Jacob Wheeler Leads Day One Group A Qualifying at MLF BPT Lake Fork

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QUITMAN, Texas (Feb. 19, 2022)Academy Sports + Outdoors pro Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, boated a 7-pound, 3-ounce kicker just four minutes into the start of competition Saturday and never

MLF BPT Lake Fork Group A Qualifying Day One Leader Jacob Wheeler – photo courtesy Major League Fishing

looked back. Wheeler caught 14 scorable bass totaling 56 pounds, 7 ounces to grab the early lead for Group A on Day 1 of the Toro Stage Two on Lake Fork Presented by Grundéns in Quitman, Texas.

The six-day event, hosted by the Lake Fork Area Chamber of Commerce, the Wood County EDC, the Sabine River Authority and the Rains County Tourism Board, showcases 80 of the top professional bass-fishing anglers in the world competing for a purse of $805,000, including a top cash prize of $100,000 to the winner. The tournament is livestreamed each day at MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MOTV app, and also filmed for broadcast later this fall on the Discovery Channel.

Wheeler will bring a comfortable lead into Monday’s second day of competition for Group A, with an 8-pound, 2-ounce cushion over second place angler pro Ish Monroe of Oakdale, California, who caught 13 bass totaling 48-5. In third place on the SCORETRACKER® leaderboard is Bass Pro Shops angler Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, who caught 13 bass totaling 44-14. B&W Trailer Hitches pro Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Arkansas , sits in fourth place with 13 bass weighing 33-14. Rounding out the top five is pro Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, South Carolina, who weighed in eight bass totaling 32-3.

Fresh off his victory two weeks ago at Stage One in Louisiana, Covercraft pro Bradley Roy of Lancaster, Kentucky, boated the biggest bass of his career Saturday – and the second-biggest bass ever weighed in Bass Pro Tour history – an 11-pound, 11-ounce giant that earned Roy the first $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award. 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.

The 40 anglers in Group A will now have an off day from competition, while the 40 anglers competing in Group B will begin their first day of competition Sunday. Group A will resume competition on Monday.

“Today has been a lot of fun,” Wheeler said in his post-game interview. “They’re not easy to catch, but when you do find some, it’s a lot of fun. This event is going to end up being all about decision-making.”

Wheeler spent the day throwing multiple different jerkbaits around the isolated timber.

“The jerkbait was the name of the game for me, today,” Wheeler continued. “I was throwing them on a 6-foot, 10-inch medium-heavy action rod, using 12-to-14-pound line, depending on the cover I was fishing. I threw a various amount of jerkbaits, but my biggest bass this morning came on a (Rapala) Shadow Rap, deep. It was first thing – my third cast of the day.”

Saturday marks the seventh time that Wheeler has “won” Day 1 of his Qualifying Round of competition. The next closest anglers to that mark are Zack Birge and Michael Neal, who each have won three times. If Wheeler can hang on and win his Qualifying Round on Monday, it will mark the sixth time that Wheeler has won his two-day Qualifying Round.

“We’ll see how it all ends up. Today was nice, but the rest of the week is a little different,” Wheeler said. “I’m going to take my day off tomorrow and regroup to come up with a gameplan on how we can win the round. The biggest thing this week is going to be about making adjustments, and I’m going to need to make some adjustments for Monday if I want to take it down.

Unlike Wheeler, who did his damage today on a jerkbait, California pro Ish Monroe caught his 13 scorable bass on a lipless crankbait.

“Congratulations to Jacob on a great day, but I’m right behind him – eight pounds on this lake is nothing,” Monroe said. “I fished hard, today, throwing a River2Sea Ruckus lipless (crankbait).

“Bradley (Roy) got an 11-pounder, which is awesome. Zack Birge got a 10, and that is awesome. But I plan on catching me a double-digit as well, so get ready.”

The top 20 pros in Group A after Day 1 on Lake Fork are:

1st:          Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 14 bass, 56-7
2nd:         Ish Monroe, Oakdale, Calif., 13 bass, 48-5
3rd:         Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 13 bass, 44-14
4th:         Mark Davis, Mount Ida, Ark., 13 bass, 33-14
5th:         Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., eight bass, 32-3
6th:         Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, eight bass, 32-2
7th:         Bradley Roy, Lancaster, Ky., five bass, 28-14
8th:         Fletcher Shryock, Guntersville, Ala., eight bass, 28-6
9th:         Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., five bass, 28-3
10th:       Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., eight bass, 27-11
11th:       Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, six bass, 26-14
12th:       Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., five bass, 26-1
13th:       Cliff Crochet, Pierre Part, La., eight bass, 25-10
14th:       Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., seven bass, 23-12
15th:       Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., six bass, 23-10
16th:       Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan., six bass, 23-7
17th:       Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, six bass, 22-10
18th:       James Elam, Tulsa, Okla., six bass, 22-1
19th:       Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., five bass, 21-7
20th:       Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala., seven bass, 20-12

A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Overall, there were 218 scorable bass weighing 810 pounds, 3 ounces caught by 39 pros Saturday.

The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day qualifying round on Saturday and Monday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Sunday and Tuesday. After each two-day qualifying round is complete, the anglers that finish in 2nd through 20th place from both groups advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round, while the winner of each group advances directly to Thursday’s Championship Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 38 anglers compete to finish in the top 8 to advance to the Championship Round. In the final day Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

Anglers will launch each day at 7:30 a.m. from the Oak Ridge Marina, located at 2949 TX-154 in Quitman, Texas. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the Marina, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch and takeout events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLF NOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The Toro Stage Two on Lake Fork Presented by Grundéns will feature anglers competing with a 2-pound minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. Minimum weights are determined individually for each competition waters that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.

The Bass Pro Tour features a field of 80 of the top professional anglers in the world competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, competing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2023 championship.

The MLF NOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action on all six days of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT. MLF NOW!®  will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Television coverage of the Toro Stage Two on Lake Fork Presented by Grundéns will premiere at 7 a.m. ET, Sept. 17 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on the Discovery Channel, with additional re-airings on the Outdoor Channel. Each two-hour long reality-based episode goes in-depth to break down each day of competition.

Proud sponsors of the 2022 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, A.R.E. Truck Caps, B&W Trailer Hitches, BallyBet, Bass Cat, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Covercraft, Favorite Fishing, Garmin, General Tire, Googan Baits, Grundéns, Guaranteed Rate, Humminbird, Lowrance, Luminox, Mercury, Minn Kota, Mossy Oak, Nitro Performance Boats, Onyx, Plano, Power-Pole, Power Stop, Rapala, Starbrite, Toro, Toyota, Wrangler, Yellowstone Bourbon and Zoom.

For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and  YouTube.

About Major League Fishing
Major League Fishing (MLF) is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, producing more than 250 events annually at some of the most prestigious fisheries in the world, while broadcasting to America’s living rooms on CBS, the Discovery Channel, the Outdoor Channel, CBS Sports Network, the World Fishing Network, and on-demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with offices in Benton, Kentucky, the MLF roster of bass anglers includes the world’s top pros and more than 30,000 competitors in all 50 states and 13 countries. In 2019, MLF expanded its portfolio of catch, weigh, and immediately release events to include the sport’s strongest five-biggest-fish format tournament circuits. Since its founding in 2011, MLF has advanced the sport of competitive fishing through its premier television broadcasts and livestreams and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for bass through research, education, fisheries enhancement, and fish care.