler — no surprise considering he’d already won one Bass Pro Tour event, 2023 Stage Four on Lake Guntersville, with it.
He came into the week unsure whether it would be effective in Santee Cooper’s shallow, off-color water. But as the event progressed, he found that bass that would eat a jerkbait earlier in the week could still be enticed by a Freeloader — even Sunday afternoon, when no one else in the field could get bit consistently.

“The water’s starting to clean up a little bit, the fish were definitely really fickle,” he said. “When the water was a little bit dirtier, you could catch ‘em on a spinnerbait, you could catch ‘em on a jerkbait; it was a lot better. And then as the water slowly cleared, it became a deal where I had to change up. And that was the key.”

Wheeler’s latest triumph adds to an already sterling Bass Pro Tour resume. He’s now amassed seven wins and 29 Top-10 finishes in his first 43 BPT events — both easily the most among his peers on tour. He’s already claimed two Fishing Clash Angler of the Year titles and is back in the driver’s seat to add a third.

So, has all that success gotten old yet? Not a chance.

“My little girl, she’s sort of like me, she always likes to win,” Wheeler said with a laugh. “And she told me, ‘Daddy, you don’t let (roommates) DC and Adrian win this week. You’ve got to bring home the trophy.’ So, we’re bringing home the trophy, darling.”

The top 10 pros from the Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes finished:

1st:        Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 15 bass, 47-4, $100,000
2nd:      Dean Rojas, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 17 bass, 42-4, $45,000
3rd:       Jesse Wiggins, Cullman, Ala., nine bass, 29-14, $38,000
4th:        Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., four bass, 19-10, $32,000
5th:        Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., five bass, 18-12, $30,000
6th:        Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., six bass, 16-8, $26,000
7th:        Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa., five bass, 15-5, $23,000
8th:        Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, five bass, 11-5, $21,000
9th:        James Watson, Lampe, Mo., three bass, 7-13, $19,000
10th:     Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala, one bass, 4-8, $16,000

A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Overall, there were 70 bass weighing 213 pounds, 3 ounces caught by the final 10 pros Sunday. The catch included four 5-pounders, one 6-pounder, and one 8-pounder.

Reigning Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) Matt Becker of Ten Mile, Tennessee, won Championship Sunday’s Berkley Big Bass Award, with a largemouth totaling 8 pounds even in the first period. 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. Pro David Dudley of Lynchburg, Virginia, earned the $3,000 Berkley Big Bass award for the overall largest bass of the event with his 9-pound, 11-ounce largemouth that was weighed on Day 4 of competition.

The Suzuki Stage Two at Santee Cooper Lakes Presented by Fenwick featured the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, in which anglers caught as much weight as they could each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. The tournament featured 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 six-day tournament, hosted by the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce, showcased 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 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. After two events in the 2024 season, Jacob Wheeler leads the AOY race with 157 points. Jesse Wiggins of Addison, Alabama, moved into second place with 150 points, while defending AOY Matt Becker of Ten Mile, Tennessee, sits in third, two points back of Wiggins with 148 points.

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.

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Fujita’s furious comeback leads to Bassmaster Elite Series victory at Toledo Bend

February 25, 2024

MANY, La. —

Kyoya Fujita’s ultimate goal for 2024 is to win the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.

Winning the first tournament of the season is certainly an impressive way to start that campaign.

With 100 pounds, 13 ounces, Fujita claimed the victory at the Gamakatsu Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend. Along with the coveted century belt — an exclusive award given only to those who catch at least 100 pounds of bass in a four-day event — the Elite Series sophomore earned the $100,000 top prize and a blue trophy.

“I was surprised,” Fujita said with the assistance of a translator. “I am looking to make every Championship Sunday this season. But winning tournaments are really hard things to do. I have been champion in Japan, but I know how hard it is to do. I’m happy with how it worked out. It’s a very good start.”

Entering the day 6 pounds behind Wisconsin pro Pat Schlapper, Fujita made a furious comeback in the final round by catching 28-13 — a bag almost entirely made up of 6-pounders and a total he wasn’t expecting after struggling the previous day.

“I thought there was a chance for me to win if Pat caught only 16 or 17 pounds and I could catch 22 or 23 pounds,” Fujita said. “If I can locate the bass, I am confident I can catch those bass. In my brain, my tactics, my fishing and my heart, I believe in myself.”

This win only adds reinforces his hard-earned nickname “Prince of Japanese Angling.” This is Fujita’s second Elite Series title in 10 events, with the first coming at Lake Champlain last August. Before coming to America, he won four Angler of the Year titles in Japan as well as six major tournaments.

Most of the week, Fujita stayed in one offshore spot in the mouth of Housen Bay and targeted prespawn bass suspended in deep standing timber. As the fishing pressure from Elite anglers and locals began to build, the bite began to suffer.

When that spot began to fizzle on Day 3, he moved to the creek right above Housen and caught suspended bass in 10 feet of water using his forward-facing sonar in the mouth of that creek. That spot produced multiple 6-pounders the final two days, several of which he believed to be postspawners.

“I practiced there and found some 3-pounders, but nothing special,” he said. “I think because of the wind situation (on Day 4), the bass came up there.”

In both areas, Fujita used a Jackall Drift Fry and a Deps Sakamata Shad and rigged them on either a 1/8-ounce or 3/16-ounce Keitech Super Round Jighead. When he located a bass on Garmin LiveScope, he would cast to it and then lightly shake the bait in front of the bass until it bit.

He rigged both baits on a 6-foot, 5-inch medium-light Daiwa Steez Real Control spinning rod paired with a Daiwa Exist reel which he spooled with 30-pound Daiwa braid main line and 16-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Fujita took the lead on Day 1 by catching 31-3 — a five-bass limit that earned him $2,000 for as the Rapala CrushCity Monster Bag of the Tournament. He fell to second after a Day 2 bag of 24-3 and then to third after catching 16-10 on Day 3.

During his Day 3 struggles, however, Fujita caught a late 6-pounder that pointed him in the right direction for Championship Sunday.

Fujita returned to his primary spot to open the final round — and while there weren’t many bass left in the area, he started the morning by landing a 6- and 5-pounder in the first two hours. He caught two more keepers in that area, but he could not manufacture another bite.

“I caught four nice ones at the first main area,” Fujita said. “There weren’t many bass this morning either, but there were less boats. Nobody was fishing around me. So, I was able to see them. When I saw the four big fish, I caught all of them. I didn’t fish for the smaller ones. After I caught those four, I didn’t see anything.”

After mid-morning, Fujita made a move to his secondary spot and landed another 6-pounder to fill his limit. His day only got better from there as he landed several more 6-pounders in the last three hours to seal his victory.

South Carolina pro Patrick Walters caught 29-0, the biggest bag of the final day, to jump into second place with a four-day total of 95-15. He anchored his big Sunday bag with an 8-4 largemouth that claimed Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day honors.

Walters opened the tournament with 19-11 before bringing 30-5 and 16-5 to the scales on Days 2 and 3. While a good start to his season, he had mixed feelings about the way the final day unfolded.

“It started out slow,” he said. “It took all day long. I caught my biggest one on my last cast. It was one here and one there and it took forever. But I had the bites to crack the biggest bag I’ve ever had in my life. I lost two hammers — two absolute giants — and a 4-pounder. I’m happy with the start, though.”

Using forward-facing sonar, Walters focused on a major creek channel and searched for bass in a wide area. The key was keeping the trolling motor down and covering water until he saw something he liked. A 3/16-ounce Damiki rig with a Fluke-style bait and a Neko-rigged Zoom Magnum Swamp Crawler were his key baits.

“I wouldn’t pick my trolling motor up for 5 miles,” Walters said. “I would follow the creek channel and then move to the flat. I would move to wherever I thought they were going.”

Entering the final day with the lead, Schlapper fell to third with a four-day total of 93-8 after landing just 14-14 on Sunday. The Wisconsin pro had three great days, landing 27-4 on Day 1 before adding 28-5 and 22-7 the next two days.

“I knew I was in trouble when I didn’t catch a couple good ones early,” he said. “It is what it is. I ran out of bass and didn’t adjust.”

Schlapper spent most of his time this week fishing the deep edge of a grass flat in Housen Bay. The majority of the bass he caught this week were roaming between 10 and 30 feet of water. While he combed a large area, Schlapper keyed on one particular sweet spot that produced multiple big bites each of the first three days.

“There was a drain that went in, a little gap they were funneling into,” he said. “The majority of the big ones I caught were within a 100 yards of the mouth of that drain. I think those bass were either in the grass or timber and would come out to that edge and sun themselves. All of the big ones I caught were up high in the water column, like 10 feet down.”

He caught almost every bass this week using a Damiki rig with a Queen Tackle tungsten jighead and a minnow-style bait. Garmin LiveScope was an important contributor as well.

Schlapper said he did not see nearly as many bass as he’d seen the previous three days. The quality bass he did see on his forward-facing sonar did not bite. With a small limit and time running out, he punted and moved to a shallow grass flat and caught several nice bass with a bladed jig to salvage the day.

Fujita took the early lead in the Angler of the Year standings with 103 points, followed by Walters in second with 102. Schlapper is third with 101 points, followed by Tennessee rookie Robert Gee in fourth with 100 and Texas rookie Ben Milliken in fifth with 99.

Gee and Milliken sit atop the Dakota Lithium Rookie of the Year standings, followed by Alabama’s Wesley Gore in third with 93 points, Trey McKinney of Illinois in fourth with 92 and Maine’s Tyler Williams in fifth with 85.

South Carolina’s Bryan New earned a total of $3,000 for catching the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Tournament, a 9-8 largemouth he landed on Day 1.

Virginia pro Ed Loughran III took home the $1,000 BassTrakk contingency bonus for most accurate weight recording this week.

Fujita earned an extra $4,000 for the Yamaha Power Pay contingency award while Walters earned a $2,500 bonus.

Oklahoma pro Luke Palmer earned $3,000 in Toyota Bonus Bucks, while rookie McKinney earned $2,000 in Bonus Bucks.

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

Categories
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 Bassmaster.com 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.

Categories
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 MajorLeagueFishing.com.

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 MajorLeagueFishing.com .

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 MajorLeagueFishing.com 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.

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Pat Schlapper captures kicker bass to take Day 2 lead in Bassmaster Elite Series event at Toledo Bend

February 23, 2024

MANY, La. —

With the help of an 8-6 largemouth, Pat Schlapper caught 28 pounds, 5 ounces on Day 2 of the Gamakatsu Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend to jump into the lead with a two-day total of 55-9.

The pro from Eleva, Wis., holds a 3-ounce advantage over Day 1 leader Kyoya Fujita, who is second with a two-day mark of 55-6. Tennessee’s Robert Gee is third with 51-10.

“There were some really fun moments today,” Schlapper said. “It was tougher than yesterday, honestly. I didn’t get that many bites, and the bass are either leaving or getting picked off. I still had three really good bites.”

After finding a rhythm late in the day Thursday, the three-time Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors qualifier returned to one of his most productive areas and targeted roaming bass in 15 to 30 feet of water. He used the same bait he caught the majority of his bass on yesterday with the help of his Garmin LiveScope.

Despite the increase in boat pressure in the area, Schlapper immediately started catching bass and filled out his limit around 9:30 a.m. before landing his biggest bass of the day.

“I saw the bass on LiveScope, but it looked too big. I made a good cast and it came up on it, bit it and I missed it,” Schlapper said. “I cast up there again; the way it came up I thought it was a bass. Then, the way it fought, I knew it was a bass. I was lucky I (that) missed it the first time and then (it) ate it again. It was awesome.”

Late in the day, he returned to that same area and caught another kicker bass, a largemouth that weighed just under 8 pounds.

“I had a good bag fairly early, but then it was a long time before I caught anything else,” he said. “I came back at the end of the day when everyone was gone and caught another that was almost 8.”

Schlapper, however, is a bit concerned about how the rest of the tournament will play out in his primary area. With the weekend starting, boat pressure will likely only increase. He has also noticed the water temperature rising, which could mean the bass will move toward the bank and away from his area.

“There aren’t many bass left there. There were a lot of spectators and other competitors really messing with them,” he said. “If another wave kind of moves through, we might be alright. If not, it might be tough. There’s a chance I can throw (it) in front of five big ones tomorrow. I think there is less of a chance than there was today and the day before.

“But I’m sticking with it.”

After landing the Rapala CrushCity Monster Bag of the Tournament on Day 1 at 31-3, Fujita landed 24-3 to drop into second place. The Japanese pro returned to his primary spot from Day 1 and, while he filled out a limit in the first three hours, he struggled to generate big bites until the afternoon. His biggest bass, logged as a 6-0 on BassTrakk, came after 1 p.m. He caught all of his bass on a Jackall Drift Fry around standing timber in 30 feet of water.

Boat pressure was the main reason for the tougher bite, he said.

“Yesterday in the morning, it was fish, fish, fish, and then in the afternoon, there was fishing pressure and no bites,” Fujita said with the help of a translator. “Today was tough.”

Despite the increased pressure, Fujita still saw plenty of bass on his LiveScope. He plans on returning to the same area in the morning and will evaluate how many other boats are around. If he isn’t liking what he sees, he will move to a different spot on the lake.

Gee added 22-10 to his 29-0 Day 1 bag to increase his two-day total to 51-10. While he lost a 4-pounder early in the day, the Knoxville, Tenn., rookie filled a limit quickly but struggled to find quality.

“I started where I could get a limit early,” he said. “It seemed like the bigger ones were leaving. I didn’t catch any really big ones, and everywhere I went it seemed like fish were leaving me. I feel like they are making a push up shallow with this full moon coming tomorrow night.”

Late in the day, Gee moved to his big-bass spot from yesterday and caught his two biggest of the day.

“I understood what I was doing wrong, so I went in closer to where the bass wanted to be going,” Gee said. “I was still in a basin, so I was in 35 feet of water instead of 50 feet.”

So far this week, Gee has caught the majority of his bass on a Crock-O-Gator Slide Shad and has changed the jighead size based on the depth he’s fishing and the wind speed. Forward-facing sonar has played a big role in his success.

With the bass leaving his areas, Gee feels like he will need to start making a move to the shallows. He didn’t have much success fishing shallow in practice, but he has an idea where his deep bass may move to in the coming days. 

“I’m just going to have to adjust and fish new water,” he said.

Canadian pro Chris Johnston caught a 9-3 largemouth on Day 2 to claim the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day. South Carolina’s Bryan New currently holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Tournament, a 9-8 largemouth he caught on Day 1.

The Top 50 anglers will launch from Cypress Bend Park beginning at 7 a.m. CT and return for weigh-in at 3 p.m. The Top 10 will advance to Championship Sunday to compete for the blue trophy and $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 Saturday morning beginning at 8 a.m. ET through 11:30 a.m. before moving to Bassmaster.com for the afternoon session.

Those wanting to attend will be able to enjoy the “B.A.S.S. on the ’Bend” festival on Saturday and 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.

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Fork should produce fireworks once again

February 23, 2024

YANTIS, Texas —

If Lee Livesay had a say in where Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments are held, there’s zero question which lake he’d pick first — and second, third and so on.

“I’m not gonna beat around the bush,” Livesay said. “I want to fish at Lake Fork any day, every day and any time of the year. I’ll take it over anyplace else. That’s never gonna change.”

Well, well, well.

As if Livesay drew up the schedule himself (note: he didn’t), the second stop of this year’s tour will be Feb. 29-March 3 with the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork, less than an hour from Livesay’s hometown of Longview, Texas. In all, 103 Elites are scheduled to compete in the derby, with a $100,000 first-place prize at stake and thousands more in cash prizes for top competitors, as well as all-important points in the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.

The field will include many of the world’s best bass anglers, including Livesay, the four-time B.A.S.S. winner who has, to put it mildly, feasted at Fork the past few times he’s competed here.

How dominant has the 38-year-old Texan been on his home water?

Consider this: Livesay cracked the ballyhooed Century Club in Elite Series tournaments here in 2021 and 2022, each resulting in runaway wins. He caught an incredible 112 pounds, 5 ounces over four days in 2021 (a full 10 pounds better than second-place finisher Patrick Walters) and came back a year later with a winning total of 113-11 (a full 11-9 better than the second-place angler for that derby, two-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Brandon Palaniuk).

Though both were double-digit victories, competitors were pounding Fork as well, with six total Century Club performances across those two tournaments. The 2022 derby was especially productive, with each of the Top 10 anglers catching more than 90 pounds of bass over four days.

Livesay is confident he can three-peat at Lake Fork but knows any Elite finding a consistent big bite could hoist a blue trophy when the fishing is done.

“I know a lot about the lake, but there are going to be many guys who will find fish out there,” he said. “I think we could see huge weights again. It’s the right time frame. There will be fish in the timber, in the grass. You can fish deep or you can fish shallow. People will have their pick.”

Livesay wasn’t pointing to the wealth of possibilities to disguise his own game plan. Matter of fact, he hasn’t actually fished the lake since last spring.

“It was last May or June,” he said. “I drove around about a quarter of the lake recently, before it went off-limits, and it was full pool. We’ve had a lot of rain and I saw some things that make me believe we’ll have good fishing. I like to fish shallow and that’s probably my best chance there. But that could change.

“I really don’t want any preconceived notion of what to expect,” he continued. “It’s all affected by temperature, fishing pressure. Forward-facing sonar is a real factor now. I know what to look for, so I’ll show up, practice hard, look shallow, look deep and everywhere in between.’

Livesay said he had a “bad day” in both of his Elite Series wins on Lake Fork. The key for him, and likely every other competitor, is to be “open-minded.”

“Lake Fork is more of a mental game for me because a million variables go through my head,” he said. “When the schedule came out, I thought I might spend all winter there. But where the giants are in December and January is not where they’ll be in February. So, I just backed off. I know how to get around and I know what’s there. When we start, it’s just about reading the conditions and finding the bigger bites.

“I just have to get into a flow.”

The AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork will have a full field for Day 1 and Day 2. The group will be cut to the Top 50 for Day 3 and the Top 10 will compete for the tournament title on Championship Sunday.

Bassmaster LIVE will be streaming on Bassmaster.com all four days, and coverage will also be available on FS1 on Saturday and Sunday.

Wood County Texas is hosting.

Categories
Major League Fishing - Bass Pro Tour/Cup Events

Dean Rojas Paces Field to Win Group B Qualifying Round at Major League Fishing Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes

CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. (Feb. 23, 2024) – For the first two hours of Group B’s second day on the water Friday at Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick, pro Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, struggled to recapture his Day 1 success. Rojas had stacked 16 bass weighing 48 pounds, 14 ounces on SCORETRACKER® during his first day on the Santee Cooper lakes, but he went more than two hours Friday morning without boating a scorable fish.

Once Rojas relocated a population of fish, though, the action heated up in a hurry. He got on the board with a 5-pounder, then caught another 11 bass, bringing his two-day total to 76-1. He finished atop the leaderboard for Group B, a mere 10 ounces ahead of pro Brent Ehrler of Redlands, California.

Rojas’ day summed up the action across lakes Marion and Moultrie. A morning that started slow ended with two bass over 9 pounds, and 20 over 6 pounds hitting the scales. Despite many of the top anglers using the afternoon to scout new water, the field combined to catch 249 scorable bass for 824 pounds, 14 ounces – easily the biggest totals of any day so far.

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.

Having put plenty of distance between himself and the cut line on Wednesday, Rojas, too, used his second day of competition to explore new water on the massive 170,000-acre playing field that is Santee Cooper. He never returned to the area where he caught his Day 1 bag, instead scouting a few other spots where he’d gotten bit during practice.

“The stuff I fished today was just secondary stuff that I had,” he explained. “It’s not my main stuff. I caught ‘em really good the first day, so there was no sense in working on those fish anymore.”

Rojas is doing something a bit different than the majority of anglers, not spending much time around the fishery’s many cypress trees. He didn’t want to reveal much about his tactics but said he’s focusing on areas where bass are moving up to stage.

“There’s probably a few that are up there (spawning), and there’s some that are coming,” Rojas said. “It’s still the very first beginnings of it.”

While he found plenty of fish, Rojas didn’t catch the same quality on Friday, boating just one bass bigger than 3 pounds. As a result, he still plans to return to his Day 1 area during what figures to be an explosive Knockout Round.

Still, he sees the day as a success, having eliminated some water and added more to his arsenal should he have to veer from Plan A.

“I have lots of options,” he said. “I feel very comfortable. The stuff that I fished today I can fish again tomorrow, and the stuff that I didn’t fish today, I can still go back again tomorrow.”

As for what it will take to make the Championship Round, Rojas speculated that the cut will fall around 45 pounds – although he admitted that could be way off. Santee Cooper has proven fickle this week, with lots of anglers putting together impressive bags but few doing so on consecutive days. The only safe bet seems to be that whoever does unlock the bite will have a chance to land some big ones.

“I have no idea,” Rojas said. “I’m going to try and catch every single bass I can tomorrow.”

The top 10 pros in Group B that now advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round on Santee Cooper Lakes are:

1st:        Dean Rojas, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 28 bass, 76-1
2nd:       Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 21 bass, 75-7
3rd:       Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., 21 bass, 75-2
4th:        Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., 21 bass, 74-2
5th:        Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala, 18 bass, 65-1
6th:        Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 15 bass, 60-12
7th:        Marshall Robinson, Landrum, S.C., 17 bass, 58-9
8th:        Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., 13 bass, 55-11
9th:        David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., 18 bass, 53-13
10th:     Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla., 14 bass, 51-2

Eliminated from competition are:

11th:     Fred Roumbanis, Russellville, Ark., 10 bass, 49-2
12th:     Fletcher Shryock, Guntersville, Ala., 17 bass, 48-9
13th:     Luke Clausen, Spokane, Wash., 14 bass, 48-4
14th:     Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., 12 bass, 46-4
15th:     Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., 19 bass, 45-5
16th:     Mark Davis, Mount Ida, Ark., 12 bass, 43-7
17th:     Bradley Roy, Lancaster, Ky., 14 bass, 43-2
18th:     Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., 14 bass, 42-6
19th:     Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn., 14 bass, 38-10
20th:     Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., 11 bass, 36-13
21st:      Jeremy Lawyer, Sarcoxie, Mo., 12 bass, 36-4
22nd:    Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas, 10 bass, 36-3
23rd:     Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., 14 bass, 36-2
24th:     Justin Cooper, Zwolle, La., 10 bass, 34-15
25th:     Joshua Weaver, Macon, Ga., 10 bass, 32-9
26th:     Martin Villa, Charlottesville, Va., 13 bass, 32-2
27th:     Alton Jones, Lorena, Texas, nine bass, 30-4
28th:     Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., eight bass, 28-3
29th:     James Elam, Tulsa, Okla., six bass, 21-10
30th:     Keith Carson, DeBary, Fla., seven bass, 19-7
31st:      Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., six bass, 19-4
32nd:    Boyd Duckett, Guntersville, Ala., seven bass, 18-11
33rd:     Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark., six bass, 18-0
34th:     Ryan Salzman, Huntsville, Ala., six bass, 17-11
35th:     Gary Klein, Mingus, Texas, six bass, 15-5
36th:     Kelly Jordon, Flint, Texas, six bass, 14-9
37th:     Cliff Crochet, Pierre Part, La., five bass, 14-3
38th:     John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky., four bass, 13-1
39th:     Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C, three bass, 12-13
40th:     Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., three bass, 7-13

A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Overall, there were 249 bass weighing 824 pounds, 14 ounces caught by 39 pros Friday. The catch included 14 6-pounders, three 7-pounders, one 8-pounder and two 9-pounders.

Pro David Dudley of Lynchburg, Virginia, won the $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award Friday with a fat 9-pound, 11-ounce largemouth that he caught on a Dudley’s Digger Blade from Treeshaker Tackle during Period 3. 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. Now that each group’s two-day Qualifying Round is complete, the anglers that finished 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. ET each day from the John C. Land III Landing, located at 4404 Greenall Road in Summerton. 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 MLFNOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com .

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. ET. MLFNOW!®  is live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

On Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24-25, 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 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 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.

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Fujita wrangles big bag to claim Day 1 lead in Bassmaster Elite Series event at Toledo Bend

February 22, 2024

MANY, La. —

Before the start of the Gamakatsu Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend, Kyoya Fujita’s personal-best bag of largemouth weighed around 24 pounds.

But after anchoring his bag with an 8 1/2-pounder Thursday, the Japanese pro shattered that mark and claimed the Day 1 lead at Toledo Bend with a 31-pound, 3-ounce bag of largemouth.

Known as the “Prince of Japanese Angling,” Fujita holds a 2-3 advantage over Elite Series rookie Robert Gee of Tennessee and nearly a 4-pound advantage over Wisconsin pro Pat Schlapper.

Fujita had never been to Toledo Bend before he pre-fished here in January. He said the lake has changed a lot since then, particularly the water levels, which are much higher now.

Using Garmin LiveScope, Fujita targeted prespawn bass located in 30 feet of water around standing timber in a popular area of Toledo Bend. Two baits caught the majority of his bass in one specific spot he found the last day of practice.

It only took about three hours for Fujita to reach his total for the day, as he landed the 8-pounder around 8 o’clock. During one particular flurry, he threw back a 4-pounder and then a 5-pounder. While the day was warm and sunny, the wind kicked up across the lake, making things more difficult.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher,” Fujita said through a translator. “In the morning, it was easy fishing. Afternoon, no bites. I don’t like rough water.”

Fujita said 30 pounds is the goal for tomorrow, and believes there are the bass in the area to repeat that performance.

“I will go to same area and same spot. (I’ll do) the same fishing,” he said. “I’ll try for 20 pounds. But if tough conditions, I’ll go to the next area with 3-pounders and 4-pounders and change tactics.”

Gee fished the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens presented by SEVIIN in 2023 and suffered his worst finish of the season at Toledo Bend. But he took the lessons he learned from that event and applied them this week to catch 29-0 Thursday.

“I beat the bank the whole time [in 2023] and from that moment on it changed my outlook on the way I needed to be fishing,” Gee said. “I dedicated myself to working on my offshore game ever since that tournament and it paid off today.”

He caught plenty of bass on Day 1, including a stop that produced two 5-pounders and several more quality bass to increase his total to 20 pounds around midday.

But a late-day stop produced the bulk of his weight.

“I made a move to a ditch and every fish I saw was over 5 pounds,” he said. “I culled everything I had out, including a 5-pounder, in 30 minutes. It was unbelievable. This is my biggest bag ever by myself.”

The majority of the bass he is catching are relating to standing timber. The shallowest bass came from 10 feet of water while his big bass late in the day were in 40 feet. One bait produced the bulk of his weight.

Gee knows there are plenty of bass left in his afternoon area and is hoping it will produce just as well on Day 2.

“Honestly, I didn’t think it held bass that size,” he said. “I went over there to catch 3- and 4-pounders. But every fish I saw was 5-plus. It was the perfect storm when I rolled in there and I think they are coming to it. I think I know where they are going to if they aren’t in the same spot.”

Schlapper brought 27-4 to the scales to land in third. A three-time qualifier for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors, he settled into the same popular area as Fujita and caught the bulk of his bag in about an hour and a half.

“I got into an area later in the day where I figured it would be right, and it was right,” Schlapper said. “I caught my biggest one earlier in the day, but everything else came in that one area. There’s a group of us that are all in the same area. That one little stretch I had, people overlooked and it’s a little different than what the main thing is that is going on.”

The majority of the bass Schlapper caught are individuals just roaming around in 12 to 40 feet of water. He will be heading to the same area Friday, although he isn’t sure the day will follow the same script.

“What I think is happening is later in the day with the sun, they start coming up. I don’t know if it is to warm up or what,” he said. “I’m in a good area. There’s a lot of big bass and they are moving around. I just have to get it in front of five of the right ones and get them in the boat.”

Leesville, S.C., pro Bryan New landed the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day, a 9-8 largemouth that bested several other 9-pounders.

The full field will take off from Cypress Bend Park beginning at 7 a.m. CT and return for weigh-in at 3 p.m. The Top 50 anglers after the Day 2 weigh-in will advance to Semifinal Saturday before the Top 10 compete for the blue trophy and $100,000 top prize on Championship Sunday. All anglers are earning points towards Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

Bassmaster LIVE will be streaming on Bassmaster.com all four days beginning at 8 a.m. ET, and coverage will also be available on FS1 on Saturday and Sunday.

Those wanting to attend will be able to enjoy the “B.A.S.S. on the ’Bend” festival on Saturday and 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 and Tourism.

Categories
Uncategorized

Dylan Hays Wins Group A Qualifying Round at Major League Fishing Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes

CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. (Feb. 22, 2024) – Hot Springs, Arkansas, pro Dylan Hays caught seven scorable bass Thursday weighing 30 pounds, 8 ounces, to earn the Group A Qualifying Round win at the Major League Fishing (MLF) Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes in Clarendon County, South Carolina.

Hays’ two-day Qualifying Round catch of 17 bass totaling 71 pounds, 13 ounces, earned him the win by a narrow 2-pound, 11-ounce margin over Day 1 leader and reigning Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) Matt Becker of Ten Mile, Tennessee, who caught a two-day total of 19 bass weighing 69-2 to finish the round in second place. General Tire pro Alton Jones, Jr., of Waco, Texas, caught a two-day total of 18 bass weighing 66-9 to finish the round in third, while pro Gerald Spohrer of Gonzales, Louisiana, ended the round in fourth place with a two-day total of 23 bass for 64-15. Rounding out the top five is Stage One winner Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, who caught 17 bass for 63-14 to advance in fifth place.

The top 10 anglers advancing from Group A will now have an off day from competition Friday, while the 40 anglers competing in Group B will complete their two-day Qualifying Round. The top 10 anglers from each group 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 the Championship Round. In Sunday’s final day Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

All week, anglers have stressed the importance of triggering bites from the bigger-than-average bass that roam Santee Cooper. At least in Group A, no one has done so better than Hays.

The Arkansas pro anchored his Day 2 bag with a 7-3 kicker. He also caught a 6-7 and a 5-4. During each of his first two days on the water, he’s landed three bass over 5 pounds, and his biggest five fish weighed more than 26 both days.

Hays believes he’s figured out a key to enticing those bigger bass. Fishing in Lake Marion, he’s not shying away from the dirty water in much of the lake. He also thinks his bait selection has played a part. All his fish Thursday ate a 1/2-ounce bladed jig with either a Zoom Z Craw Jr. or Shimmer Shad as the trailer.

“Key No. 1 was dirty water,” Hays said. “Key No. 2 was throwing a ChatterBait instead of flipping. … And then just making a lot of casts, working really hard.”

Hays admitted that he’s “kind of making it up as [he goes],” especially as he explored new terrain, but he’s optimistic his key areas are reloading with new staging fish each day. Early in the morning, he watched another angler catch a 5-pounder off the same tree that produced a 6-pounder for him on Day 1.

Still, even if his cypress bite sputters, Hays now has a backup plan in place. The thing that had him most excited about his second day on the water was the fact that he caught several fish not around Santee Cooper’s ubiquitous wood, but grass.

“The first day I caught the majority of them off trees – specific trees, but off trees – but in practice I caught a couple good ones off of some grass,” Hays said. “I couldn’t ever really make it work very long. Today, I actually caught the 7 and 5 off the same kind of stuff, and a couple males, so that kind of got me excited. That might start developing as well.”

Hays’ Group A win marked the first time in his three Bass Pro Tour seasons that he’s won a round. He’ll hope it leads to his first tournament win as a pro on Sunday.

The fact that he’s put himself in that position power fishing around shallow cover – the way he grew up fishing – has made his first two days on Santee Cooper even more fun.

“Dude, if they’re biting a Hula Popper, I’ll throw a Hula Popper,” Hays said. “If I gotta throw a drop-shot in 40 foot, I’ll do that. I do not care, and that’s God’s honest truth. It does not matter; I like it all. But it is fun. I mean, it’s been a while since we were able to do this, and I grew up fishing a place very similar to this, a lot of cypress trees, and I’m very comfortable.”

The top 10 pros in Group A that now advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round on Santee Cooper Lakes are:

1st:        Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., 17 bass, 71-13
2nd:       Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 19 bass, 69-2
3rd:       Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, 18 bass, 66-9
4th:        Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., 23 bass, 64-15
5th:        Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 17 bass, 63-14
6th:        James Watson, Lampe, Mo., 15 bass, 55-12
7th:        Jesse Wiggins, Cullman, Ala., 17 bass, 51-11
8th:        Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa., 14 bass, 50-12
9th:        Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, 16 bass, 50-8
10th:     Ron Nelson, Berrien Springs, Mich., 16 bass, 47-15

Eliminated from competition are:

11nd:    Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 14 bass, 45-11
12th:     Randy Howell, Guntersville, Ala., 15 bass, 40-10
13th:     Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 10 bass, 40-7
14th:     Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla., 14 bass, 38-9
15th:     Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., 15 bass, 38-6
16th:     Greg Vinson, Wetumpka, Ala., 16 bass, 38-0
17th:     Mark Rose, Wynne, Ark., 11 bass, 36-7
18th:     Matthew Stefan, Junction City, Wis., 11 bass, 36-1
19th:     Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, nine bass, 34-11
20th:     Jacob Wall, New Hope, Ala., nine bass, 34-11
21st:      Mark Daniels, Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., 14 bass, 33-3
22nd:    Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala., 12 bass, 32-14
23rd:     David Walker, Huntingdon, Tenn., nine bass, 32-4
24th:     Jacopo Gallelli, Florence, Italy, seven bass, 31-3
25th:     Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, 10 bass, 30-5
26th:     Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan., nine bass, 29-14
27th:     Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., nine bass, 28-7
28th:     John Murray, Spring City, Tenn., seven bass, 26-8
29th:     Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., nine bass, 25-6
30th:     Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., eight bass, 24-15
31st:      Nick Hatfield, Greeneville, Tenn., nine bass, 24-11
32nd:    Shinichi Fukae, Osaka, Japan, seven bass, 24-9
33rd:     Britt Myers, Lake Wylie, S.C., four bass, 21-13
34th:     Josh Bertrand, Queen Creek, Ariz., six bass, 21-2
35th:     Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn., six bass, 19-7
36th:     Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., five bass, 17-13
37th:     Colby Schrumpf, Highland, Ill., six bass, 15-8
38th:     Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif., five bass, 11-14
39th:     Jason Vance, Battle Ground, Ind., five bass, 11-2
40th:     Grae Buck, Green Lane, Pa., three bass, 10-14

A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Pro David Walker of Huntingdon, Tennessee, earned Thursday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award with an 8-pound, 8-ounce largemouth that he caught on a bladed swimjig during Period 3. 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 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. ET each day from the John C. Land III Landing, located at 4404 Greenall Road in Summerton. 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 MLFNOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com .

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. ET. MLFNOW!®  is live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

On Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24-25, 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 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 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.

Categories
Major League Fishing - Bass Pro Tour/Cup Events

Wheeler Runs Pattern to Grab Early Lead for Group B at Major League Fishing Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes

CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. (Feb. 21, 2024) – For the second time in as many events this season, the Bass Pro Tour is visiting a new fishery, with the Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes in Clarendon County, South Carolina. Once again, pro Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, wasted little time figuring it out.

Wheeler, whose six wins and 28 top-10 finishes in Bass Pro Tour competition are unmatched, is back atop the leaderboard through one day of qualifying for Group B. He boated 13 scorable bass for 53 pounds, 8 ounces Wednesday, 4 pounds, 11 ounces clear of Lake Havasu City, Arizona’s Dean Rojas who caught 16 bass weighing 48-14 to end the day in second place. Those two separated themselves from the rest of the pack – pro Brent Ehrler of Redlands, California, caught 39-0 total to finish the day in third place.

The 40 anglers in Group B will now have an off day from competition Thursday, while the 40 anglers competing in Group A will wrap up their two-day Qualifying Round. Group B will finish their Qualifying Round on Friday.

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.

Like most of the field, Wheeler emerged from practice on Santee Cooper a bit concerned about the dirty water and lack of bites. He rated his practice period a 4 out of 10. But, like many, his first day of competition left him pleasantly surprised.

“Obviously, catching 29 pounds for five and catching 50-something pounds of bass is one of the best days you could ask for,” Wheeler said.

While a small handful of the Bass Pro Tour anglers had prior experience fishing Santee Cooper before the spawn, conventional wisdom suggested this would be the type of tournament in which pros would be best served picking one area and combing it thoroughly. The navigational hazards and sheer amount of cover where fish could be living didn’t figure to suit a run-and-gun approach.

Wheeler turned that idea on its head. Taking advantage of the lack of wind, he hit several areas, looking for spots with the same key ingredients — a combination he figured out thanks to one clue during practice, then dialed in Wednesday.

“I constantly changed areas,” Wheeler said. “Because it was pretty calm today, it gave me an opportunity to run around. I didn’t stay in one area. I tried to run around and sort of look for that specific pattern, and that was what I did.”

While Wheeler mostly kept coy regarding specifics, he said he used a combination of forward-facing sonar and traditional, power-fishing tactics.

“I’m doing what I love to do, but I’m also sort of mixing a few things up,” he explained. “I’m looking for something very specific, and when I can find it, I’m basically running a pattern on this lake.”

Nearly half of Wheeler’s weight came from one stop. During a 90-minute stretch in Period 2, he caught six bass totaling 26-11. That included a 4-4, a 5-5 and a 6-14 — his biggest fish of the day. With the chances of catching 20-plus scorable bass in a day being slim, Wheeler said triggering big bites and landing those fish is the single biggest key to contending on Santee Cooper.

“I had three really big bites today,” Wheeler said. “So that, to me, is everything. I knew going into this, after seeing what happened in Group A, Day 1, I had to be very calm, cool and collected and be very methodical, because it wasn’t like it was going to be fast and furious. It wasn’t a Toledo Bend. Big bites were going to be few and far between, but when you got ‘em, you better capitalize on every single one.”

Wheeler remains unsure if he’ll be able to ride his Day 1 pattern through the weekend. He predicted that, as the weather warms and the bass continue their prespawn transition, Santee Cooper will fish differently during the Knockout and Championship Rounds than it has during the first two days. In typical Wheeler fashion, he’s put himself in prime position to figure it out. As usual, he said he plans to take advantage of his fast start by using much of Friday to explore new water.

“To me, I utilized this day to the best of my ability, to be leading right now going into Day 2 and have a firm grasp right now,” he said. “I still gotta catch a few bass, probably, to solidify my spot in the Knockout Round, but I’m feeling really confident about that.”

The top 20 pros in Group B after Day 1 on Santee Cooper Lakes are:

1st:        Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 13 bass, 53-8
2nd:      Dean Rojas, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 16 bass, 48-14
3rd:       Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 11 bass, 39-0
4th:        Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., 12 bass, 38-9
5th:        Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., 10 bass, 37-0
6th:        Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., six bass, 29-4
7th:        Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala, 10 bass, 28-14
8th:        Marshall Robinson, Landrum, S.C., eight bass, 27-3
9th:        Fred Roumbanis, Russellville, Ark., five bass, 26-1
10th:     Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., seven bass, 25-10
11th:     Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla., seven bass, 25-2
12th:     Luke Clausen, Spokane, Wash., eight bass, 24-12
13th:     Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., six bass, 22-8
14th:     Fletcher Shryock, Guntersville, Ala., eight bass, 22-4
15th:     Joshua Weaver, Macon, Ga., seven bass, 21-5
16th:     Jeremy Lawyer, Sarcoxie, Mo., six bass, 20-0
17th:     Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., seven bass, 19-4
18th:     Kelly Jordon, Flint, Texas, six bass, 14-9
19th:     Alton Jones, Lorena, Texas, four bass, 14-5
20th:     Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn., six bass, 14-4

SHOW NOW!

A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Overall, there were 226 bass weighing 721 pounds, 13 ounces caught by the 40 pros on Wednesday. The catch included 16 6-pounders, three 7-pounders and two 8-pounders.

Pro Fred “Boom Boom” Roumbanis of Russellville, Arkansas, earned the $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award Wednesday with an 8-pound, 6-ounce largemouth that he caught on a lipless crankbait in Period 2. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and another $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.

The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day Qualifying Round on Tuesday and Thursday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Wednesday and Friday. After 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. ET each day from the John C. Land III Landing, located at 4404 Greenall Road in Summerton. 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 MLFNOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com .

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. ET. MLFNOW!®  will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

On Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24-25, 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 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 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.