MAJOR LEAGUE FISHING NEWS

Josh Bertrand Leads Early After Day 1 & Alton Jones Sr. Out Front Early for Group B at Bass Pro Tour Bally Bet Stage Seven at Mille Lacs Lake Presented by Minn Kota

Arizona Pro Weighs 27 Bass Totaling 86 Pounds, 13 Ounces to Lead Early for Group A – Group B to Start Competition Sunday

ONAMIA, Minn. (Sept. 10, 2022) – Berkley pro Josh Bertrand of Queen Creek, Arizona, caught 27 scorable smallmouth bass weighing 86 pounds, 13 ounces, to grab the early lead after Day 1 of the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour Bally Bet Stage Seven at Mille Lacs Lake Presented by Minn Kota. Right behind Bertrand in second place is Hot Springs, Arkansas’ Stephen Browning, who caught 20 scorable bass weighing 84-13. The duo traded the lead back and forth multiple times throughout the third period, with Bertrand ending on top by the narrow 2-pound margin as time expired.

It’s seems to be a two-horse race in Group A, as Bertrand and Browning have a substantial 30-pound lead on the rest of the field. Weights are fairly stacked up in the remainder of the top 10. Pro Matt Lee of Cullman, Alabama, ended the day in third place with 15 bass totaling 53-11. Ardmore, Oklahoma’s Jeff Kriet caught 13 bass weighing 50-5 to end the day in fourth, while Berkley pro Jordan Lee of Cullman, Alabama , rounds out the top five with 15 bass weighing 46-11.

The 40 anglers in Group A will now have an off day from competition on Sunday, while the 40 anglers competing in Group B will begin their first day of competition. Group A will resume competition on Monday.

“It was a great first day – I caught a bunch of fish, and a lot of really good quality ones,” Bertrand said. “I caught them multiple different ways. This morning I caught them cranking and throwing a Carolina rig – they were really biting the reaction baits early. Then this afternoon it slicked off and I ended up catching them on a drop-shot rig, using a Berkley (PowerBait) MaxScent Hit Worm.

“The forecast is calling for really calm conditions for the next few days, but it’s supposed to get nasty again in our Knockout Round on Wednesday. So, I’m really going to try hard to win this Qualifying Round and advance straight to Championship Thursday – I do not want to be out here when it’s nasty,” Bertrand went on to say. “We’ve got a lot of fishing still ahead of us, but I’m thankful to be off to a really good start.”

The top 20 pros in Group A after Day 1 on Mille Lacs Lake are:

1st:          Josh Bertrand, Queen Creek, Ariz., 27 bass, 86-13
2nd:         Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., 20 bass, 84-13
3rd:         Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., 15 bass, 53-11
4th:         Jeff Kriet, Ardmore, Okla., 13 bass, 50-5
5th:         Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala., 15 bass, 46-11
6th:         Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 13 bass, 43-14
7th:         Mark Daniels, Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., 12 bass, 43-14
8th:         Mark Rose, Wynne, Ark., 14 bass, 42-12
9th:         Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 11 bass, 41-9
10th:       Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., 11 bass, 41-2
11th:       Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., 11 bass, 38-8
12th:       David Walker, Sevierville, Tenn., 11 bass, 37-10
13th:       Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., 10 bass, 34-7
14th:       Luke Clausen, Spokane, Wash., nine bass, 34-6
15th:       Mike McClelland, Blue Eye, Mo., nine bass, 34-1
16th:       Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., 10 bass, 33-10
17th:       Boyd Duckett, Guntersville, Ala., 16 bass, 33-6
18th:       Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, 10 bass, 32-4
19th:       Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan., 11 bass, 31-11
20th:       Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, eight bass, 31-5

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

Overall, there were 396 scorable bass weighing 1,339 pounds, 2 ounces caught by the 40 pros Saturday.

Browning caught the biggest fish of the day, a chunky 5-pound, 8-ounce smallmouth bass during Period 1 to earn the first $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award of the event. 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.

Texas Pro Catches 25 Scorable Smallmouth Weighing 92 Pounds, 13 Ounces to Lead Group B Qualifying Round By 27 Pounds after Day 1, Group A to Wrap Up Their Qualifying Round Monday

ONAMIA, Minn. (Sept. 11, 2022) – Although widely regarded as a shallow-water, sight-fishing expert, Texas pro Alton Jones, Sr., demonstrated Sunday that he also knows a thing or two about catching northern smallmouth as well. The Lorena, Texas, pro caught 25 scorable smallmouth bass Sunday weighing 92 pounds, 13 ounces, to pace the field by 27 pounds after Day 1 for Group B at the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour Bally Bet Stage Seven at Mille Lacs Lake Presented by Minn Kota.

Jones will bring a comfortable lead over second-place, Googan Baits pro Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, into Tuesday’s second day of competition in the Qualifying Round for Group B. Connell landed 17 scoreable bass – all smallmouth – weighing 65-13, while Bally Bet Angler of the Year (AOY) leader pro Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, rounds out the top three with 17 scorable bass weighing 58-13 to end the day in third place.

The 40 anglers in Group B will now have a day off on Monday, while the 40 anglers from Group A will wrap up their two-day Qualifying Round. Group B will finish their Qualifying Round on Tuesday.

“It’s humbling when you have a day like this,” Jones said in his post-game interview. “It was a great day – better than the other 39 guys today, and better than everyone that was on the water yesterday, too. So, I’m very pleased, and very thankful.

“I had a good practice, but that doesn’t always translate into a good tournament. This week it has, so far,” Jones continued. “I was able to move around to a lot of different places today and get bit, so I’m feeling really good with how my day went.”

With a 27-pound lead heading into the second day of Qualifying Round competition, Jones is already eyeing the automatic qualification to the Championship Round.

“I think I’ve got a strong enough lead that I can really try to go for it and win the round on Tuesday,” Jones went on to say. “The negative part is that if you go for it and someone passes you and you don’t win the round, you end up burning a lot of fish that you’ll need in the Knockout Round. We’ll see. If someone catches up real quick Tuesday and passes me and I’m struggling, I’ll back off and just start practicing. There is so much strategy that goes into this game. We’ll see how it goes.”

The top 20 pros in Group B after Day 1 on Mille Lacs Lake are:

1st:          Alton Jones, Lorena, Texas, 25 bass, 92-13
2nd:         Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 17 bass, 65-13
3rd:         Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 17 bass, 58-13
4th:         Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., 16 bass, 57-4
5th:         Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 15 bass, 53-4
6th:         Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss., 14 bass, 52-2
7th:         Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, 15 bass, 47-13
8th:         Ryan Salzman, Huntsville, Ala., 14 bass, 46-11
9th:         Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., 16 bass, 46-7
10th:       James Elam, Tulsa, Okla., 13 bass, 45-11
11th:       Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 13 bass, 43-6
12th:       Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn., 12 bass, 42-12
13th:       Shin Fukae, Osaka, Japan, 14 bass, 42-7
14th:       Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., 11 bass, 41-3
15th:       Jeremy Lawyer, Sarcoxie, Mo., 12 bass, 39-12
16th:       Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., 12 bass, 39-8
17th:       Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla., 12 bass, 35-5
18th:       Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla., 11 bass, 33-15
19th:       Randall Tharp, Port Saint Joe, Fla., 11 bass, 33-8
20th:       Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., 10 bass, 32-13

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

Overall, there were 382 scorable bass weighing 1,291 pounds, 14 ounces caught by 39 pros Sunday. Pro Keith Poche of Pike Road, Alabama, did not compete due to illness.

Pros Cliff Pace and Gerald Spohrer tied for Sunday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award for the largest bass of the day – each caught a smallmouth weighing 5 pounds, 10 ounces. Pace caught his 5-10 on a Ned rig during Period 1, while Spohrer’s 5-10 came on a medium-diving crankbait, also during Period 1. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and a $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.

The six-day tournament, hosted by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, showcases 80 of the best professional anglers in the world competing for a purse of more than $805,000, including a top payout of $100,000 to the winner. The tournament is livestreamed each day at MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MOTV app, and also filmed for television broadcast later this fall on the Discovery Channel.

The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day qualifying round on Saturday and Monday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Sunday and Tuesday. After each two-day qualifying round is complete, the anglers that finish in 2nd through 20th place from both groups advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round, while the winner of each group advances directly to Thursday’s Championship Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 38 anglers compete to finish in the top 8 to advance to the 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 each day at 7:30 a.m. CT from Eddy’s Resort, located at 41334 Shakopee Lake Road in Onamia. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the Resort, 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 MLF NOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

On Championship Thursday, Sept. 15, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF will host a Celebration Event for fans of all ages, inviting fans to come out and celebrate with the professional anglers from the Bass Pro Tour as they crown the champion of the Bally Bet Stage Seven on Mille Lacs Lake Presented by Minn Kota. The first 50 youth anglers 10 and under in attendance will receive a free Pure Fishing Shakespeare Kid’s Rod and Reel combo. The final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand at the trophy celebration to meet and greet fans, sign autographs, and take selfies.

The Bally Bet Stage Seven on Mille Lacs Lake Presented by Minn Kota features anglers competing with a 2-pound minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. Minimum weights are determined individually for each competition waters 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, competing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST IV, the Bass Pro Tour championship, which will be held next March on Lake Norman in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The MLF NOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action on all six days of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT. MLF NOW!®  will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Television coverage of the Bally Bet Stage Seven on Mille Lacs Lake Presented by Minn Kota will premiere as a two-hour episode at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Nov. 19 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on the Discovery Channel, with additional re-airings on the Outdoor Channel. Each two-hour long reality-based episode goes in-depth to break down each day of tournament competition.

Proud sponsors of the 2022 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, A.R.E. Truck Caps, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bally Bet, Bass Cat, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Covercraft, Favorite Fishing, Garmin, General Tire, Googan Baits, Grundéns, Guaranteed Rate, Humminbird, Lowrance, Luminox, Mercury, Minn Kota, Mossy Oak, Nitro Performance Boats, Onyx, Plano, Power-Pole, Power Stop, Rapala, Starbrite, Toro, Toyota, Wrangler, Yellowstone Bourbon and Zoom.

For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter,  Instagram, and  YouTube.

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.

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.

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.

Matt Becker Takes Early Lead for Group A at Major League Fishing Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes

CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. (Feb. 20, 2024) – The reigning Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) Matt Becker of Ten Mile, Tennessee, boated 12 scorable bass Tuesday, totaling 45 pounds, 8 ounces, to jump out to the early lead in the Group A Qualifying Round at the Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes in Clarendon County, South Carolina.

Just 4 pounds, 3 ounces behind Becker in second place on the SCORETRACKER® leaderboard is Hot Springs, Arkansas, pro Dylan Hayes, who caught 10 bass totaling 29-11. Alton Jones, Jr., of Waco, Texas, sits in third place, less than 6 pounds back of Becker with 10 bass weighing 39-10.

The 40 anglers in Group A will now have an off day from competition Wednesday, while the 40 anglers competing in Group B will begin their first day of competition. Group A will resume competition on Thursday.

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.

Entering the first day of competition at Santee Cooper, Becker wasn’t feeling optimistic. The reigning AOY on the Bass Pro Tour said he had a “horrible practice” amid the muddy, prespawn conditions that greeted the field at Stage Two. He picked his starting spot because he got a single bite there during the three-day practice period.

Within the first 35 minutes of Tuesday morning, Becker had turned that one bite into six scorable bass weighing a combined 23 pounds, 6 ounces. That flurry gave him an early lead over the rest of Group A, and he never relinquished the top spot on SCORETRACKER®.

“I went to an area where I had one bite — that’s where I decided to start,” Becker said. “And before I knew it, I had six fish in the boat, and I didn’t even know what was happening. So yeah, it was fast and furious this morning. I did not expect that at all.”

It wasn’t just Becker who found the fishing better than expected on Santee Cooper. While bass didn’t hit the scales in the same numbers as Stage One on Toledo Bend, plenty of big ones showed up. Thirteen bass weighing 6 pounds or bigger were caught Tuesday, including one over 8 pounds. Fifteen pros topped the 20-pound mark on the day.

“Honestly, everybody caught ‘em – myself included – better than I expected,” Becker said. “I did not see this coming. I expected it to be a lot tougher on everybody. But I’m super happy with how it turned out.”

Becker burst onto the national tournament scene in a big way last year, beating out the likes of Jacob Wheeler, Ott DeFoe and Jones Jr. to claim both the Stage Seven and Angler of the Year trophies at the season finale on Saginaw Bay.

Clearly, the offseason did nothing to stem his momentum.

Becker started the 2024 campaign with a Championship Round appearance on Toledo Bend. He then finished 16th in the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals season-opener on Sam Rayburn. Now, even on a fishery that, at least on paper, doesn’t suit his strengths, Becker looks like he’s figured out the Santee Cooper bass.

Becker attributed the strong start to simply fishing with confidence.

“Definitely it’s a confidence thing,” he said. “I feel very confident in myself right now, and it just seems like every decision I make turns into the right one. Like today, for instance, I literally had one bite in that area that I started, but my gut was telling me to go start there, and it turned into the lead.

“I don’t ever want it to end. I want to keep this train rolling as long as we can.”

His fast start Tuesday only fueled his confidence. Becker said it made him believe in his area, removing the temptation to fire up his Suzuki outboard and make a time-consuming run across the treacherous fishery. He spent the rest of the day exploring new water in the same vicinity as his starting spot.

“It kind of slowed me down and allowed me to expand and fish new water,” he explained. “I had that one spot where I got a bite in practice, and then I kind of just expanded around the area the rest of the day. But having that confidence of getting a couple bites early really let me expand and keep fishing new water.”

After a bit of a lull, Becker continued to pad his total throughout the afternoon. Midway through Period 2, he boated a 6-10 kicker. On a fishery that lacks numbers of bass, triggering big bites looks like it’ll be key to contending. Seven of the top eight anglers on SCORETRACKER® caught at least one bass over 6 pounds.

“There’s a lot of big fish, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time — if you set the hook enough times, it’s going to be a 6- to 8-pounder,” Becker said. “So, it’s going to take a couple of big fish every day to do well in this tournament.”

Becker didn’t want to divulge too many details about his pattern, but he said he’s not relying on forward-facing sonar to target fish. Instead, he’s power fishing around “classic prespawn stuff.” He’s not slowing down, covering water with his trolling motor and fishing whatever cover he encounters — in his words, “pretty much just junk fishing around in one section of the lake.”

While Becker noted that he only saw one other competitor all day, which excites him, he’s not sure whether he’ll be able to ride his starting spot, or even the general area, to another Top 10. He plans to spend the second day of the Qualifying Round exploring more of the massive, habitat-rich playing field.

“I feel like I might have burnt up that area today, but you just never know,” Becker said. “It’s springtime, more fish could be coming with a warming trend. The sun was out this afternoon, and it was warming up. So maybe some more fish are coming. But I’m going to keep an open mind going into the rest of the tournament and try to expand on Day 2, try to fish some new water and maybe find something else as well.”

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

1st:        Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 12 bass, 45-8
2nd:      Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., 10 bass, 41-5
3rd:       Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, 10 bass, 39-10
4th:        James Watson, Lampe, Mo., 11 bass, 37-15
5th:        Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., 13 bass, 36-9
6th:        Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 11 bass, 34-5
7th:        Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, nine bass, 33-5
8th:        Ron Nelson, Berrien Springs, Mich., 10 bass, 32-10
9th:        Greg Vinson, Wetumpka, Ala., 11 bass, 26-15
10th:     Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan., eight bass, 26-10
11th:     Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., six bass, 26-8
12th:     Jacob Wall, New Hope, Ala., five bass, 23-9
13th:     Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala., eight bass, 22-3
14th:     Jesse Wiggins, Cullman, Ala., seven bass, 21-4
15th:     Mark Daniels, Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., eight bass, 20-13
16th:     Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla., eight bass, 19-1
17th:     Jacopo Gallelli, Florence, Italy, four bass, 17-7
18th:     Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., five bass, 17-7
19th:     Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., six bass, 17-3
20th:     Shinichi Fukae, Osaka, Japan, four bass, 15-14

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

General Tire pro Britt Myers of Lake Wylie, South Carolina, won Tuesday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award with an 8-pound, 3-ounce largemouth that he caught on a deep-diving crankbait with just 10 minutes remaining in the day late in Period 3. 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.

Drew Gill Wins Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole MOVE at Sam Rayburn Reservoir

BROOKELAND, Texas (Feb. 11, 2024) – Drew Gill has been on a heater for a while, and it was only a matter of time before the LiveScope whizz closed out a high-level win. Today, after sacking up 26 pounds, 3 ounces on Championship Sunday, Gill took home the title at Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole MOVE on Sam Rayburn Reservoir with a 69-6 total.

Gill topped fellow electronics master Jake Lawrence (second, 67-15), and had enough to overcome local Marshall Hughes’ (third, 67-4) mega-bag on Day 2, which put him more than 6 pounds ahead of the pack initially. For the win, Gill pocketed $80,000, and locked up his 2025 REDCREST qualification early.

Though still a fledgling circuit, Gill is now the youngest to win an Invitationals event, setting the mark to beat at 21 years, 8 months. Historically speaking, when you factor in FLW Tour stats, Gill slots in between Stetson Blaylock’s win at Lake Norman in 2009 (21 years, 7 months) and Jacob Wheeler’s 2012 Forrest Wood Cup title (21 years, 10 months).

The consensus favorite for Fishing Clash Angler of the Year in the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, Gill has started the season about as good as you can. Just last week, he finished third in the Bass Pro Tour season opener on Toledo Bend, and, for good measure, the 21-year-old also finished 19th in the Abu Garcia College Fishing National Championship with partner Evan Fields back in January.

Nothing is a really a long time coming when you’re 21, but getting over the hump for the W was a big deal for Gill. 

“Any year you can do consistently well and have a lot of Top 10s is a win in itself,” said Gill. “Goal No. 1 every year is always Angler of the Year. Goal No. 1 is not to win an event. However, that is a very close goal No. 2, and to be able to accomplish that in the first event of the Invitationals season after having a third at Toledo last week, I could not be more stoked for how fishing is going right now.”

Love it or hate it, any list of the best anglers with forward-facing sonar has Gill on it, and he rode his signature strength to victory this week. Seeming to always find enough fish for a quality bag (and to trigger enough fish to bite), he stayed ahead of a lot of other anglers trying to do similar things.

A big part of that was recognizing that he needed to leave winter behind and get closer to the bank. Luckily, that might be where his LiveScope skills shine the most – when it comes to shallow ‘Scoping, Gill is near or at the top of the list.

“The first day of the tournament, I was trying to replicate what I found in practice,” he explained. “I was catching them at the fronts of main-lake pockets and drains – the very main lake. I noticed they were going down and eating my Damiki (rig) off the bottom, and I didn’t think that was going to work all week.

“Day 2, I was throwing a Damiki and a Neko, and fishing more drains than the fronts of creeks,” Gill added. “Today, I was fishing midway back of just about every pocket I fished. These were short main-lake pockets and not big main creeks; those were unmanageable and there weren’t enough fish for me to fish a major creek. If five fish roll up into an area that’s a mile long, I’m not going to find them. If they roll up into a place that’s 400 yards long, your odds of running into those five big ones is pretty high.”

For his jighead minnow, Gill used a 3/16-ounce head and a 4-inch bait. For his Neko, he used a 6-inch Big Bite Baits Shaking Squirrel Worm, a 1/8-ounce weight and a No. 1 Roboworm Rebarb Hook.

On the last two days, when Gill honed his approach, he was fishing specifically for bass that were low in the water column and not too far from classic later-winter and prespawn things.

“I was fishing some transition areas, basically – places that were adjacent to a contour or a drain, and I had to have some sort of cover in conjunction with that that would lead them along an edge,” Gill said. “Something that would lead them swimming one direction or another and keep them on a path that I could predict. I was running edges of grass, edges of rock, edges where sand dropped off a couple feet; places where bass should travel along, and the few good ones I was around, I could run right into them.

“Almost every big one I caught this week ate it off the bottom,” he said. “I was in about 7 to 14 feet of water most of them time, and generally they would be 2 or 3 feet above the bottom. Not suspended, but hovering almost, like a maglev train. They’d follow it down … ‘bonk, zzzzzzzzz.’”

The last few years have seen a lot of young anglers excel on big stages. Some of it is collegiate fishing, some of it is skill with electronics, some of it is networking. A lot of it is time on the water with forward-facing sonar, which may have taught us more about bass behavior than every magazine ever printed. Gill is the perfect storm, a passionate young angler who has learned as much about bass in the last few years as many will learn in a lifetime.

“When you spend as many hours watching fish behave in their natural environment as I have, you’re destined to learn a lot about fish behavior, and you’re going to be really good at reading their movements,” said Gill.  “I’ve spent a lot of time watching fish, not listening to fishermen or the logic built up in bass fishing lore. I’ve just gone out and watched fish behave, around their food, with the cover they relate to, with the contours they use. When you understand that much about fish, they become pretty predictable.”

The top 30 pros at the Tackle Warehouse Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole MOVE at Sam Rayburn Reservoir finished:

1st          Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., 15 bass, 69-6, $80,000
2nd:       Jake Lawrence, Buchanan, Tenn., 15 bass, 67-15, $50,000
3rd:       Marshall Hughes, Hemphill, Texas, 15 bass, 67-4, $20,000
4th:        Cal Lane, Guntersville, Ala., 15 bass, 65-5, $18,000
5th:        Keith Poche, Cecil, Ala., 15 bass, 64-15, $17,000
6th:        Nick Hatfield, Greeneville, Tenn., 15 bass, 62-7, $17,000
7th:        Mark Condron, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 15 bass, 59-3, $15,000
8th:        Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., 15 bass, 58-9, $14,000
9th:        Alec Morrison, Peru, N.Y., 15 bass, 58-0, $13,000
10th:     Ramie Colson, Jr., Cadiz, Ky., 15 bass, 58-0, $12,000
11th:     Dillon Harrell, New Caney, Texas, 15 bass, 57-7, $10,000
12th:     Jordan Wiggins, Cullman, Ala., 15 bass, 54-13, $10,000
13th:     Jaden Parrish, Liberty, Texas, 15 bass, 54-9, $10,000
14th:     Andrew Nordbye, Guntersville, Ala., 15 bass, 54-8, $10,000
15th:     Brody Campbell, Oxford, Ohio, 15 bass, 53-13, $10,000
16th:     Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 15 bass, 53-12, $10,000
17th:     Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, 15 bass, 52-15, $10,000
18th:     Ty Faber, Pagosa Springs, Colo., 15 bass, 52-10, $10,000
19th:     Brock Reinkemeyer, Warsaw, Mo., 15 bass, 52-7, $10,000
20th:     Lane Olson, Forest Grove, Ore., 15 bass, 51-7, $10,000
21st:      Cole Breeden, Lebanon, Tenn., 15 bass, 51-3, $10,000
22nd:    Terry Fisher, Decatur, Ala., 15 bass, 51-3, $10,000
23rd:     Britt Myers, Jr., Lake Wylie, S.C., 15 bass, 50-4, $10,000
24th:     Kelly Jordon, Flint, Texas, 15 bass, 50-2, $10,000
25th:     Jacob Walker, Springville, Ala., 15 bass, 48-7, $10,000
26th:     Michael Harlin, Sunrise Beach, Mo., 15 bass, 48-1, $10,000
27th:     Rick Harris, Kingsland, Texas, 15 bass, 47-14, $10,000
28th:     Mitchell Robinson, Landrum, S.C., 15 bass, 47-9, $10,000
29th:     Kyle Hall, Granbury, Texas, 15 bass, 46-10, $10,000
30th:     Clayton Batts, Butler, Ga., 15 bass, 45-10, $10,000

Complete results for the entire field can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Overall, there were 150 bass weighing 535 pounds, 3 ounces caught by the final 30 pros Sunday. All 30 final day competitors weighed in a five-bass limit.

The three-day tournament, hosted by the Jasper County Development District, featured a roster of 150 anglers competing for a top prize of up to $115,000. The next Tackle Warehouse Invitational event will take place March 1-3 at the Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 2 on West Point Lake in LaGrange, Georgia.

In Tackle Warehouse Invitational competition, the full field of 150 anglers competed in the two-day opening round on Friday and Saturday in a five-fish, weigh-in format. Only the top 30 pros based on their two-day cumulative weight advanced to the final round on Championship Sunday. The winner of the Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole MOVE at Sam Rayburn Reservoir was be determined by the heaviest three-day cumulative weight and now receives an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2025 on Lake Guntersville in Huntsville, Alabama.

Television coverage of the MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole at Sam Rayburn Reservoir will air as a two-hour episode, premiering at 9 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Oct. 5 on CBS Sports Network.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals include: 7Brew, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, BUBBA, E3, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, General Tire, Lew’s, Mercury, Mossy Oak Fishing, Onyx, Phoenix Boats, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Suzuki, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota and YETI.

Local Pro Marshall Hughes Catches 38-7 To Seize the Lead at Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole MOVE at Sam Rayburn Reservoir

BROOKELAND, Texas (Feb. 10, 2024) – Day 2 of the Major League Fishing (MLF) Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole MOVE on Sam Rayburn Reservoir was an absolute fireworks show. New York pro Alec Morrison and Tennessee’s Cole Breeden both caught 11-pounders, and nine pros topped 20 pounds. Headlining it all, local rookie Marshall Hughes of Hemphill, Texas, blitzed 38 pounds, 7 ounces to tally up 50-14 and rocket into the lead. Of course, Hughes had an 11-pounder as well (the third of the day) and staked himself a little more than a 6-pound cushion after only scratching up 12-7 on Day 1.

Hughes has a sterling record on Sam Rayburn and should certainly be riding high, but he’s not safe yet. Behind him are some of the best in the game with forward-facing sonar. Hughes might have the edge on local knowledge, but Day 3 of the event could be a shootout for the ages.

The three-day tournament, hosted by the Jasper County Development District, featured a roster of 150 anglers competing for a top prize of up to $115,000 and an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2025. The field is now trimmed to 30, and the winner will be determined tomorrow by heaviest three-day cumulative weight.

Midway through the day, it looked like one of the storylines would be a lack of big bags. Usually, by noon of any Rayburn event, somebody has cracked a bag in the upper 20s or 30s, and they might be headed back to the dock to wait for the scales to open. Then, things started clicking for Hughes.

“I had like 14 pounds at like 11 or something; I was kind of down in the dumps with 14 pounds that late in the day,” said Hughes. “I started running around, running some new stuff. I was trying what I did yesterday, and it wasn’t working. I ran up to a hard spot, a shallower hard spot, and got bit and caught one — it was a 5-pounder, my small one.”

That was the only clue he needed. 

“So, I started running that stuff, and I pulled up on one, and they had just moved up and started feeding,” he said. “It was just balls to the walls. I’ve never seen what I saw today, ever.”

Fishing in 12 to 15 feet with a Bill Lewis Scope-Stik and a 5/8-ounce Buckeye Mop Jig with a Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog, Hughes watched most of the fish bite on forward-facing sonar.

“I rolled in, and they were there feeding,” he said. “It wasn’t like they were schooled up together. It was one there, one here. The ones that were higher up came on the jerkbait. The water is dingy right now; it’s hard for them to see it.”

Fishing 60 or 70 tournaments a year, Hughes is a full-time fisherman who hasn’t gone national – yet. Now, he’s looking to start his rookie year with a win. All he needs to do is have another good day on a lake he calls home.

“This afternoon, I just went out and started plucking around,” he said. “I love to catch ‘em on a ‘trap’ — I feel like that’s my forte — but they ain’t eatin’ a ‘trap’ now, so they’re putting me elsewhere. I need to just go fishing like I did today.”

The top 30 pros advancing to the final day of competition on Sam Rayburn Reservoir are:

1st:        Marshall Hughes, Hemphill, Texas, 10 bass, 50-14
2nd:       Alec Morrison, Peru, N.Y., 10 bass, 44-3
3rd:       Jake Lawrence, Buchanan, Tenn., 10 bass, 43-9
4th:        Cal Lane, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 43-9
5th:        Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., 10 bass, 43-3
6th:        Keith Poche, Cecil, Ala., 10 bass, 41-14
7th:        Brody Campbell, Oxford, Ohio, 10 bass, 41-5
8th:        Nick Hatfield, Greeneville, Tenn., 10 bass, 41-1
9th:        Brock Reinkemeyer, Warsaw, Mo., 10 bass, 38-8
10th:     Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., 10 bass, 38-6
11th:     Dillon Harrell, New Caney, Texas, 10 bass, 38-6
12th:     Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 10 bass, 37-11
13th:     Jaden Parrish, Liberty, Texas, 10 bass, 37-3
14th:     Cole Breeden, Lebanon, Tenn., 10 bass, 36-12
15th:     Britt Myers, Jr., Lake Wylie, S.C., 10 bass, 36-4
16th:     Lane Olson, Forest Grove, Ore., 10 bass, 35-12
17th:     Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, 10 bass, 35-8
18th:     Clayton Batts, Butler, Ga., 10 bass, 35-5
19th:     Andrew Nordbye, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 35-1
20th:     Kelly Jordon, Flint, Texas, 10 bass, 34-8
21st:      Ramie Colson, Jr., Cadiz, Ky., 10 bass, 34-2
22nd:    Jordan Wiggins, Cullman, Ala., 10 bass, 34-1
23rd:     Michael Harlin, Sunrise Beach, Mo., 10 bass, 33-15
24th:     Mitchell Robinson, Landrum, S.C., 10 bass, 33-11
25th:     Ty Faber, Pagosa Springs, Colo., 10 bass, 33-10
26th:     Jacob Walker, Springville, Ala., 10 bass, 33-7
27th:     Terry Fisher, Decatur, Ala., 10 bass, 32-13
28th:     Kyle Hall, Granbury, Texas, 10 bass, 32-8
29th:     Mark Condron, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 10 bass, 32-6
30th:     Rick Harris, Kingsland, Texas, 10 bass, 31-10

Complete results for the entire field can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Pro Cole Breeden of Lebanon, Tennessee, earned the $1,000 Berkley Big Bass award Saturday with a largemouth bass that weighed in at 11 pounds, 12 ounces.

Overall, there were 693 bass weighing 1,914 pounds, 7 ounces caught by 146 pros Saturday. The catch included 131 five-bass limits.

Historically speaking, it’s basically impossible to know if this weigh-in featured a record-breaking number of 11-pounders. It likely didn’t overall, but based on our records, it’s the first time in the long history of MLF competition on Sam Rayburn that multiple fish over 11 pounds have hit the scales in the same day, much less three of them. Similarly, Hughes’ bag is a record for the Invitationals circuit and the fourth-biggest ever on Sam Rayburn in MLF competition. It doesn’t quite crack the Top 10 heaviest limits of all-time, though – 10th in that case belongs to Terry Bolton with 38-15 that he caught in 2008 on Falcon Lake. Breeden’s 11-12 Berkley Big Bass tied for the third-biggest ever weighed during MLF competition on Rayburn.

In Tackle Warehouse Invitational competition, the full field of 150 anglers competed in the two-day opening round on Friday and Saturday in a five-fish, weigh-in format. Only the top 30 pros based on their two-day cumulative weight now advance to the final round on Championship Sunday, where they will compete for the grand prize of up to $115,000. The winner of the Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole MOVE at Sam Rayburn Reservoir will be determined by the heaviest three-day cumulative weight and will receive an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2025 on Lake Guntersville in Huntsville, Alabama.

The final 30 anglers will launch at 7 a.m. CT each day from the Umphrey Family Pavilion, located at 5438 Sam Rayburn Parkway in Brookeland. Sunday’s championship weigh-in will also be held at the pavilion and will begin at 3 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch and weigh-in events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLFNOW!® live stream and coverage at  MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The MLFNOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee and Rob Newell will break down the extended action live each day of competition from 7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. CT. MLFNOW!®  will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Television coverage of the MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole at Sam Rayburn Reservoir will air as a two-hour episode, premiering at 9 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Oct. 5 on CBS Sports Network.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals include: 7Brew, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, BUBBA, E3, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, General Tire, Lew’s, Mercury, Mossy Oak Fishing, Onyx, Phoenix Boats, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Suzuki, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota and YETI.

Missouri’s Brock Reinkemeyer Leads Day 1 at Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole MOVE at Sam Rayburn Reservoir

BROOKELAND, Texas (Feb. 9, 2024) – They say everything is bigger in Texas, and the largemouth bass at Sam Rayburn Reservoir certainly fit the bill, Friday. After a 1½-hour fog delay this morning, the first Major League Fishing (MLF) Tackle Warehouse Invitational event of the season kicked off at Sam Rayburn and the fishery showcased why it is widely known as one of the best in the country. A total of 11 pros crossed the 20-pound barrier, and 13 pounds went all the way down to 53rd place.

Pro Brock Reinkemeyer of Warsaw, Missouri, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Friday weighing 24 pounds, 7 ounces, to take the early lead on Day 1 of the MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole MOVE at Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Reinkemeyer now holds a 1-pound, 1-ounce lead over pro Nick Hatfield of Greeneville, Tennessee, who caught five bass weighing 23-6 to end the day in second. Invitationals newcomer Brody Campbell of Oxford, Ohio, sits just one ounce behind Hatfield in third with 23-5.

The full field of 150 anglers will conclude the two-day opening round on Saturday, with only the top 30 pros based on their two-day cumulative weight advancing to Championship Sunday. The three-day tournament, hosted by the Jasper County Development District, features a roster of 150 anglers competing for a top prize of up to $115,000 and an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2025.

Long established as one to watch around the Ozarks, Reinkemeyer showed during his rookie season on the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals last year that he’s no slouch nationally, as well. Today, he relied on a few areas and a few key bites.

“I caught one big one during practice doing off-the-wall, kind of deep stuff, and it paid off twice today,” said Reinkemeyer. “I just kind of moseyed down a stretch and just plucked two big ones off.

“It was kind of like a little drop,” he said of his area. “I scanned the hell out of this flat, and they weren’t up on top of it. So, I just went down the edges, and I found one edge where there are some shad and got lucky with two big ones.”

Of course, you can’t catch 24 pounds and change without some skill, and it’s not like Reinkemeyer is oblivious out there. While much of the field had no problem catching keepers but struggled at times to find quality bites, Reinkemeyer seems to have a beat on some big ones.

“I’ve got three spots where I’m just kind of milking ‘em,” he said. “Stumps, hard bottom — I’m fishing anywhere from 12 to 24, just kind of zig-zagging on the edges.

“I don’t feel like there are a lot of fish, but if I get a bite, it’s a good one,” he added. “I probably caught like 10 keepers today, but I was also bypassing small ones that are suspended way up. I’ve been catching them all week, and they’re all small. The bigger ones are closer to the bottom.”

One key for Reinkemeyer was staying away from the grass, which Rayburn is loaded with these days.

“I caught one out there right at 7 in practice, and this sucker was like a football,” he recalled. “And I’m like, ‘they ain’t in that grass.’ I fished two days in the grass, and Brad [Jelinek] was catching them in the grass, but nothing big. I couldn’t even catch a keeper in the grass.”

Plenty of other pros caught fish in the grass today, while others targeted hard structure or suspending fish. So, Reinkemeyer isn’t on an island from a pattern perspective. Still, he does seem to be fishing away from the pressure.

“I had them all to myself,” he said. “At my starting spot there was one other guy there; he moseyed around for two seconds and left. I’m all alone while everybody else is fishing in a crowd in the grass. Hopefully it’s the same thing tomorrow.”

The top 20 pros after Day 1 on Sam Rayburn Reservoir are:

1st:        Brock Reinkemeyer, Warsaw, Mo., five bass, 24-7
2nd:       Nick Hatfield, Greeneville, Tenn., five bass, 23-6
3rd:       Brody Campbell, Oxford, Ohio, five bass, 23-5
4th:        Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., five bass, 22-12
5th:        Clayton Batts, Butler, Ga., five bass, 22-1
6th:        Cal Lane, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 21-7
7th:        Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., five bass, 21-5
8th:        Mitchell Robinson, Landrum, S.C., five bass, 21-3
9th:        Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., five bass, 21-1
10th:     Jake Lawrence, Buchanan, Tenn., five bass, 20-9
11th:     Terry Fisher, Decatur, Ala., five bass, 20-5
12th:     Ramie Colson, Jr., Cadiz, Ky., five bass, 19-11
12th:     Michael Harlin, Sunrise Beach, Mo., five bass, 19-11
14th:     Alec Morrison, Peru, N.Y., five bass, 18-10
15th:     Andrew Nordbye, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 18-9
16th:     Jaden Parrish, Liberty, Texas, five bass, 18-8
17th:     Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., five bass, 18-6
18th:     Ty Faber, Pagosa Springs, Colo., five bass, 17-14
19th:     Brad Jelinek, Lincoln, Mo., five bass, 17-13
20th:     Chris Groh, Spring Grove, Ill., five bass, 17-7

Complete results for the entire field can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Hatfield earned Friday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass award with a largemouth bass that weighed in at 9 pounds, 3 ounces.

Overall, there were 682 bass weighing 1,787 pounds, 7 ounces caught by 149 pros Friday. The catch included 120 five-bass limits.

In Tackle Warehouse Invitational competition, the full field of 150 anglers compete in the two-day opening round on Friday and Saturday in a five-fish, weigh-in format. Only the top 30 pros, based on their two-day cumulative weight, advance to the final round on Championship Sunday, where they will compete for the grand prize of up to $115,000. The winner of the Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole MOVE at Sam Rayburn Reservoir will be determined by the heaviest three-day cumulative weight and will receive an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2025 on Lake Guntersville in Huntsville, Alabama.

Anglers will launch at 7 a.m. CT each day from the Umphrey Family Pavilion, located at 5438 Sam Rayburn Parkway in Brookeland. Weigh-ins will also be held at the pavilion and will begin at 3 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch and weigh-in events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLFNOW!® live stream and coverage at  MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The MLFNOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee and Rob Newell will break down the extended action live each day of competition from 7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. CT. MLFNOW!®  will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Television coverage of the MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole at Sam Rayburn Reservoir will air as a two-hour episode, premiering at 9 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Oct. 5 on CBS Sports Network.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals include: 7Brew, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, BUBBA, E3, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, General Tire, Lew’s, Mercury, Mossy Oak Fishing, Onyx, Phoenix Boats, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Suzuki, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota and YETI.

Dustin Connell Clinches Fifth MLF Bass Pro Tour Win at B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole

MANY, La. (Feb. 4, 2024) – Despite a morning fog delay and a stacked field on Championship Sunday, pro Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, weighed 36 scorable bass totaling 112 pounds, 4 ounces to earn his fifth Bass Pro Tour win and the top award of $100,000 at the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole. Connell’s Championship Round total nearly doubled the rest of the 10-man field, earning the win by a whopping 44-pound, 2-ounce margin over Hot Springs, Arkansas’ Spencer Shuffield, who finished the day in second with 22 scorable bass weighing 68-2.

As the second period of the Championship Round ticked away, Connell felt his lead slowly slipping away. The Alabama native had gotten off to a hot start, catching nearly 40 pounds of Toledo Bend bass in the first period and claiming the top spot on SCORETRACKER®.

But around 1 p.m., his bite fizzled, and the field slowly chipped away. At one point, Zack Birge of Blanchard, Oklahoma, got within one scorable bass of the lead.

So, Connell ran to a new spot, one he hadn’t visited since the Qualifying Round. On his first cast of Period 3, he hooked into a 4-pounder. In that moment, the match met the proverbial fuse, sparking an epic display of fireworks.

During the two-hour final period, Connell boated a whopping 20 scorable bass weighing 58 pounds, 6 ounces, bringing his total for the day to 112-4 on 36 fish.

“I looked for something like this all week,” Connell said. “And I can’t believe that it happened.”

Connell’s total marked the biggest day for any angler during the event — despite the Championship Round being shortened by 30 minutes due to a one-hour, 45-minute fog delay. The win marks his fifth Bass Pro Tour victory – second most all-time – and his third straight in regular-season events contested with every-fish-counts scoring. He also won the final two tournaments of the 2022 season.

Ever since the BPT schedule was unveiled for 2024, Connell has had his eye on Toledo Bend. Given the late-winter timing of the event, he figured it would suit his strengths — namely, finding schools of fish with forward-facing sonar. And after failing to make a Championship Round during the 2023 regular season, he was hungry to get back in the Top 10.

“I do really well looking for schools of fish,” Connell said. “That’s how I grew up.”

So, Connell spent the months leading up to Stage One fishing three to four times per week on the lakes near his Clanton, Alabama, home. It didn’t matter that he primarily chased a different species (Alabama bass) a few hundred miles away from Toledo Bend. The practice was all about sharpening his skills with the hottest technique in tournament fishing: pinpointing suspended bass with electronics and using a soft-plastic minnow on a jighead to coax them into biting.

“I practiced for this tournament all fall,” Connell said. “I didn’t go deer hunting, I didn’t go golfing, I didn’t go sit on the couch. I’ve literally been fishing three or four days a week for four months, preparing for this, because I knew that this was going to be a tournament where I could have a really good shot.”

Despite the heavy rains that dumped muddy runoff into Toledo Bend prior to the event, Connell stayed committed to that strategy. He used a Rapala CrushCity Freeloader to catch most of his fish, especially in more stained water.

He affixed the bait to various jigheads but said he leaned on a 5/16-ounce version Sunday. He also mixed in a smaller, prototype CrushCity plastic called a Mooch Minnow. Connell wouldn’t divulge many details about the bait, which will debut this summer at ICAST, but said it accounted for three fish over 5 pounds during the Championship Round, including the aforementioned 7-4.

He found all his fish, of course, with Lowrance ActiveTarget. Given the dingy water and fishing pressure, making precise presentations — the result of his offseason practice — proved pivotal.

Connell’s technique was no secret. Everyone else in the Championship Round chased fish offshore using forward-facing sonar, most with a jighead minnow.

The difference came down to finding large schools of actively feeding bass, which moved each day. Key to doing so, Connell said, was covering as much of the massive, 185,000-acre playing field as possible during the week. After a strong first day of qualifying put him well ahead of the rest of the anglers in Group B, Connell used his second day of competition solely to practice. Then, after stacking more than 45 pounds on SCORETRACKER® in Period 1 of the Knockout Round, he once again set out in search of new water.

“The biggest key was decision making this week and trying to adapt to the water,” he said. “The water came up three feet, the water was muddy, the water started to clean.”

All that practicing paid off when Connell pulled the plug on his starting spot during the Championship Round. His first move took him to an area that was too muddy. Seeing how the water clarity had fluctuated led him to think of a spot he’d visited during the Qualifying Round. Connell described it as a pocket located between two major creeks.

It featured a ditch, or “drain,” where bass could corral shad.

During his initial visit, the area didn’t seem special — he caught a 3-pounder and a 2½-pounder there — but with clearer water, he knew it had the ingredients to attract baitfish (and thus bass) in large numbers. Boy did it.

“I ran in that area earlier in the week, and the fish weren’t in there as good,” he said. “And then the water cleared up, and they just flooded in there.”

The spot didn’t just have bass in numbers, but big ones, too. On the day, Connell boated nine bass of 4 pounds or bigger.

Connell, who didn’t catch a single 4-pounder during the Knockout Round, attributed his Sunday smashfest to his mindset — the biggest key to his win. Given how rapidly the conditions changed, he refused to commit to one area at any point in the week. And when the pressure mounted as his Championship Round lead shrunk, he avoided spinning out, ultimately making the winning decision.

“I did not want to get stuck into a one-track mind on this lake, because it’s so big, the fish move, the wind blows,” Connell said. “I just kept an open mind all week and was not afraid to run to a new area.”

The top 10 pros from the B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole finished:

1st:          Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 36 bass, 112-4, $100,000
2nd:        Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., 22 bass, 68-2, $45,000
3rd:         Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., 19 bass, 66-8, $38,000
4th:         Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 18 bass, 60-15, $32,000
5th:         Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., 19 bass, 60-3, $30,000
6th:         Martin Villa, Charlottesville, Va., 21 bass, 60-3, $26,000
7th:         Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, 19 bass, 50-10, $23,000
8th:         Justin Cooper, Zwolle, La., 15 bass, 48-6, $21,000
9th:         Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., 15 bass, 42-11, $19,000
10th:       Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 10 bass, 28-11, $16,000

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

Overall, there were 194 scorable bass weighing 598 pounds, 9 ounces caught by the 10 pros Sunday, which included one 7-pounder, three 6-pounders, four 5-pounders and 24 4-pounders.

Connell also won Championship Sunday’s Berkley Big Bass Award, with a largemouth totaling 7 pounds, 4 ounces, 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. Cliff Crochet of Pierre Part, Louisiana, earned the $3,000 Berkley Big Bass award for the overall largest bass of the event with his 11-pound, 1-ounce largemouth that was weighed on Day 1 of competition.

The B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole 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 2-pound minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. The MLF Fisheries Management Division determines minimum weights for each body of water that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.

The six-day tournament, hosted by Toledo Bend Lake Country and the Louisiana Office of Tourism, 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.

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

The 2024 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.

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

Spencer Shuffield Leads Top Ten to Championship Round at B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole

MANY, La. (Feb. 3, 2024) – After hovering near the top of the leaderboard in the two-day Qualifying Round, pro Spencer Shuffield of Hot Springs, Arkansas, finished Day 5 of competition on top, catching 30 scorable bass weighing 101-14 to pace the Knockout Round and advance to the final day of competition at the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole.