LAVONIA, Ga. – Boater Matt O’Connell of Brooks, Georgia, caught 10 bass weighing 31 pounds, 5 ounces, to win the two-day Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine on Lake Hartwell Presented by Harrison Oil Company in Lavonia, Georgia. The tournament, hosted by the City of Lavonia, was the fifth and final regular-season event for the Phoenix Bass Fishing League South Carolina Division Presented by Mystik Lubricants. O’Connell earned $14,448 for his victory, including the lucrative $7,000 Phoenix MLF contingency bonus.
“I got to Hartwell on Thursday and started looking around to see how things were setting up,” said O’Connell, who finished second in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League 2023 All-American Championship at Lake Hartwell in June. “I found some big schools set up in places, and that led me down the path I would continue on for the rest of the weekend. I just picked up all the different blueback (herring) style baits and ran all over the lake fishing the big schools and brush piles and dialing it in as the weekend continued.”
O’Connell said he caught more keepers than short fish during the two-day event but never felt confident his weight would be enough for a win.
“I thought after Day 1 if I could duplicate that weight, I might have a shot at a win,” O’Connell said. “My goal was to get the same weight, basically. But at Hartwell, anybody can catch 20 pounds, and a bunch of guys had 11, 12, and 13 pounds after the first day, so I was super worried.
“This win definitely feels good,” O’Connell said. “I’ve fished close to a hundred BFLs and hadn’t won one, and it definitely feels a little different than when you finish second or third.”
The Top 10 boaters finished the tournament in:
1st: Matt O’Connell, Brooks, Ga., 10 bass, 31-5, $14,448 (includes $7,000 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus)
2nd: Joe Anders, Easley, S.C., 10 bass, 28-14, $2,824
3rd: Emil Wagner, Marietta, Ga., 10 bass, 27-2, $1,882
4th: Robert Clarke III, Pineville, S.C., 10 bass, 26-11, $1,318
5th: Bradford Beavers, Summerville, S.C., 10 bass, 25-4, $1,130
6th: Scott Hamrick, Denver, N.C., 10 bass, 24-8, $1,035
7th: Troy Morrow, Eastanollee, Ga., 10 bass, 24-7, $1,691
8th: Chris Dover, Blacksburg, S.C., 10 bass, 23-4, $847
9th: Brad Benfield, Demorest, Ga., 10 bass, 23-1, $753
10th: Jeremy Bouldin, Kings Mountain, N.C., 10 bass, 23-0, $659
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Troy Morrow of Eastanollee, Georgia, had a bass that weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces that was the heaviest of the event in the Boater Division and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $750.
Wesley Mullins of Guyton, Georgia, won the Strike King co-angler division and $3,199 Sunday after catching a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 20 pounds, 15 ounces.
The top 10 Strike King co-anglers were:
1st: Wesley Mullins, Guyton, Ga., 10 bass, 20-15, $3,199
2nd: Bobby Henderson, Charlotte, N.C., 10 bass, 17-9, $1,812
3rd: Thomas Pennell III, Boiling Springs, S.C., 10 bass, 17-7, $940
4th: Kevin Henderson, Honea Path, S.C., 10 bass, 15-5, $659
5th: Ashley Klaus, Thomson, Ga., nine bass, 15-4, $565
6th: Dylan Locklear, Elgin, S.C., seven bass, 14-13, $518
7th: Jacob Yaden, Evans, Ga., 10 bass, 14-13, $621
8th: Mark Garrett, Walhalla, S.C., 10 bass, 14-1, $424
9th: Rob Nicholson, Union Mills, N.C., nine bass, 13-13, $377
10th: Lonnie Drusch, Sumter, S.C., nine bass, 13-9, $329
Mullins also caught the largest bass in the Strike King co-angler division, a fish weighing in at 5 pounds, 14 ounces. The catch earned him the Berkley Big Bass Co-angler award of $375.
With the regular season now complete, boater Troy Morrow of Eastanollee, Georgia, won the 2023 Phoenix Bass Fishing League South Carolina Division Presented by Mystik Lubricants Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with a five-event total of 1,275 points to earn the $1,000 boater AOY award. Wesley Mullins of Guyton, Georgia, won the 2023 Strike King Co-Angler South Carolina Division Presented by Mystik Lubricants AOY race with 1,310 points and earned the $500 Strike King Co-angler of the Year award.
Now, the top 45 boaters and co-anglers in the division based on point standings, along with the five winners of each qualifying event, will advance to compete in the Oct. 19-21 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Regional Championship on Lake Norman in Huntersville, North Carolina. 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 Phoenix 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 Phoenix BFL All-American.
The top 45 boaters and Strike King co-anglers plus tournament winners from each Phoenix Bass Fishing League division will also earn priority entry into the Toyota Series, the pathway to the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals and ultimately the Bass Pro Tour.
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.