UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. – It continues to be a catch fest on Cayuga Lake for the Fox Rent A Car Stage Six Presented by Googan Baits. Wednesday’s Knockout Round was owned by Dustin Connell and seven other pros that will be moving onto the Championship Round to join Michael Neal and Justin Lucas.
Make it four out of six Championship Round appearances clinched for Connell in the 2022 season. The Alabama pro took the top spot in the Knockout Round after catching 22 bass for 82 pounds, 2 ounces —all of them smallmouth; which may prove to be the difference for Connell if he’s able to come away with a win on Cayuga. In a tournament that’s been dominated by largemouth for the most part, it’s the smallmouth that have carried Connell to a one-in-10 shot at $100,000
“It was a beautiful day in New York and the smallmouth were bitin’,” Connell said with a grin after winning the Knockout Round over his buddy Wheeler. “I set the hook on a few today that I didn’t really want to, but I’m glad that I did so I could just know what’s going on for tomorrow.”
Connell caught most of his smallmouth drop-shotting a Googan Baits Drag N Drop. He brought in nine smallmouth over 4 pounds on Wednesday but no fish over 5 pounds. However, Connell seems to be playing a game of quantity this time around, and it continues to work out for him. Bad news for the other nine competitors left in the field — the Googan Baits pro feels like he still has plenty of smallmouth left to catch tomorrow.
“There are so many fish in this lake, and I feel like I have some located for Thursday,” Connell said. “I scanned over multiple groups of about 10 to 12 fish that I left alone so I could come back to them tomorrow. It’s going to be anybody’s game tomorrow.”
While Connell is onto his fourth Championship Round, Wheeler has now made it a perfect six-for-six this year. Wheeler caught 23 bass for 73-3 on Wednesday to move onto his 21st Championship Round out of 31 events fished on the Bass Pro Tour.
Wheeler is going to leave Stage Six with a bigger lead in the Bally Bet Angler of the Year race than he started with thanks to second-place Jordan Lee missing out on the Championship Round with a 29th-place finish. Because of the way the points will shake out, MLF NOW! analyst Marty Stone mentioned that all Wheeler needs to do to clinch his second-straight AOY is make the Knockout Round during Stage Seven on Mille Lacs Lake, no matter what Lee or the rest of the field does.
That’s obviously great news to Wheeler, but his focus remains to get his best finish possible at Stage Six before even thinking about what he has to do at Stage Seven on Sept. 10-15.
“I’m thankful to make another Top 10 and gain another handful of points on Jordan,” Wheeler said. “That’s been my goal this week, is to get some distance in the AOY race. I’ve played it a little more safe this week than I normally would, but it’s worked out.”
Alton Jones can take a much-deserved deep breath after qualifying for the Championship Round in fifth place with 23 bass for 68-5. He may have ended his third period with some cushion over the Toro Cut Line, but he sure didn’t begin the last hour of the third period with any.
The Texas pro was the last man inside the top eight with time winding down in the day. A critical run began for Jones with 36 minutes left, when he brought in a 3-pound largemouth. He added three more bass in the final 20 minutes, their weights totaling 8-13. Those four crucial catches pushed Jones into fifth place and safely away from the Cut Line.
This will be Jones’ fourth Championship Round of the season. His best finish is second place at Stage One.
The Fox Rent A Car Stage Six Presented by Googan Baits concludes on Thursday with the Championship Round. The 10 remaining anglers will once again have their weights reset to zero. The angler with the most weight on SCORETRACKER® after three periods of fishing on Cayuga Lake will be named the Stage Six Champion and earn $100,000. Fans can watch all the action on MLF NOW! beginning at 7:45 a.m. ET.