Jacob Wheeler Wins Knockout Round at Major League Fishing BPT Lake Guntersville

Bucks Skeeter Yamaha

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (May 20, 2023) – Reigning Bally Bet Angler of the Year (AOY) Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, caught 21 scorable bass Saturday, with his best five weighing 29 pounds, 9 ounces, to lead the 40-angler Knockout Round and advance along with the top 10 anglers to Sunday’s final day Championship Round at the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour Toro Stage Four at Lake Guntersville Presented by Bass Cat Boats.

Wheeler will bring a sizeable 5-pound, 1-ounce advantage over second-place pro Ott Defoe of Blaine, Tennessee, who weighed in five bass totaling 24-8 to end the day in second place. Pro Adrian Avena of Vineland, New Jersey, sits in third place with five bass weighing 23-12, while Edwin Evers of Talala, Oklahoma , weighed in five bass totaling 23-11 to finish the day in fourth. Lynchburg, Virginia’s, David Dudley caught five bass weighing 23-1 to round out the top five.

Sunday’s final standings are still up in the air – a 30-pound bag is always a possibility at Guntersville – and less than nine pounds separates the 10 remaining anglers. Competition resumes Sunday morning with the Championship Round, where weight carries over from the Knockout Round and the angler with the heaviest two-day total will win the top prize of $100,000.

“I had a great day on the water, and you live for those days,” Wheeler said. “It was one of those days where every decision I made seemed like the right one.”

Wheeler is known for his tendency to bounce from spot to spot to cover water, but he said recreational boat traffic kept him stationary during part of the day.

“I was bouncing around a little bit,” Wheeler said. “I would spend some time in some zones, but I didn’t spend all my time in those areas. It was tough to get around on a Saturday in some places, so I squatted a little bit more than I would. As the rain hit, things opened up, and I was able to bounce around a little bit.”

Rain fell in the afternoon for 20 to 30 minutes, and the bite turned on as the rain approached. The rain, combined with a slowdown in recreational boat traffic, allowed fish to set back up on schools. As a result, a large number of fish turned on to feed and were caught during that period.

Wheeler said four of his five biggest bass of the day came on a yet-to-be released bait he designed called the Hitchhiker that will debut at ICAST in July. Wheeler’s Saturday catch included nine bass over four pounds – including three that weighed more than six pounds.

“Lake Guntersville is impressive,” Wheeler said. “It might be the best Tennessee River bass-fishing lake in the country. It just pumps them out every single day. There are more 3- to 5-pounders in this lake than just about anywhere else that I’ve ever been.

“Obviously it was a really good day,” Wheeler added. “Better than I anticipated. I was fortunate to get a couple of the right bites, got them in the boat, and hopefully, I can repeat that tomorrow. Anybody can drop a 30-pound bag at any point in time, so I’m definitely not safe. I think I need to catch another 25 pounds to have a real good shot at taking this one home.”

The top 10 pros that now advance to Sunday’s Championship Round on Lake Guntersville are:

1st:        Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., five bass, 29-9
2nd:       Ott Defoe, Blaine, Tenn., five bass, 24-8
3rd:       Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., five bass, 23-12
4th:        Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., five bass, 23-11
5th:        David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., five bass, 23-1
6th:        Randall Tharp, Port Saint Joe, Fla, five bass, 22-7
7th:        Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., five bass, 21-7
8th:        Jacob Wall, New Hope, Ala., five bass, 21-2
9th:        Bradley Roy, Lancaster, Ky., five bass, 21-1
10th:     Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, five bass, 20-12

Finishing in 11th through 40th are:

11th:     Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, five bass, 20-2, $10,000
12th:     Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., five bass, 19-6, $10,000
13th:     Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., five bass, 19-0, $10,000
14th:     Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., five bass, 18-12, $10,000
15th:     Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., five bass, 18-7, $10,000
16th:     Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., five bass, 18-2, $10,000
17th:     Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala., five bass, 17-8, $10,000
18th:     James Elam, Tulsa, Okla., five bass, 17-4, $10,000
19th:     Josh Butler, Hayden, Ala., five bass, 17-3, $10,000
20th:     Cody Meyer, Star, Idaho, five bass, 17-0, $10,000
21st:      James Watson, Lampe, Mo., five bass, 16-12, $10,000
22nd:    Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., five bass, 15-12, $10,000
23rd:     Greg Vinson, Wetumpka, Ala., five bass, 15-10, $10,000
24th:     Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, five bass, 15-0, $10,000
25th:     Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Ala., five bass, 15-0, $10,000
26th:     Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., five bass, 14-15, $10,000
27th:     Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., five bass, 13-15, $10,000
28th:     Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., five bass, 13-11, $10,000
29th:     Kelly Jordon, Flint, Texas, five bass, 13-11, $10,000
30th:     Brett Hite, Phoenix, Ariz., five bass, 13-6, $10,000
31st:      Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., five bass, 12-11, $10,000
32nd:    Mark Daniels, Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., five bass, 12-11, $10,000
33rd:     Shin Fukae, Osaka, Japan, five bass, 12-1, $10,000
34th:     Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., five bass, 12-0, $10,000
35th:     Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., four bass, 11-9, $10,000
36th:     Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., four bass, 11-3, $10,000
37th:     Timmy Horton, Muscle Shoals, Ala., three bass, 9-2, $10,000
38th:     Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., two bass, 6-4, $10,000
39th:     Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark., two bass, 4-14, $10,000
40th:     Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., one bass, 4-10, $10,000

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

Overall, there were 334 scorable bass weighing 1,031 pounds, 8 ounces caught by the 40 pros Saturday, which included 13 5-pounders, 10 6-pounders and one 7-pounder.

Saturday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award went to pro Bryan Thrift of Shelby, North Carolina, who caught a 7-pound, 6-ounce largemouth in Period 1 on a Texas-rigged ribbon-tail worm to earn the payout. 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 six-day event, hosted by Marshall County Tourism & Sports, 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.

The 40 Anglers in Group A competed in their two-day qualifying round on Tuesday and Thursday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Wednesday and Friday. After the two-day qualifying round, the top 20 anglers from each group advanced to Saturday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights were zeroed, and the remaining 40 anglers competed to finish in the top 10 to advance to the Championship Round. In the Championship Round on Sunday, weight carries over from the Knockout Round and the angler with the heaviest two-day total will win the top prize of $100,000.

The final 10 anglers will launch at 7:30 a.m. CT Sunday from the Guntersville Civitan Park, located at 1130 Sunset Drive in Guntersville. The General Tire Takeout will be held at the park beginning at 4 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.

As part of the event, on Sunday, May 21 the MLF Fan Experience will be taking place at Civitan Park in Guntersville from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF will welcome fans of all ages to celebrate fishing and the outdoors with concerts in the park, hosted by Explore Lake Guntersville, featuring country music artist Jackson Chase. Food and drinks will be available from local food trucks and fans can check out the latest gear and offerings from MLF and MLF sponsors including Toyota, Favorite Fishing, Kubota, U.S. Air Force, and The Fallen Outdoors. Fans can hang out and watch the pros live on the MLF NOW! big screen during the MLF Watch Party, and the final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand at the trophy celebration to meet and greet fans, sign autographs, and take selfies.

The Toro Stage Four at Lake Guntersville Presented by Bass Cat Boats will feature pros competing using the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, with each angler’s five (5) heaviest bass per day tallied as their day’s weight. Anglers strive to catch their heaviest five fish each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the live scoring SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. 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 2023 MLF 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, fishing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship, held March 13-17, 2024, on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Alabama.

The MLF NOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live 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 Four at Lake Guntersville Presented by Bass Cat Boats will air as two, two-hour episodes starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Oct. 7 and Saturday, Oct. 14 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on the Outdoor Channel.

Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, Ark Fishing, ATG + Wrangler, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bally Bet, Bass Cat Boats, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, Daiwa, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Ferguson, Fox Rent A Car, General Tire, Grundéns, Humminbird, Lowrance, Minn Kota, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Power-Pole, Rapala, Star tron, T-H Marine, TORO, Toyota, U.S. Air Force, Yellowstone Bourbon, Yo-Zuri and Zoom Baits.

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 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. 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.