CULLMAN, Ala. (Oct. 24, 2022) – Boater Jesse Wiggins of Addison, Alabama, brought a three-day total of 15 bass to the scale weighing 42 pounds, 5 ounces, to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Regional Tournament on Lewis Smith Lake in Cullman, Alabama. For his victory, Wiggins earned $60,000, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro bass boat with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard and $10,000. Wiggins also received automatic entry into the 2023 Bass Fishing League All-American Championship.
“The first day I caught a couple of quick keepers and then started running some history – spots I’d caught them on this time of year - and I was able to catch a couple more good ones, and then a 4½-pounder near the end of the day.
“Going into Day 2, I was about two pounds behind my brother, who was leading, and I knew I was going to have to get a couple of big bites to get a good bag,” Wiggins added. “I caught a couple of key keepers right off the bat running the same stuff I did before.”
Wiggins said he pulled four big bites from the same area that were key to his second day and gave him momentum and a one-pound lead going into the final day of competition. He felt like he needed 13 pounds to have a chance at the win. He started the final day the same way in the same spots he had started the previous two days; the spot produced two nice keepers. Wiggins said his morning fish came on a 2.8 Jackall Rhythm Wave swimbait and a small Keitech swimbait on a ¼-ounce Owner jighead. Later in the day, his fish came on a squarebill crankbait and a vibrating jig.
“I was happy with that start,” Wiggins said. “I didn’t catch a bunch of fish; it was nothing special. It was just a grindfest for me. I can catch a bunch of fish this time of year, but I was really focusing on quality.
“This was my first time fishing a whole slate of a division of BFLs, and I did it because the Regional was on my home lake here at Lewis Smith,” Wiggins added. “This time of year, it can fish real tough and that’s one of the main reasons I wanted to be in it. A lot of times when it’s tough, you can have an advantage.”
The top six boaters that qualified for the 2023 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American were:
1st: Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., 15 bass, 42-5, $60,000
2nd: Emil Wagner, Marietta, Ga., 15 bass, 42-3, $12,700 (including $500 Phoenix MLF contingency
3rd: Jack Daniel Williams, Kingsport, Tenn., 15 bass, 40-8, $6,000
4th: Tristan Abbott, Somerset, Ky., 15 bass, 37-0, $4,000
5th: Joe Anders, Easley, S.C., 15 bass, 33-11, $2,000
6th: Grant Adams, Campbellsville, Ky., 15 bass, 33-0, $1,800
Rounding out the top 10 boaters were:
7th: Jimmy Neece Jr., Bristol, Tenn., 15 bass, 32-12, $1,600
8th: Isaac Peavyhouse, Jamestown, Tenn., 15 bass, 32-7, $1,400
9th: Jayme Rampey, Liberty, S.C., 15 bass, 31-10, $1,200
10th: Ryan Davidson, Branchland, W.V., 15 bass, 30-11, $1,400
The top four boaters from each division that earned a $1,000 bonus for placing highest in the event were:
Mississippi: Garrett Riles, Potts Camp, Miss., 14th Place, $1,000
Mountain: Tristan Abbott, Somerset, Ky. 4th Place, $1,000
Volunteer: Jack Daniel Williams, Kingsport, Tenn., 3rd Place, $1,000
Savannah River: Emil Wagner, Marietta, Ga., 2nd Place $1,000
Wagner took home an extra $500 as the highest finishing Phoenix MLF Bonus member. Boaters are eligible to win up to an extra $7,000 per event in each Phoenix Bass Fishing League tournament if all requirements are met.
Keith Gunsauls of Dandridge, Tennessee, weighed in 14 bass over three days totaling 25 pounds, 1 ounce to win the top Strike King co-angler prize package of $50,000, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro bass boat with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard.
The top six Strike King co-anglers that qualified for the 2023 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American were:
1st: Keith Gunsauls, Dandridge, Tenn., 14 bass, 25-1, $50,000
2nd: Clint Horton, Falkner, Miss., 14 bass, 19-5, $5,500
3rd: Chris Wilson, Easley, S.C., 10 bass, 19-1, $3,200
4th: Brandon Bell, Starkville, Miss., 10 bass, 19-0, $1,500
5th: Ronnie Cutshall, Piedmont, S.C., 14 bass, 18-0, $1,000
6th: Joshua Jernigan, Rocky Top, Tenn., 11 bass, 15-7, $1,500
Rounding out the top 10 Strike King co-anglers were:
7th: Kevin Henderson, Honea Path, S.C., seven bass, 14-5, $800
8th: Johnny Hancox, West Union, S.C., nine bass, 14-2, $700
9th: Joseph Tucci, Salem, S.C., 10 bass, 13-15, $600
10th: Sam Lemons, Vonore, Tenn., 10 bass, 13-3, $1,250
The top four Strike King Co-anglers from each division that earned a $500 bonus for placing highest in the event were:
Mississippi: Clint Horton, Falkner, Miss., 2nd Place, $500
Mountain: Sam Lemons, Vonore, Tenn. 10th Place, $500
Volunteer: Joshua Jernigan, Rocky Top, Tenn., 6th Place, $500
Savannah River: Chris Wilson, Easley, S.C., 3rd Place $500
The Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine Regional Tournament on Lewis Smith Lake was hosted by the Cullman Area Local Organizing Committee. It featured the top pros and Strike King co-anglers from the Mississippi, Mountain, Volunteer and Savannah River divisions.
The 2022 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine is a 24-division circuit devoted to weekend anglers, with 128 tournaments throughout the season, five qualifying events in each division. The top 45 boaters and Strike King co-anglers from each division, along with the five winners of the qualifying events, advanced to one of six Regional Championships where they are competing to finish in the top six, which then qualifies them for one of the longest-running championships in all of competitive bass fishing – the Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American.
The top boaters and Strike King co-anglers plus tournament winners from each Phoenix Bass Fishing League division will also earn priority entry into the MLF Toyota Series, the pathway to the MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals and ultimately the MLF Bass Pro Tour.
Proud sponsors of the 2022 MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine include: 4WP, 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, AFTCO, A.R.E. Truck Caps, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, E3, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Gary Yamamoto Baits, General Tire, Lew’s, Lowrance, Lucas Oil, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Revital Outdoors, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota, Wiley X, YETI and Yo-Zuri.