MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 27, 2023) – Boater Michael Stephens of Gastonia, North Carolina, caught a five-bass limit weighing 18 pounds, 5 ounces, Saturday to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) tournament on Lake Norman. The tournament was the first event of the season for the BFL North Carolina Division. Stephens earned $4,884 for his victory.
“We started out on some rock points and caught three fish,” said Stephens. “I fished deep with a Rapala DT6 for a while, but the deep fish I had found had moved. So, I started skipping docks that held brush with a jig. I caught two of my key fish doing that. The rest of the day I sight-fished in pockets.
“It was really slow … just a fish an hour,” Stephens added. “It was really tough. I had to work for them.”
Stephens said his two biggest fish came in the backs of pockets. He said earlier in the week the bass had been staging to spawn, but a cold front moved through, and the fish moved away and were keying on baitfish in the backs of the pockets.
“This win is kind of a big deal for me,” Stephens said. “I’ve fished a lot and come in second and third and had quite a few top-10s, but I’ve never won. So, it was nice to nail that down finally.”
The top 10 boaters finished the tournament:
1st: Michael Stephens, Gastonia, N.C., five bass, 18-5, $4,884
2nd: Rob Johnson, Schuylkill Haven, Pa., five bass, 17-2, $2,140
3rd: Spencer Taylor, Sherrills Ford, N.C., five bass, 13-11, $1,426
4th: Ben Hudson, Forest, Va., five bass, 13-9, $998
5th: David Cooke, Mooresville, N.C., five bass, 12-11, $856
6th: Jason Wilson, Lincolnton, N.C., five bass, 12-9, $785
7th: Cody Hoyle, Rutherfordton, N.C., five bass, 12-4, $713
8th: George Lambeth, Thomasville, N.C., five bass, 12-1, $642
9th: Michael Webster, Gastonia, N.C., five bass, 11-15, $535
9th: Josh Gowan, Moravian Falls, N.C., five bass, 11-15, $535
Stephens also caught a bass that weighed 4 pounds, 14 ounces, and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $605. Gregory Haverlock of Indian Trail, North Carolina, won the Strike King co-angler division and a total of $2,140 Saturday, after bringing five bass to the scale that totaled 16 pounds, 10 ounces.
The top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished:
1st: Gregory Haverlock, Indian Trail, N. C., five bass, 16-10, $2,140
2nd: Hunter Alexander, China Grove, N.C., five bass, 13-0, $1,070
3rd: Keith Wood, Mooresville, N.C., five bass, 12-7, $712
4th: Cody Barnes, Zebulon, N.C., five bass, 11-8, $499
5th: Johnathan Strickland, Graham, N.C., five bass, 11-6, $428
6th: Hayden Foster, Moravian Falls, N.C., five bass, 11-3, $392
7th: Zachary Stroupe, Gastonia, N.C., five bass, 11-0, $357
8th: Timothy Pass, Belmont, N.C., five bass, 9-6, $321
9th: David Bright, Mooresville, N.C., three bass, 9-3, $587
10th: William Vaughn, Raleigh, N.C., five bass, 9-1, $237
10th: Jay Kleinfeld, Winston Salem, N.C., five bass, 9-1, $237
Bright earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $302, catching a bass that weighed in at 5 pounds, 3 ounces – the largest co-angler catch of the day.