HENDERSON, N.C. – Boater Travis Donaldson of Cleveland, North Carolina, caught a five-bass limit weighing 19 pounds even Saturday to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) Presented by T-H Marine on Kerr Lake . The tournament, hosted by the Vance County Tourism Development Authority, was the third event of the season for the BFL North Carolina Division. Donaldson earned $3,671 for his victory.
“If you had told me I’d catch 19 pounds out there today I would have called you a liar,” said Donaldson. “I’m telling you, it was a grind out there. I can’t believe I caught that bag.”
Donaldson, a self-proclaimed “river rat,” said that a couple of weeks ago he fished the upriver section of Kerr, and while he caught a number of fish, he couldn’t amass a solid weight. He returned upriver to practice for the BFL event, and after similar results decided to change tactics.
“I said, ‘I’m not doing this again,’” Donaldson said. “So, I ran to the Nutbush Bridge area.”
Donaldson said he began using his Garmin Livescope to search for bass under docks and keyed in on docks that held baitfish. That pattern would be the key to his success on tournament day.
“They were up shallow, and I was throwing a jig, and I immediately started catching them,” Donaldson said. “My first fish was a 5-pounder, and the day just went on from there. I lost a couple of fish, and it started getting in my head, but I continued to run the pattern. Everything I pulled up on had a 3- or 4-pounder on it.
“At the end of the day I pulled up to a spot close to the boat ramp, threw the jig, and saw a green flash,” Donaldson continued. “I set the hook and it was another 4-pounder. It did everything in its power to come off. I landed the fish and my co-angler said, ‘You just won this thing.’”
The Top 10 boaters finished the tournament:
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
John Wiese of Charlotte, North Carolina, caught a bass that weighed 5 pounds, 11 ounces, and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $470.
Mark Hughes of Lexington, North Carolina, won the Strike King co-angler division and a total of $1,816 Saturday, after bringing five bass to the scale that totaled 12 pounds, 14 ounces.
The Top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished:
Justin Bach of Kannapolis, North Carolina, earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $232, catching a bass that weighed in at 4 pounds, 2 ounces – the largest co-angler catch of the day.
After three events, David Cooke of Mooresville, North Carolina, leads the BFL North Carolina Division Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 723 points, while Matthew Talbert of New London, North Carolina, leads the Strike King Co-Angler Division AOY race with 719 points.
The top 45 boaters and co-anglers in the region based on point standings, along with the five tournament winners of each qualifying event, will qualify for the Oct. 5-7 BFL Regional tournament on the Potomac River in Marbury, Maryland. Boaters will fish for a top award of $60,000, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard and $10,000, while co-anglers will compete for a top award of $50,000, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard.
The 2023 Phoenix BFL Presented by T-H Marine is a 24-division circuit devoted to weekend anglers, with 128 events throughout the season, five qualifying tournaments in each division. The top 45 boaters and Strike King co-anglers from each division, along with the five qualifying event winners, will advance to one of six BFL Regional tournaments where they are competing to finish in the top six, which then qualifies them for one of the longest-running championships in all of competitive bass fishing – the BFL All-American. The 2023 All-American event will take place May 31-June 2, on Lake Hartwell in Seneca, South Carolina. The event is hosted by Visit Oconee SC.
Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, E3, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, General Tire, Grundéns, Gill, Lew’s, Lowrance, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Mystik Lubricants, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota, Wiley X and YETI.
For complete details and updated tournament information, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular Bass Fishing League updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF5’s social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.