Top 10 Anglers Advance to Championship Friday, MLF Bass Pro Tour on Lake Murray
April 6, 2023
Sprague Leads Knockout Round at Fox Rent A Car Stage Three on Lake Murray Presented by Mercury
Texas Pro Catches Five Largemouth Weighing 23 Pounds, 8 Ounces to Lead Knockout Round, Final 10 Anglers Set for Championship Friday and Shootout for $100,000
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Pro Jeff Sprague of Wills Point, Texas, caught 13 scorable bass Thursday, with his best five weighing 23 pounds, 8 ounces, to win the Knockout Round and advance to the final day of competition at the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury.
Sprague will bring a slim 1-pound advantage over second-place pro James Watson of Lampe, Missouri, who weighed in five bass totaling 22-8 to qualify for his first career Bass Pro Tour Championship Round and end the day in second place. Bass Pro Tour rookie John Hunter of Shelbyville, Kentucky, sits in third place with five bass weighing 22-7, while Qualifying Round winner Jonathon VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, weighed in five bass totaling 21-13 to finish the day in fourth. Local favorite, Prosperity, South Carolina’s Anthony Gagliardi caught five bass weighing 20-15 to round out the top five.
Weights are extremely tight – less than 4 pounds separates the entire top 10 and the tournament can be won by any of the remaining 10 anglers. Competition resumes Friday morning with the Championship Round, where weight carries over from the Knockout Round and the angler with the heaviest two-day total will win the top prize of $100,000.
“When everything goes right, everything goes right, and today it kind of came together and everything went right for me,” Sprague said in his post-game interview. “My practice was just so-so, here. A lot of fish are coming up, and they had been very skittish. But they had just gotten up there and weren’t ready. Now we’ve had a couple of warm nights, and the fish are really starting to set up and lock down. And the big females are starting to show up.”
“The lake really showed out today – nearly everyone in the top 10 has 20 pounds,” Sprague continued. “It’s a tremendous fishery, but it hasn’t been as easy as it looks.”
Sprague started the third period in seventh place, then caught a 5-5 and 6-11 in a quick five-minute span at 1 p.m. to vault to the top of the leaderboard and remain there for the rest of the day. His first fish of the day came on a buzzbait, and the remaining four keepers in his limit came on soft plastics.
“I’ve caught a lot of fish this week just throwing around a wacky worm,” Sprague said. “A couple of fish, including the big fish this morning, came on a prototype reel from Summit Fishing and custom-made rods that I created bought and made through MHX Custom Rods. I made them myself, and they are great rods with great blanks. I used 20-pound fluorocarbon (line), and a little creature bait with a 3/8-ounce tungsten weight. It’s not a very pretty setup, but it really catches a lot of fish when they’re spawning. It’s basic, Fishing 101.
“I’ve said it so many times, I almost don’t want to say it again. But I want to bring that trophy back to Texas,” Sprague went on to say. “I just want go out tomorrow, fish clean, and put some big fish in the boat and have a good time. That’s what it’s all about. It’s going to be an exciting finale, no matter who wins this thing. I saw a lot today that gave me hope, so we’re going out tomorrow and going to give them heck.”
The top 10 pros from Thursday’s Knockout Round that now advance to Friday’s Championship Round on Lake Murray are:
1st: Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, five bass, 23-8
2nd: James Watson, Lampe, Mo., five bass, 22-8
3rd: John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky., five bass, 22-7
4th: Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., five bass, 21-13
5th: Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., five bass, 20-15
6th: Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan., five bass, 20-13
7th: Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C, five bass, 20-6
8th: Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., five bass, 20-0
9th: Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 20-0
10th: Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., five bass, 19-11
Finishing in 11th through 40th are:
11th: Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, five bass, 19-9, $10,000
12th: Ryan Salzman, Huntsville, Ala., five bass, 18-15, $10,000
13th: Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., five bass, 18-15, $10,000
14th: Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn., five bass, 18-14, $10,000
15th: Alton Jones, Sr., Lorena, Texas, five bass, 18-13, $10,000
16th: Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, five bass, 18-12, $10,000
17th: Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., five bass, 18-11, $10,000
18th: Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., five bass, 18-9, $10,000
19th: Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, five bass, 17-13, $10,000
20th: Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas, five bass, 17-3, $10,000
21st: Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., five bass, 17-2, $10,000
22nd: Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., five bass, 17-2, $10,000
23rd: Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., five bass, 17-1, $10,000
24th: Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa., five bass, 16-1, $10,000
25th: Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., five bass, 15-15, $10,000
26th: Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, five bass, 15-8, $10,000
27th: Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., five bass, 15-3, $10,000
28th: Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif., five bass, 15-3, $10,000
29th: Randy Howell, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 15-1, $10,000
30th: Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., five bass, 14-3, $10,000
31st: Gary Klein, Mingus, Texas, five bass, 14-2, $10,000
32nd: Cliff Crochet, Pierre Part, La., five bass, 14-0, $10,000
33rd: Mitch Crane, Columbus, Miss., five bass, 12-15, $10,000
34th: Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., five bass, 12-10, $10,000
35th: Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla., five bass, 12-9, $10,000
36th: Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark., five bass, 12-2, $10,000
37th: John Murray, Spring City, Tenn., three bass, 10-1, $10,000
38th: Dean Rojas, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., three bass, 6-0, $10,000
39th: Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., two bass, 4-13, $10,000
40th: Jeff Kriet, Ardmore, Okla., two bass, 4-9, $10,000
A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 357 scorable bass weighing 1,038 pounds, 4 ounces caught by the 40 pros Thursday.
Thursday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award went to pro Edwin Evers of Talala, Oklahoma, who caught a 7-pound, 4-ounce largemouth in Period 2 on a Berkley PowerBait Gilly to earn the payout. 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 bass-fishing event, hosted by Capital City/Lake Murray Country, showcases 80 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing for a purse of more than $805,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters All-Star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship.
The 40 Anglers in Group A competed in their two-day qualifying round on Sunday and Tuesday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Monday and Wednesday. After the two-day qualifying round, the top 20 anglers from each group advanced to Thursday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights were zeroed, and the remaining 40 anglers competed to finish in the top 10 to advance to the Championship Round. In the Championship Round on Friday, weight carries over from the Knockout Round and the angler with the heaviest two-day total will win the top prize of $100,000.
The final 10 anglers will launch Friday at 7:30 a.m. ET from Dreher Island State Park, located at 3677 State Park Road in Prosperity. The General Tire Takeout will be held at the launch location, 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 Friday, April 7, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF will welcome fans of all ages to visit Dreher Island State Park and celebrate the top 10 and crown the Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Champion at the Watch Party and Trophy Presentation. 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.
About Major League Fishing
Major League Fishing (MLF) is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, producing more than 250 events annually at some of the most prestigious fisheries in the world, while broadcasting to America’s living rooms on CBS, the Discovery Channel, the Outdoor Channel, CBS Sports Network, the World Fishing Network and on-demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, the MLF roster of bass anglers includes the world’s top pros and more than 30,000 competitors in all 50 states and 13 countries. Since its founding in 2011, MLF has advanced the sport of competitive fishing through its premier television broadcasts and livestreams and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for bass through research, education, fisheries enhancement and fish care. Major League Fishing – WE ARE Bass Fishing
About Capital City/Lake Murray Country
CCLMC is the official source for all things Lake Murray Country. Find information on attractions, dining, hotels, outdoor recreation, fishing, golf, and events to plan your next trip. Explore The Top Southern Destinations of Columbia, Richland, Lexington, Newberry, and Saluda. For more information about CCLMC visit LakeMurrayCountry.com or call 803-781-5940 | 1-866-SC-Jewel.