Coulter Wins MLF Heavy Hitters Qualifying Tournament on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

May 20, 2024
Major League Fishing (MLF)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (May 20, 2024) – Knoxville, Tennessee, pro Brandon Coulter didn’t need to catch a bass during the second day of qualifying for Group A at the Heavy Hitters tournament on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The 39-pound, 3-ounce total Coulter racked up on Day 1 had him safe to qualify for Wednesday’s Knockout Round before he ever made a cast based on final results from Monday. So, Coulter focused on finding new water where bass would bite his frog, pocketing some extra cash via the daily Berkley Big Bass Bonus along the way. Check and check.

Coulter added 24-1 to his tally on five scorable bass, bringing his two-day total to 63-4. That won Group A by 11-12 over pro Ryan Salzman of Huntsville, Alabama. The highlight of his day was a 7-10 lunker that ate his Berkley Swamp Lord during the first period. The beast tied Coulter with Redlands, California, pro Brent Ehrler for the daily big bass award. The two will split the $10,000 prize as a result.

While Coulter accomplished what he set out to achieve Monday and led his group through qualifying for just the second time during his Bass Pro Tour career, the Tennessee native admitted to battling some frustration. After he caught more than 60 bass Saturday (all on a topwater frog), Coulter likened the second day of qualifying to doing his chores as a kid while his friends played outside. He knew he needed to lay off those fish in hopes he can return to his best spot after weights zero for the Knockout Round. But passing up the hot frog bite, especially as a few competitors stacked up weight in his Day 1 spot, tested his willpower.

“Today was a work day for me, meaning I had to expand my area; I couldn’t go just catch,” Coulter said. “I hear other guys catching them, and I know they’re on the juice, and I know I can just go catch them on a frog, and it’s like, no, you’ve got to work today.

“I wanted to catch them. That's what we do; we’re fishermen. And I also know that a frog bite like this is so volatile that it can stop any day. Water comes up, we get a big rain, so many things can happen. Bluegill, they’re small right now, they gain a little bit of weight, and they swim to the bottom. There’s so many things that can happen that can ruin it, so while it’s going on, you’re like, I want to get some of that.”

Still, Coulter’s day wasn’t without its share of excitement. He caught more than half his weight from two bass about 20 minutes apart. First, while exploring to see how far away from his Day 1 spot he could find fish, Coulter boated the 7-10. Afterward, he ran to a completely new area of matted hydrilla in Lake Toho. Within minutes, a 7-6 inhaled his Swamp Lord.

“I just ran around, I found some grass, idled around it, and literally the first grass mat I pull up to, I catch a 7-something,” he said.

That was one of four new spots where Coulter found populations of bass Monday. While he doesn’t think any is as productive as his starting spot, he knows the reconnaissance could pay off if that area gets overcrowded during the Knockout or Championship Rounds.

“I probably expanded to four different little areas – none of them as good as what I had, but places I think I can go catch a bass,” Coulter explained. “The Knockout Round can come down to that if there’s five guys in that juice area and all of a sudden it’s getting beat up and you have to go find one here and one there, and I think I got a few places.”

Ultimately, restraining himself from returning to his “juice area” only made Coulter more eager to get back on the water Wednesday. Even though there will almost certainly be other anglers jostling over the zone, he feels confident it can continue to produce.

“I know what I’m going to do,” he said. “There’s no debating what I’m going to do, where I’m going to go. I feel very confident in my setup, what I’ve got going on. I know what I’m looking for.”

The top eight pros from Qualifying Group A that now advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round on the Kissimmee Chain are:

1st:        Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn., 17 bass, 63-4
2nd:       Ryan Salzman, Huntsville, Ala., 13 bass, 51-8
3rd:       Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 15 bass, 48-12
4th:        Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, 15 bass, 47-14
5th:        Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 13 bass, 45-3
6th:        Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., 11 bass, 40-0
7th:        Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 12 bass, 35-9
8th:        Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, 10 bass, 33-2

Finishing the event in 9th through 15th place are:

9th:        David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., nine bass, 28-6
10th:     Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., nine bass, 28-1
11th:     Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., six bass, 26-7
12th:     Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., eight bass, 25-12
13th:     Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., seven bass, 21-5
14th:     Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., seven bass, 20-4
15th:     Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark., six bass, 17-5

Full results can be found at

Overall, there were 87 bass weighing 293 pounds, 6 ounces caught by the 15 pros on Monday, which included three 7-pounders, one 6-pounder and seven 5-pounders caught from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.