VanDam Wins Group A Qualifying Round on Lake Murray

April 4, 2023
Major League Fishing (MLF) Archive

COLUMBIA, S.C. (April 4, 2023) – Jonathon VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, caught six scorable bass, with his best five weighing 19 pounds, 14 ounces to earn the win Tuesday during the Group A Qualifying Round at the MLF Bass Pro Tour Stage Three tournament at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury in Columbia, South Carolina.

VanDam’s two-day Qualifying Round catch of 10 bass totaling 41-12 earned him the win by a 2-pound, 8-ounce margin over Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, South Carolina, who caught a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 39-4 to finish in second place. Pro Dakota Ebare of Brookeland, Texas, caught a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 38-10 to finish the round in third, while Leesburg, Ohio’s Cole Floyd , ended the round in fourth place with a two-day total of 10 bass for 38-2. Rounding out the top five was rookie Matt Becker of Ten Mile, Tennessee, who caught 10 bass weighing 36-12 to advance in fifth place.

The six-day bass-fishing tournament showcases 80 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing for a purse of more than $805,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters All-Star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship.

“Today was overall a great day – we did exactly what we had to do,” VanDam said in his post-game interview. “I didn’t catch very many today, but I really wasn’t trying to. We got our work done early in the first period, and then I spent a lot of time looking.

“I’m doing my best to set myself up for the Knockout Round,” VanDam continued. “I found a couple of more groups of fish, and a couple of them with some really big ones around. Hopefully the weather will help a little bit and they’ll get to chewing.”

VanDam started out the day with a 6-pound, 7-ounce lunker that bit his sexy-shad-colored Strike King Red Eye Shad. He caught four of his six keepers on the lipless crankbait, and his last two fish of the day came on a drop-shot rig.

“The weather was a little bit different – it was sunny, it was calm, and I had to switch it up a little bit,” VanDam said.
“I tried not to lean on them too much. I caught a bunch on a Strike King Red Eye Shad, then had to switch to the drop-shot later as it got slick.

“Knowing where those fish are sitting, it’s important to throw a variety of different baits at them to try to get them to react. Sometimes these fish, especially when they’re sitting there for these herring, get educated pretty quickly. So I tried to mix it up, and today went just as planned. I’m looking forward to the Knockout Round.”

The top 20 advancing anglers from Group A will now have an off day from competition Wednesday, while the 40 anglers competing in Qualifying Group B will complete their two-day Qualifying Round. The top 20 anglers from each group advance to Thursday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 40 anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to the Championship Round. In Friday’s final day Championship Round, weight carries over from the Knockout Round and the angler with the heaviest two-day total wins the top prize of $100,000. 

The top 20 pros from Group A that now advance to Thursday’s Knockout Round on Lake Murray are:

1st:          Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 10 bass, 41-12
2nd:         Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., 10 bass, 39-4
3rd:         Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, 10 bass, 38-10
4th:         Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, 10 bass, 38-2
5th:         Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 10 bass, 36-12
6th:         Gary Klein, Mingus, Texas, 10 bass, 36-9
7th:         Mitch Crane, Columbus, Miss., 10 bass, 35-15
8th:         Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 10 bass, 35-14
9th:         Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., 10 bass, 35-4
10th:       John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky., 10 bass, 34-11
11th:       Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., 10 bass, 33-14
12th:       Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan., 10 bass, 33-8
13th:       Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., 10 bass, 33-5
14th:       Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn., 10 bass, 33-1
15th:       John Murray, Spring City, Tenn., 10 bass, 32-13
16th:       Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas, 10 bass, 32-11
17th:       Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., 10 bass, 32-3
18th:       Alton Jones, Sr., Lorena, Texas, 10 bass, 32-0
19th:       Jeff Kriet, Ardmore, Okla., 10 bass, 31-14
20th:       Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark., 10 bass, 31-13

Eliminated from competition are:

21st:       Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., 10 bass, 31-10
22nd:      Brett Hite, Phoenix, Ariz., 10 bass, 31-10
23rd:      Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala., 10 bass, 30-8
24th:       Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., 10 bass, 30-3
25th:       James Elam, Tulsa, Okla., 10 bass, 29-4
26th:       Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 10 bass, 29-1
27th:       Tommy Biffle, Wagoner, Okla., 10 bass, 28-9
28th:       Britt Myers, Lake Wylie, S.C., 10 bass, 27-14
29th:       Jeremy Lawyer, Sarcoxie, Mo., 10 bass, 27-14
30th:       Fred Roumbanis, Russellville, Ark., 10 bass, 27-12
31st:       David Walker, Sevierville, Tenn., 10 bass, 27-11
32nd:      David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., 10 bass, 27-10
33rd:      Bradley Roy, Lancaster, Ky., 10 bass, 26-15
34th:       Mark Rose, Wynne, Ark., 10 bass, 26-14
35th:       Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., 10 bass, 25-14
36th:       Boyd Duckett, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 25-13
37th:       Shin Fukae, Osaka, Japan, 10 bass, 25-11
38th:       Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 10 bass, 25-10
39th:       Mark Daniels, Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., 10 bass, 25-10
40th:       Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., six bass, 14-9

Overall, there were 351 scorable bass weighing 916 pounds, 10 ounces caught by the 40 pros Tuesday.

Pro Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, South Carolina, earned Tuesday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award with an 8-pound, 8-ounce largemouth bass that he caught fishing boat docks with a worm late in Period 3. 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.