Marty Stone gives his top five moments of the Bass Pro Tour season. Photo by Josh Gassmann

TULSA, Okla. – Eight stages of the Bass Pro Tour are behind us as we begin to look forward to REDCREST in late August. But as MLF NOW! analyst Marty Stone prepares for REDCREST, he took some time to reflect on some of his favorite moments from the first season of the Bass Pro Tour.

Elimination Line Drama

Gerald Swindle was near the Elimination Line in Stage One of the Bass Pro Tour. Photo by Phoenix Moore

Stone has been a part of Major League Fishing as an analyst since the first MLF event in 2011, and has seen first-hand just how drama-filled the Elimination Rounds can be during MLF Cup events. However, he had never seen 40 pros vying for 20 spots on one lake in an MLF event.

“I knew when we put 40 anglers on the water together that these guys are so good that no one would ever be able to really break away from the pack,” Stone explained. “I remember when we were in Kissimmee for Stage One, Gerald Swindle was near one of those Elimination Lines and made it from the Elimination Round to the Knockout Round. I watched Swindle on the live stream for 10 minutes, just dead silent. I’ve been around Gerald for 17 years – other than when he is sleeping, he’s never been silent when he’s been awake for 10 minutes. That shows you the pressure these rounds put on these anglers. It can make the most talkative people clam up and just try to focus on fishing.”

The Birth of the Thunder Cricket

Andy Montgomery caught this 9-6 largemouth on Lake Conroe during Stage Two.

MLF pro Andy Montgomery is one of the more well-known anglers on tour thanks to his consistent skills and glowing personality. Both of those traits shined through one February morning on Lake Conroe in southeast Texas during Stage Two.

“I remember the launch of the Thunder Cricket at Lake Conroe,” Stone recalled. “Andy Montgomery pulled in that 9-pound, 6-ounce largemouth as time was expiring in the period. The funny thing about it, other than the hooping and hollering, was that he tried to swing that fish in because he thought it was 6 pounds, but then he realized it was way bigger than that so he had to reach down and grab it.

“Strike King didn’t have a vibrating jig yet – Andy was fishing a prototype. It wasn’t marketed, but we picked up on the name ‘Thunder Cricket’. I check online the next day and a Strike King Thunder Cricket is back ordered for a month. It was really cool to see us increase sales like that thanks to our live stream.”

Morgan’s Magic Moment

Andy Morgan won Stage Four of the Bass Pro Tour on his home lake, Lake Chickamauga. Photo by Josh Gassmann

Andy Morgan had seven career wins heading into his first season of MLF competition and he ended it with eight. Morgan took home a win in Dayton, Tennessee on his home lake, Lake Chickamauga, in Stage Four. Stone knew that Morgan was more than capable of getting a win on the Bass Pro Tour, but it was how he did it that made it all the more impressive.

“All of our winners jump out to me but the winner that shines the most, for me, is Andy Morgan in Stage Four,” Stone said. “I’ve known for years how good Andy Morgan is and everyone at FLW knows how good he is. I truly believe, especially in this format, that it is so hard to win on your home body of water. Andy almost blew it on the first day because he finished below the Elimination Line. For him to be able to turn it around and win on his home body of water, it put an exclamation point on what a great angler he is.”

Tarheel State Surprise

Casey Ashley caught this 7-6 in North Carolina during Stage Three of the Bass Pro Tour.

One of the best weeks of the season was Stage Three outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. Jordan Lake, Falls Lake and Shearon Harris Reservoir were the three stages where the 80 anglers showed off just how good not only they were, but how good the fishing was. However, heading into Stage Three, not many pros knew what to expect from the three bodies of water. One person who was not so unsure: North Carolina native Marty Stone.

“North Carolina and Stage Three caught all of these guys off guard,” Stone explained. “All of the anglers were really unsure of what the state had to offer in terms of fishing, and I get that. We hit North Carolina at the exact perfect time of the year and we caught the dog out of them on those three lakes. The size and numbers of fish were so impressive, then to top it all off, Jacob Powroznik and Jacob Wheeler going toe-to-toe in the Championship Round like a couple of heavyweight boxers. To be able to catch the size of fish that we did and to do it on multiple lakes was just so impressive.”

Safety First for the First Time

Mark Daniels, Jr. surveys the weather during a lightning delay with his MLF official. Photo by Josh Gassmann

During the Championship Round of Stage Four we saw the first lightning delay of the season. We saw a couple of more stoppages for lightning over the final four events as well. Competing in any sport with lightning in the area has become taboo. The safety of the anglers and crew are paramount to MLF, and that’s something Stone is thankful to have now.

“Lightning delays were a big deal to me this season and I still get kind of emotional talking about them,” Stone revealed. “Professional anglers are like a big diesel motor and when you get them started up it’s tough to tell them to stop for a weather delay. Multiple times in my career I went and fished in questionable weather with lightning and high winds because we were never told to get off the water. When I got off the water at the end of my day, I would call my wife and she would never ask, ‘How did you do?’ it was always, ‘Are you okay?’ There is no other sport that plays in the extreme weather that we, as anglers, have been asked to play in all of our lives. The fact that our league and our anglers came together to ensure the safety of not only the anglers, but the officials and the cameramen, it was amazing to see.”

Stone has many memories from the first season of the Bass Pro Tour, and he will always treasure them. But now, it’s time to make new memories, and he’s ready to see what the future holds for the 30 anglers competing in REDCREST on August 21.