Hatfield Leads MLF Tournament at the Mississippi in La Crosse

July 25, 2023
Major League Fishing (MLF) Archive

LA CROSSE, Wis. (July 25, 2023) – Just one month removed from his victory at the T-H Marine Stop 5 on the Potomac River, pro Nick Hatfield of Greeneville, Tennessee, looks like he has strong intentions to make it two victories in a row. Hatfield brought a five-bass limit to the scale, Tuesday, weighing 18 pounds even to take the early lead after Day 1 of the MLF TInvitational Tournament Stop 5 at the Potomac River.

Hatfield will bring an ultra-slim 2-ounce lead into Day 2 of competition over Macomb, Illinois’ Hunter Litchfield, who weighed in a five bass limit totaling 17-14 to end the day in second. The local Wisconsin contingent also had a very strong start to the event, as Steve Lopez of Oconomowoc (17-12), Matthew Stefan of Junction City (16-8), Kevin Ruh of Onalaska (16-3) and Mike Bruggen of La Crosse (15-12) also ended the day inside the top 10.

Competition resumes Wednesday, when the full field of 150 anglers will conclude the two-day opening round. Only the top 50 pros based on their two-day cumulative weight will advance to the third and final day of competition on Thursday. The three-day tournament features a roster of 150 pro anglers competing for a top prize of up to $115,000 and an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2024.

“It should have been even more,” Hatfield said of his Day 1 weight. “Unfortunately, I had a fish die on me late in the day and I had to take the 4-ounce penalty. But it was a good day, and I’m happy with how it ended up.

“I started in an area where I thought I could catch 12 to 14 pounds, and my plan was to just go in and catch a limit and get a cushion, then go to a different area and try to catch some bigger ones,” Hatfield continued. “I got in there, and it started kind of slow, but I started to see some big ones cruising and with just a little bit of a bait adjustment I started catching them.”

Hatfield said he was seeing the bigger fish cruising both with his Garmin LiveScope on deeper grass clumps and also casting at ones he could see while sight fishing.

“I don’t know if the area will hold up for tomorrow,” Hatfield said. “I’ll obviously try to start in there again, and I think if I can pull 12 pounds out of there I’ll be in good shape.

“I’ve also got some other areas that I didn’t fish today that I can go to, so I’m confident that I can pull something together,” Hatfield went on to say. “I’ve also got some smallmouth found, so it’s whatever I have to do. I’m going to put together 15 pounds and we’ll see what happens. Fifteen pounds is the goal, then we’ll see what happens going into Day 3.”

The top 20 pros after Day 1 of the Stop 6 tournament at the Mississippi River in La Crosse are:

1st:        Nick Hatfield, Greeneville, Tenn., five bass, 18-0
2nd:       Hunter Litchfield, Macomb, Ill., five bass, 17-14
3rd:       Steve Lopez, Oconomowoc, Wis., five bass, 17-12
4th:        Matthew Stefan, Junction City, Wis., five bass, 16-8
5th:        Matt Reed, Madisonville, Texas, five bass, 16-6
6th:        Kevin Ruh, Onalaska, Wis., five bass, 16-3
7th:        Mike Brueggen, La Crosse, Wis., five bass, 15-12
7th:        Mark Condron, Murfreesboro, Tenn., five bass, 15-12
9th:        Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., five bass, 15-7
9th:        Mike McClelland, Blue Eye, Mo., five bass, 15-7
11th:     Cody Meyer, Eagle, Idaho, five bass, 15-4
12th:     Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., five bass, 14-15
12th:     Tristan McCormick, Burns, Tenn., five bass, 14-15
14th:     Alex Davis, Albertville, Ala., five bass, 14-13
15th:     Grae Buck, Green Lane, Pa., five bass, 14-12
16th:     Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., five bass, 14-9
17th:     Marshall Robinson, Landrum, S.C., five bass, 14-6
18th:     B.J. Miller, Adams, Neb., five bass, 14-5
18th:     Andy Newcomb, Camdenton, Mo., five bass, 14-5
20th:     Cal Lane, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 14-4

Pro Matthew Stefan of Junction City, Wisconsin, earned the $1,000 Berkley Big Bass award Tuesday after weighing in a bass largemouth that went 5 pounds, 9 ounces.

Overall, there were 677 bass weighing 1,637 pounds, 6 ounces caught by 146 pros Tuesday. The catch included 117 five-bass limits.

In MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitational competition, the full field of 150 anglers compete in the two-day opening round on Tuesday and Wednesday in a five-fish, weigh-in format. Only the top 50 pros, based on their two-day cumulative weight, will advance to the final round on Championship Thursday, where they will compete for the grand prize of up to $115,000, including the lucrative $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus for qualified anglers. The winner of the MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitational Mercury Stop 6 at the Mississippi River in La Crosse will be determined by the heaviest three-day cumulative weight and will receive an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2024.

Anglers will launch each day at 6:30 a.m. CT, Tuesday through Thursday, from Veterans Freedom Park, located at 1 Clinton St. in La Crosse. Weigh-ins will also be held at the park daily beginning at 2:30 p.m.