Wheeler Leads at MLF Bass Pro Tour Tournament on Lake Guntersville

May 20, 2023
Major League Fishing (MLF)

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (May 20, 2023)Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, caught 21 scorable bass Saturday, with his best five weighing 29 pounds, 9 ounces, to lead the 40-angler Knockout Round and advance along with the top 10 anglers to Sunday’s final day Championship Round at the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour  Stage Four tournament at Lake Guntersville. Wheeler will bring a sizeable 5-pound, 1-ounce advantage over second-place pro Ott Defoe of Blaine, Tennessee, who weighed in five bass totaling 24-8 to end the day in second place. Pro Adrian Avena of Vineland, New Jersey, sits in third place with five bass weighing 23-12, while Edwin Evers of Talala, Oklahoma , weighed in five bass totaling 23-11 to finish the day in fourth. Lynchburg, Virginia’s, David Dudley caught five bass weighing 23-1 to round out the top five.

Sunday’s final standings are still up in the air – a 30-pound bag is always a possibility at Guntersville – and less than nine pounds separates the 10 remaining anglers. Competition resumes Sunday 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.

“I had a great day on the water, and you live for those days,” Wheeler said. “It was one of those days where every decision I made seemed like the right one.”

Wheeler is known for his tendency to bounce from spot to spot to cover water, but he said recreational boat traffic kept him stationary during part of the day.

“I was bouncing around a little bit,” Wheeler said. “I would spend some time in some zones, but I didn’t spend all my time in those areas. It was tough to get around on a Saturday in some places, so I squatted a little bit more than I would. As the rain hit, things opened up, and I was able to bounce around a little bit.”

Rain fell in the afternoon for 20 to 30 minutes, and the bite turned on as the rain approached. The rain, combined with a slowdown in recreational boat traffic, allowed fish to set back up on schools. As a result, a large number of fish turned on to feed and were caught during that period.

Wheeler said four of his five biggest bass of the day came on a yet-to-be released bait he designed called the Hitchhiker that will debut at ICAST in July. Wheeler’s Saturday catch included nine bass over four pounds – including three that weighed more than six pounds.

“Lake Guntersville is impressive,” Wheeler said. “It might be the best Tennessee River bass-fishing lake in the country. It just pumps them out every single day. There are more 3- to 5-pounders in this lake than just about anywhere else that I’ve ever been.

“Obviously it was a really good day,” Wheeler added. “Better than I anticipated. I was fortunate to get a couple of the right bites, got them in the boat, and hopefully, I can repeat that tomorrow. Anybody can drop a 30-pound bag at any point in time, so I’m definitely not safe. I think I need to catch another 25 pounds to have a real good shot at taking this one home.”

The top 10 pros that now advance to Sunday’s Championship Round on Lake Guntersville are:

1st:        Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., five bass, 29-9
2nd:       Ott Defoe, Blaine, Tenn., five bass, 24-8
3rd:       Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., five bass, 23-12
4th:        Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., five bass, 23-11
5th:        David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., five bass, 23-1
6th:        Randall Tharp, Port Saint Joe, Fla, five bass, 22-7
7th:        Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., five bass, 21-7
8th:        Jacob Wall, New Hope, Ala., five bass, 21-2
9th:        Bradley Roy, Lancaster, Ky., five bass, 21-1
10th:     Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, five bass, 20-12

Finishing in 11th through 40th are:

11th:     Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, five bass, 20-2, $10,000
12th:     Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., five bass, 19-6, $10,000
13th:     Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., five bass, 19-0, $10,000
14th:     Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., five bass, 18-12, $10,000
15th:     Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., five bass, 18-7, $10,000
16th:     Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., five bass, 18-2, $10,000
17th:     Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala., five bass, 17-8, $10,000
18th:     James Elam, Tulsa, Okla., five bass, 17-4, $10,000
19th:     Josh Butler, Hayden, Ala., five bass, 17-3, $10,000
20th:     Cody Meyer, Star, Idaho, five bass, 17-0, $10,000
21st:      James Watson, Lampe, Mo., five bass, 16-12, $10,000
22nd:    Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., five bass, 15-12, $10,000
23rd:     Greg Vinson, Wetumpka, Ala., five bass, 15-10, $10,000
24th:     Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, five bass, 15-0, $10,000
25th:     Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Ala., five bass, 15-0, $10,000
26th:     Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., five bass, 14-15, $10,000
27th:     Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., five bass, 13-15, $10,000
28th:     Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., five bass, 13-11, $10,000
29th:     Kelly Jordon, Flint, Texas, five bass, 13-11, $10,000
30th:     Brett Hite, Phoenix, Ariz., five bass, 13-6, $10,000
31st:      Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., five bass, 12-11, $10,000
32nd:    Mark Daniels, Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., five bass, 12-11, $10,000
33rd:     Shin Fukae, Osaka, Japan, five bass, 12-1, $10,000
34th:     Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., five bass, 12-0, $10,000
35th:     Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., four bass, 11-9, $10,000
36th:     Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., four bass, 11-3, $10,000
37th:     Timmy Horton, Muscle Shoals, Ala., three bass, 9-2, $10,000
38th:     Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., two bass, 6-4, $10,000
39th:     Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark., two bass, 4-14, $10,000
40th:     Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., one bass, 4-10, $10,000

Overall, there were 334 scorable bass weighing 1,031 pounds, 8 ounces caught by the 40 pros Saturday, which included 13 5-pounders, 10 6-pounders and one 7-pounder.

Saturday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award went to pro Bryan Thrift of Shelby, North Carolina, who caught a 7-pound, 6-ounce largemouth in Period 1 on a Texas-rigged ribbon-tail worm 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.