Lopez Leads MLF Tournament at the Mississippi River in La Crosse

July 26, 2023
Major League Fishing (MLF) Archive

LA CROSSE, Wis. (July 26, 2023) – The MLF Invitational Mercury Stop 6 at the Mississippi River is setting up for a dramatic finale on Thursday – the top 20 is stacked with seven local Wisconsin Mississippi River hammers and three full-time Bass Pro Tour pros and both the season-long Angler of the Year (AOY) and Rookie of the Year (ROY) awards are still up for grabs, and numerous anglers remain in striking distance to win the tournament, and claim the top prize of $115,000.

Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, pro Steve Lopez, who started the day in third place, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 16 pounds even to take the lead with a two-day total of 33-12.

Pro Matthew Stefan of Junction City, Wisconsin, (32-14) jumped into second after bringing in a limit weighing 16-6. Local favorite Mike Brueggen of La Crosse, (30-15), Tristan McCormick of Burns, Tennessee, (29-13) and Colby Schrumpf of Highland, Illinois, (29-7) round out the top five. Local anglers, Cade Laufenberg of Onalaska, Jeff Ritter of Prairie du Chien and Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, also made the top 50 cut and will advance to the third and final day of competition.

The three-day tournament featured a roster of 150 pro anglers competing for a top prize of up to $115,000 and an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2024. The full field of 150 anglers concluded the two-day opening round on Wednesday, with only the top 50 pros based on their two-day cumulative weight now advancing to Championship Thursday.

With just a 14-ounce cushion heading into the final day, tournament-leader Lopez is excited to see how it all shakes out on Championship Thursday.

“I found a group of fish that are biting, and I found out how to catch them,” said Lopez. “I mean, they’re just different-sized fish than what other people are catching, but it’s pretty special.”

Lopez is making a run and locking to his fish. As a result, time management has been paramount due to not only a hectic lock schedule, but a massive rainstorm that totally changed the dynamic of Day 2. The good news is his fish have only been leaned on a little through two days.

“I’ve only fished them two and a half hours with the thunderstorms today and barges and all that sort of stuff,” he said. “Time has been very, very key this week. I’ve had to wait and be patient. Just mentally take it all in and be calm because I know the fish live there. I just have to get to them.”

Beyond the primary area that has been his honey hole all week, Lopez also noted he has other groups of fish located that he could very easily lean on if things happen to get tough for him on the final day.

“I checked my other fish (today) and they were still there,” he said. “I had to lean on one of those spots today. Just managing the fish has been so key this week, and so is managing time. I don’t want to get locked out, but could I have caught more today? I think so. But I don’t want to burn fish, and I lost a few fish today, too.”

While Lopez isn’t fully confident that all of his areas are good to go on the final day, he knows that having multiple schools to lean on is going to give him a slight edge on Championship Thursday. If he can maintain the quality bites, he knows he has a good shot to claim his first career win.

“One of those places is burnt up,” he said. “I was going to start there, but there were boats on it that weren’t there yesterday, which is fine (because) I think I caught them all.

“My other fish, no one has been on. It’s got the same caliber of fish. I caught five out of it today and had 16 pounds. If I crush them first thing tomorrow, I’m going to get back early and order a pizza and just Timmy Horton it,” he said, laughing. “But if I don’t, I’m going to burn it all to the ground.”

The top 50 pros advancing to the third and final day of competition at the Mercury Stop 6 at the Mississippi River in La Crosse are:

1st:        Steve Lopez, Oconomowoc, Wis., 10 bass, 33-12
2nd:       Matthew Stefan, Junction City, Wis., 10 bass, 32-14
3rd:       Mike Brueggen, La Crosse, Wis., 10 bass, 30-15
4th:        Tristan McCormick, Burns, Tenn., 10 bass, 29-13
5th:        Colby Schrumpf, Highland, Ill., 10 bass, 29-7
6th:        Cody Meyer, Eagle, Idaho, 10 bass, 29-4
7th:        Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., 10 bass, 29-1
7th:        Nick Hatfield, Greeneville, Tenn., 10 bass, 28-15
9th:        Matt Reed, Madisonville, Texas, 10 bass, 28-14
9th:        Mark Condron, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 10 bass, 28-14
11th:     Cade Laufenberg, Onalaska, Wis., 10 bass, 28-13
12th:     Jeff Ritter, Prairie du Chien, Wis., 10 bass, 28-13
12th:     Scott Wiley, Bay Minette, Ala., 10 bass, 28-9
14th:     Tom Monsoor, La Crosse, Wis., 10 bass, 28-5
15th:     Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., 10 bass, 28-3
16th:     Kevin Ruh, Onalaska, Wis., 10 bass, 28-2
17th:     William Fletcher, Dallas, Ga., 10 bass, 28-0
18th:     Cole Breeden, Lebanon, Mo., 10 bass, 27-14
18th:     Mike McClelland, Blue Eye, Mo., 10 bass, 27-13
20th:     Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 10 bass, 27-12
21st:      Jack Daniel Williams, Kingsport, Tenn., 10 bass, 27-7
22nd:    Hunter Litchfield, Macomb, Ill., 10 bass, 27-5
23rd:     Alex Davis, Albertville, Ala., 10 bass, 27-2
24th:     Jesse Millsaps, Jasper, Ga., 10 bass, 26-15
25th:     Jordan Hirt, Glenwood, Iowa, 10 bass, 26-15
26th:     Grae Buck, Green Lane, Pa., 10 bass, 26-12
27th:     Blake Felix, Warsaw, Mo., 10 bass, 26-9
28th:     Jacopo Gallelli, Florence, Italy, 10 bass, 26-8
29th:     Brad Jelinek, Lincoln, Mo., 10 bass, 26-7
30th:     Robby Lefere, Jackson, Mich, 10 bass, 26-7
31st:      Bryan Partak, Marseilles, Ill., 10 bass, 26-5
32nd:    Lane Olson, Forest Grove, Ore., 10 bass, 26-2
33rd:     Justin Cooper, Zwolle, La., 10 bass, 26-1
34th:     Marshall Robinson, Landrum, S.C., 10 bass, 26-0
35th:     Nick Trim, Galesville, Wis., 10 bass, 25-11
36th:     Todd Walters, Kernersville, N.C., 10 bass, 25-11
37th:     Jason Vance, Battle Ground, Ind., 10 bass, 25-6
38th:     Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., 10 bass, 25-6
39th:     Derik Hudson, Concord, Va., 10 bass, 25-5
40th:     Kyle Cortiana, Broken Arrow, Okla., 10 bass, 25-1
41st:      Cal Lane, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 25-0
42nd:    Robert Nakatomi, Sacramento, Calif., 10 bass, 25-0
43rd:     Shaw Grigsby, Gainesville, Fla., 10 bass, 25-0
44th:     Ethan Greene, Eufaula, Ala., 10 bass, 24-15
45th:     Paul Elias, Laurel, Miss., 10 bass, 24-15
46th:     Clayton Batts, Butler, Ga., 10 bass, 24-15
47th:     Drew Kleine, Galesburg, Ill., 10 bass, 24-14
48th:     Jason Grape, Attalla, Ala., 10 bass, 24-13
49th:     Flint Davis, Leesburg, Ga., 10 bass, 24-13
50th:     Frank Kitchens, III, Oxford, Ga., 10 bass, 24-13

Pro Scott Wiley of Bay Minette, Alabama, earned Wednesday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass award after he weighed in a largemouth that totaled 5 pounds, 6 ounces.

Overall, there were 650 bass weighing 1,593 pounds even caught by 141 pros Wednesday. The catch included 117 five-bass limits.