ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. – The Knockout Round field is set, one more angler is straight onto the Championship Round, and the Angler of the Year race comes down to one more day. Group B’s second qualifying day at the CarParts.com Stage Seven Presented by Covercraft on Lake St. Clair provided plenty of storylines as the field was cut down once again.
Wesley Strader was never challenged for the top spot on SCORETRACKER® all day long as the Tennessee pro collected a two-day total of 64 bass for 166 pounds, 8 ounces of largemouth. While Group A’s winner Michael Neal targeted smallmouth for his win, Strader stuck with largemouth for all of his scorable bass.
Strader stayed shallow much like his strategy on his first day, which proved to be the winning formula. The Zoom Baits pro alternated between a Z-Man Evergreen Jack Hammer ChatterBait paired with a Zoom Z-Swim and a Zoom Zlinky on a Neko rig.
Strader and Neal have the day off on Tuesday while the remaining 38 Knockout Round anglers battle winds that are forecasted to be upwards of 20 mph.
Ott DeFoe entered Stage Seven with a 12-point lead over Jacob Wheeler in the AOY standings. That means that Wheeler will have to finish at least 13 spots ahead of DeFoe this week to guarantee his first AOY title. The path to the AOY trophy got a little more difficult for Wheeler on Monday after DeFoe clinched a spot in the Knockout Round after a 17th-place finish in Group B.
“Wheeler’s going to have to fish for it now,” DeFoe said with a smile after advancing to the Knockout Round. “I have no idea what I’m going to do tomorrow or how I’m going to catch them, but I’ll worry about that tomorrow. It’s going to be fun.”
Wheeler and DeFoe will compete against one another in the Knockout Round on Tuesday as well as fighting for a spot in the top eight to advance to the Championship Round. If DeFoe secures a spot in the Championship Round, it will be mathematically impossible for Wheeler to win AOY.
“I knew that I was going to have to have a stellar finish to win AOY, so I know what I need to do,” Wheeler said as he was tying tackle for the Knockout Round on his off day. “Ott’s a good buddy of mine and I’m happy to be in the race with him. It should be a lot of fun.”
If Wheeler can make the Championship Round while DeFoe falls below the Toro Cut Line, that’s when things get interesting. It should be a fight to the finish on Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and Lake Erie.
There will be 38 anglers fishing on Tuesday as Michael Neal and Wesley Strader await the top eight in the Championship Round. The 38 anglers’ weights will all reset to zero and the eight pros above the Toro Cut Line after three periods of fishing will advance to the Championship Round. Winds are expected in excess of 20 mph on Tuesday, much like the anglers saw on Saturday.
Watch MLF NOW! live stream coverage on MajorLeagueFishing.com, the MLF app or MyOutdoorTV from 8:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET every day of competition.