Reese claims first Bass Pro Tour trophy with James River triumph - Major League Fishing

Reese claims first Bass Pro Tour trophy with James River triumph

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Skeet Reese celebrated his 55th birthday with his first Bass Pro Tour event win by catching 23 bass weighing 54-3 at Stage Six on the James River. Photo by Phoenix Moore. Angler: Skeet Reese.
June 30, 2024 • Mitchell Forde • Bass Pro Tour

RICHMOND, Va. — On his 55th birthday, Skeet Reese received the best present of his life. The Bass Fishing Hall of Famer added his first Bass Pro Tour trophy to his long list of accolades at General Tire Stage Six Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts on the James River, plus the $100,000 top prize that came with it.

Reese totaled 54 pounds, 3 ounces on 23 scorable bass during Sunday’s Championship Round. He would need just about all of it, as Jeff Sprague put together a furious late-day rally but ultimately fell 3-11 shy of Reese’s total. 

The California pro said the 12th victory of his legendary career will go down as one of his most memorable, as each passing season has made him increasingly hungry to join the list of BPT champions.

“This I what I’ve been fishing for the last five years out here, trying to be able to be in a position to hoist one of these Bass Pro Tour trophies,” Reese said. “To beat the group of guys that we compete against – I mean, literally, this is the best group of anglers assembled ever in the history of the sport. So, to beat these guys, that means a lot to me.”

Here’s how the Top 10 finished the Championship Round:

  1. Skeet Reese — 54-3 (23)
  2. Jeff Sprague — 50-8 (25)
  3. Nick LeBrun — 37-3 (16)
  4. Bryan Thrift — 35-9 (16)
  5. Michael Neal — 34-10 (16)
  6. Gerald Spohrer — 32-11 (14)
  7. Dylan Hays — 30-4 (14)
  8. Spencer Shuffield — 24-9 (12)
  9. Andy Montgomery — 18-2 (10)
  10. Jonathon VanDam — 14-6 (7)

Complete results

Reese runs from the crowd

Reese was off to a strong start on Sunday morning. Photo by Phoenix Moore

Between his highlighter yellow color scheme and effervescent personality, Reese has never been one to blend in. This week, standing out paid off.

Like just about everyone else in the field, Reese started each day of the Qualifying Round in the Chickahominy River, noting that the tides were perfect for the healthy bass population in the James tributary to feed each morning. Later in the day, he would run back up the James, chasing the low tide. A late flurry on the second day of qualifying near the mouth of the Appomattox River not only assured him a spot in the Knockout Round but showed him the potential of the area.

Assessing the changing tides and the cumulative fishing pressure on the Chickahominy, Reese decided to start both the Knockout and Championship Rounds around the mouth of the Appomattox. Fishing farther upriver than most of his peers gave him a lower tide during the morning – the one time of day bass seemed to feed regardless of tide. 

“The tides weren’t getting right, plus the fish were getting pressured,” Reese explained. “So, I was trying to fish for fish that were not getting hammered as much as what was going on down in the Chick.”

On Championship Sunday, Reese’s decision paid off to the tune of six scorable bass in the first 20 minutes. He wound up totaling nearly 30 pounds during Period 1, taking a lead he would never relinquish.

While just about everyone found the bite best around low tide, the fact that Reese was able to generate bites amid higher water proved key. Sprague caught just one bass during the first three hours of competition. Despite stacking up 31-7 in the final period, he couldn’t quite dig out of that hole.

“I wasn’t expecting to catch as many as I did this morning, and I put the hammer on ‘em and caught almost 30 pounds that first period,” Reese said. “I was like, ‘So, you’re saying I have a chance?’”

Reese’s bait selection also differed from the rest of the field. Fishing “the way I like to fish” –  that is, power fishing around shallow cover – Reese targeted docks and bridge pilings, primarily using a Lucky Craft BDS1 crankbait. He put on a close-quarters casting clinic with the Dive model from his newly released Reese Fishing line of rods, which he paired with a KastKing MG12 reel and 15-pound-test Berkley Trilene fluorocarbon.

“I fished a bladed jig a lot the first day, and I caught a decent amount of fish on it, but it just seemed like the Lucky Craft wound up getting bigger bites for me consistently,” Reese said. “Even if I was fishing water that other guys had fished, it’s something that they weren’t throwing. It was a different look and feel, and once I got dialed into it, I was like, alright, they’re eating this thing.” 

Showing that he’s still got it

In addition to scoring his first Bass Pro Tour event win this year, Reese is also being inducted to Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Photo by Phoenix Moore

After his morning flurry, Reese steadily added to his total throughout the day. He never went an hour of competition time without catching at least one scorable bass. A 2-2 and 1-10 caught within a few casts of one another with little more than an hour left proved to be the winning fish, although Reese had to sweat out the final few minutes as Sprague caught six bass for 12-5 in a 22-minute span, pulling within one big bite of the lead.

“I went from being, ‘I got this no problem’ to, ‘oh crap, what’s going to happen?’” the ever-colorful Reese said. “Thank goodness I built up a big lead early … It was meant to be. I’m going to hold that trophy, and that means a lot.”

As the time ticked away and Reese got closer and closer to the win, it became evident how bad he wanted it. He punctuated most of his fish catches with a shout or a growl. When his boat official confirmed that he’d finished the day atop SCORETRACKER®, he unleashed his loudest yell yet. 

The triumph added another highlight to an unforgettable year. In March, Reese learned that he’d been selected as one of five new members of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. He’ll be formally inducted in September.

“Getting inducted into the Hall of Fame, they kind of tell you you’re old, and so to be able to get inducted into the Hall of Fame and win again the same year, that’s as good as it gets,” Reese said. “So, there’s a little exclamation point on it.” 

The victory will also go a long way toward extending Reese’s Hall of Fame career beyond this year. With the Bass Pro Tour set to trim its roster to 65 anglers in 2025, Reese entered the season on the wrong side of the cut line. Two tough tournaments to start the year put him in a dire situation, 78th out of 80 anglers in points. 

However, Reese turned it around with a Top 10 at Lake Eufaula, then added a 21st-place finish at the Chowan River and capped the charge with this week’s victory. He now sits 25th in the season-long standings – virtually guaranteed to keep his spot on the BPT roster and well positioned to qualify for REDCREST 2025 on Lake Guntersville, where he’s won twice.

Perhaps most important, he proved to himself that, as his career continues, he still has what it takes to hang with the top anglers on tour.

“I wanted to make sure, for myself, personally, that I was able to compete against the best group of anglers in the world and still win,” Reese said. “It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve got lots of trophies, but I’ve been seeing how many guys have been winning the Bass Pro Tour trophies, and I said, ‘I want one of those.’”

Fishing Clash Angler of the Year

Sunday’s action didn’t have much bearing on the battle for the Fishing Clash Angler of the Year crown, with the top four anglers in the points all missing out on the Championship Round. Thus, the situation remains the same: Jacob Wheeler will head to the season finale at the St. Lawrence River with a 19-point lead over Alton Jones Jr. Because Wheeler has won twice this year, even if Jones wins Stage Seven, Wheeler would prevail in a tiebreaker, which means as long as he makes the Knockout Round, he will claim his third AOY title in the past four years. 

While a slip-up seems unlikely, should Wheeler falter, Jones, Dustin Connell and even rookie Drew Gill could be in the mix to win. Connell sits 16 points behind Jones, with Gill 8 points back of him. 

Fishing Clash, an interactive 3D fishing simulation game played by over 80 million people worldwide, is the official AOY sponsor of the Bass Pro Tour, Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, Toyota Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League. You can download Fishing Clash for free in the App Store and on Google Play or log on to for more information.