Keyso Wins MLF Toyota Series Tournament at Harris Chain of Lakes

March 23, 2024
MLF Toyota Series

LEESBURG, Fla. (March 22, 2024) – The final day of the Toyota Series tournament at Harris Chain of Lakes was stressful for everyone in the hunt. On the run back to the ramp, most of the Top 5 probably thought they’d given away a chance at a win. But, while nobody slammed the door, pro Mikey Keyso of North Port, Florida, did enough, building on a huge Day 2 to earn his first Toyota Series win after three runner-up finishes. 

Weighing in 13 pounds, 7 ounces on the final day, Keyso totaled 51-4 for the win, finishing ahead of Tennessee’s Conner Dimauro and taking advantage of Florida pro Bobby Bakewell’s stumble. For the win, Keyso pocketed $44,000 as well as qualification to the lucrative Toyota Series Championship this fall. 

Heading into the event, many predicted that no one lake would dominate competition. If it was easy and quick to get to Lake Apopka, things may have been different, but considering all the factors in play, it looked likely the winner would need to cobble it together. Keyso did it to perfection – starting in Griffin, he did his Day 2 damage in Dora and ended up icing the win in Eustis. 

“I knew it was going to be tough, and I knew with the wind blowing like it was, I had to make a decision the first day,” he said. “So, I went to the lake I know best, and was able to survive that day. Then, I was able to get to my stuff the second day. Today, I decided to stop short of it and catch some fish, and thank God I did, because there were guys all over the stuff I fished yesterday. 

“When it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, I guess,” he said. “I’ve been on better fish. I’ve thought I was going to win a few times, and this one I was totally not expecting (to win). I was thinking 10 or 12 pounds a day, and get out of here, and it’s the one I won.”

Day 1, Keyso fished offshore grass with a Reaction Innovations Machete Worm in tramp stamp and junebug on either a 3/16- or 1/4-ounce weight. Worming offshore grass is a classic Florida technique and something Keyso was able to do with his eyes closed and no forward-facing sonar. 

“I got to hit my stuff the second day and did the same thing again,” he said. “I used the Machete Worm again and caught every bass I caught on it. The eelgrass tapered off the bank a bit. When I would fish the edge of it, I’d use the heavier weight. I’d use the lighter weight in the thicker stuff.” 

On Day 2 in Dora, Keyso’s 24-14 bag put him in contention, and he dialed in the game plan in practice with side imaging. 

“I found all that stuff on side imaging and realized the fish were starting to come; there’s another wave of fish about to spawn,” he said. “They were using the eelgrass by the bank to stage up. Once I figured that out, I scanned the whole lake and found every good eelgrass clump in front of a spawning flat I could find. 

“Yesterday was one of the days where everything just went right,” he said. “Some days a little goes right and a little goes wrong. Yesterday was one of the best days I’ve had, as far as everything going right. I had 20 pounds pretty easy, and then I caught an 8-pounder. It was pretty wild – I think I culled a 4-pounder with an 8-pounder. It was unbelievable.” 

Come Day 3, perhaps feeling some jitters or maybe simply sniffing the win, Keyso stopped on a shad spawn spot in Eustis on his way to Dora. 

“It was Kissimmee grass and balled up, old, dead hydrilla they were spawning on,” he explained. “I just decided to stop on it this morning because I felt like I had to catch some bass to get my head right, and thank God I did. I fished Eustis one entire day in practice, thinking if I found something in Eustis, I could win. I practiced Eustis the entire day and it paid off.” 

Throwing a golden shiner-colored Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer trailered with a Reaction Innovations Little Dipper in Houdini, Keyso knocked out a quick limit. It ended up saving him when his juice from Day 2 didn’t pan out. 

“I went back there today and one of the guys in the tournament was on it,” he said. “I didn’t catch a single fish there. It was a little frustrating, but thank goodness I laid on them like I did the second day.” 

On the way back, after so many second-place finishes, Keyso thought he was headed for another silver. 

“I definitely, 100 percent, thought I was going to be second,” said Keyso. “I wanted to believe I was going to win, but I thought Bobby was going to catch them. He’s probably the best out here on this chain – I don’t get out there much. To beat the best guy on the chain is pretty cool – I hate it for him because he’s got some seconds, too, but his win is coming. It won’t be long.”

Keyso is also extra proud of the win because the only transducer he has on his trolling motor is a Humminbird MEGA 360. 

“LiveScope didn’t win today,” he said. “I’m old-school, so it was kind of good to see the LiveScoper not win. I love the kid to death, but I’m old-school. If there’s a bird on a point, I fish it, that kind of deal. The gameplan actually worked out. I just made all the right decisions – it’s crazy how it worked.” 

The top 10 pros on the Harris Chain of Lakes finished:

1st:         Mikey Keyso, North Port, Fla., 15 bass, 51-4, $44,000
2nd:        Conner DiMauro, Dayton, Tenn., 15 bass, 47-4, $17,000
3rd:        Nicholas Hoinig, Port Saint Lucie, Fla., 15 bass, 46-8, $12,750
4th:         Robert Camp, Port St. John, Fla., 15 bass, 46-5, $11,250
5th:         Bobby Bakewell, Orlando, Fla., 13 bass, 46-1, $10,250
6th:         Tyler Sheppard, Yulee, Fla., 15 bass, 45-4, $8,375
7th:         Hunter Weston, Palm City, Fla., 15 bass, 41-15, $7,300
8th:         Casey Warren, Longs, S.C., 14 bass, 39-13, $6,300
9th:         Britt Myers Jr., Lake Wylie, S.C., 15 bass, 38-2, $5,300
10th:      Jessie Mizell, Myakka City, Fla., 15 bass, 37-3, $4,200

Complete results can be found at

Pro Bobby Bakewell of Orlando, Florida, won the $500 Day 1 Berkley Big Bass award in the pro division Tuesday with a bass weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces. On Wednesday, pro Robert Camp of Port St. John, Florida, earned the $500 Berkley Big Bass prize after bringing a 9-pound, 1-ounce bass to the scale.

Frank Kitchens III of Oxford, Georgia, took home an extra $1,000 as the highest finishing Phoenix MLF Bonus member. Boaters are eligible to win up to an extra $35,000 per event in each Toyota Series tournament if all requirements are met. 

Parker Knudsen of Minnetonka, Minnesota, won the Strike King Co-angler Division Thursday with a three-day total of 14 bass weighing 34 pounds, 1 ounce. Knudsen took home the top prize package worth $33,500, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower outboard motor.

The top 10 co-anglers on the Harris Chain of Lakes finished:

1st:          Parker Knudsen, Minnetonka, Minn., 14 bass, 34-1, Phoenix 518 Pro boat w/115-hp Mercury outboard
2nd:        Kermit Crowder, Matoaca, Va., 15 bass, 33-6, $5,525
3rd:        Fernando Rosa, Margate, Fla., 15 bass, 33-0, $4,300
4th:         Garrett Gomes, Dunnellon, Fla., 15 bass, 31-1, $3,650
5th:         Benton Peoples, Bardstown, Ky., 15 bass, 29-11, $3,300
6th:         Brady Lunsmann, Citrus Springs, Fla., 15 bass, 28-15, $2,650
7th:         David Williams, Fredericksburg, Va., 15 bass, 27-13, $2,150
8th:         Frank Lauria, Wesley Chapel, Fla., 13 bass, 26-10, $1,825
9th:         Aaron Gengler, Lakeland, Fla., 15 bass, 25-9, $1,530
10th:      Larry Mullikin, Jacksonville, Fla., 15 bass, 25-7, $1,290 

Benton Peoples of Bardstown, Kentucky, was the Berkley Big Bass $150 award winner in the Strike King co-angler division, Tuesday, with a 7-pound, 4-ounce bass, while the Day 2 $150 award went to Ronny Wiemer of Land O’ Lakes, Florida, with a 8-pound, 2-ounce fish.

With two regular-season events in the Toyota Series Southern Division now complete, pro Jessie Mizell of Myakka City, Florida, leads the Southern Division Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 511 points, while Brady Lunsmann of Citrus Springs, Florida, leads the Strike King Co-angler Division AOY race with 514 points.