LEESBURG, Fla. – The Championship Round field is set after eight anglers advanced Tuesday out of the Knockout Round at the Favorite Fishing Stage Three Presented by Bass Cat Boats. In a field of 38 pros on the Harris Chain, only the top eight moved on to meet Bobby Lane and Brett Hite in the Championship Round—Brent Chapman, Ott DeFoe, Greg Vinson, Gerald Spohrer, Skeet Reese, Andy Montgomery, Michael Neal and Jeff Sprague.
Brent Chapman doesn’t necessarily gain anything over the rest of the field for winning the Knockout Round, but he does gain a large boost of confidence in his strategy. The Kansas pro will fish his second Championship Round of the 2021 season after catching 23 bass for 51 pounds, 12 ounces. Chapman finished his day 5-12 ahead of second-place Ott DeFoe thanks to an early morning shad-spawn bite that he couldn’t wait to get to.
“I noticed a lot of birds near the shore during my 30-minute ride around this morning, and that told me there was some sort of shad spawn happening,” Chapman recapped. “When you see that many birds along the shore, there’s probably that many bass right near them underneath the water.”
Chapman ended his first period with 13 bass for 26-10 thanks to those birds. However, he admitted his day became more difficult once the birds (and shad spawn) had dissipated. That’s why his game plan for tomorrow is to find as many birds as early as he can to take advantage of a productive morning bite and hopefully come away with his first Bass Pro Tour win.
“This has been a great event for me and I’ve really been able to fish my strengths,” Chapman said. “I’m feeling confident heading into the final round. I have my vibrating jig tied on and a big flipping stick with a 1-ounce jig. We’ll see what happens.”
No one on the Bass Pro Tour has more Championship Round appearances than Jacob Wheeler, Ott DeFoe, Michael Neal and Jeff Sprague. Three of those pros—DeFoe, Neal and Sprague—will fish their eighth Championship Rounds on Wednesday after advancing through the Knockout Round. While the days weren’t too stressful for Neal and DeFoe, Sprague had to put in a lot of work to narrowly secure his spot.
“I have no idea how I made it in because I had a horrible practice here and the Harris Chain has my number,” Sprague said after getting the news he was advancing. “The only time you can win is if you make the Championship Round and I’m there. I really don’t have any complaints.”
Sprague caught his fish on a new prototype Strike King Thunder Cricket that has yet to be released. In fact, it’s the only one in existence. So, Sprague has no plans of losing his new favorite bait. Sprague finished the day with 14 bass for 29-2, earning the final spot in the top eight over Paul Elias by just 2-6.
Elias was just a few pounds away from reaching his first Championship Round on the Bass Pro Tour. Instead, he’s heading home scratching his head wondering what could have been.
“I got a lot of bites today, I just couldn’t get them in the boat and that was the difference,” Elias said. “I left it in the Lord’s hands, and it just wasn’t meant to be today.”
The Favorite Fishing Stage Three Presented by Bass Cat Boats concludes with the Championship Round on Wednesday. The Top 10 anglers’ weights will reset to zero as only the pro with the most weight on SCORETRACKER® at the end of the day will take home the $100,000 prize. Coverage begins with the MLF NOW! live stream on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MLF app beginning at 6:45 a.m. ET. Lines go in at 7 a.m. ET.