South Carolina's Ashley wins Phoenix Bass Fishing League event at Lake Hartwell Presented by Harrison Oil Company - Major League Fishing
South Carolina’s Ashley wins Phoenix Bass Fishing League event at Lake Hartwell Presented by Harrison Oil Company
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South Carolina’s Ashley wins Phoenix Bass Fishing League event at Lake Hartwell Presented by Harrison Oil Company

Hephzibah’s Young tops Strike King Co-Angler Division
Image for South Carolina’s Ashley wins Phoenix Bass Fishing League event at Lake Hartwell Presented by Harrison Oil Company
April 3, 2023 • MLF • Phoenix Bass Fishing League

LAVONIA, Ga. – Boater Darren Ashley of Calhoun Falls, South Carolina, caught a five-bass limit weighing 25 pounds, 13 ounces, Saturday to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) Presented by T-H Marine on Lake Hartwell Presented by Harrison Oil Company. The tournament, hosted by the City of Lavonia, was the third event of the season for the BFL South Carolina Presented by Mystik Lubricants Division. Ashley earned $5,500 for his victory.

Ashley’s day started off with smaller fish, but he adjusted his approach, and the location changes he made helped build up what would turn out to be a final weigh-in bag that ran away with the tournament.

“I started off with a 2½-pounder and a couple of other little ones, then told my co-angler I wanted to hit a spot I knew of before the sun got up too high on it,” said Ashley, who now has three career BFL wins and 20 top-10 finishes. “So, I hit it and caught a 5-pounder there.”

Two stops later Ashley said he caught another bass that went for 4½ pounds. He relocated to yet another spot, and added a 6-pounder on the second cast there. Ashley said at that point his two smallest fish weighed 2.70 pounds each.

“It was getting to be a little after lunch, and I told my co-angler I wanted to head to the opposite side of the lake,” Ashley said. “I don’t usually fish over there much, but I knew if I got bit, it would be a 4-pounder.”

Ashley said he ran to the new spot, fished for 10 minutes, and caught a 4-pounder that put him at an estimated weight of 24 pounds. Ashley said all of his bass fell for a white-trash-colored Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper.

“I caught tons of fish,” Ashley said. “I jumped around and caught tons of spotted bass. I tried hard to cull that last fish, and I must have caught 15 more fish, but I couldn’t cull that last one.

“I caught about 40 fish, but I should have done something different to get rid of that last 2.70 fish,” Ashley added. “I could have had 27 or 28 pounds.”

The Top 10 boaters finished the tournament:

  • 1st: Darren Ashley, Calhoun Falls, S.C., five bass, 25-13, $5,550
  • 2nd: Greg Rikard, Leesville, S.C., five bass, 17-14, $3,885 (includes $500 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus)
  • 3rd: Bradford Beavers, Summerville, S.C., five bass, 17-4, $1,609
  • 4th: Dan Geurtsen, Asheville, N.C., five bass, 17-1, $1,127
  • 5th: Aaron Digh, Denver, N.C., five bass, 16-10, $966
  • 6th: Christopher Chavis, Guyton, Ga., five bass, 16-8, $845
  • 6th: Conrad Manuel, Pilot Mountain, N.C., five bass, 16-8, $845
  • 8th: Michael Richardson, Elgin, S.C., five bass, 16-6, $724
  • 9th: Lucas Murphy, West Columbia, S.C., five bass, 16-5, $644
  • 10th: Troy Morrow, Eastanollee, Ga., five bass, 16-2, $563

Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Ashley also caught a bass that weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce to earn the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $720.

Bobby Young of Hephzibah, Georgia, won the Strike King co-angler division and a total of $2,381 Saturday, after bringing five bass to the scale that totaled 14 pounds, 1 ounce.

The Top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished:

  • 1st: Bobby Young, Hephzibah, Ga., five bass, 14-1, $2,381
  • 2nd: Rob Uzzle, Hampton, Va., five bass, 14-0, $1,191
  • 3rd: Arthur Harris, York, S.C., five bass, 12-13, $791
  • 4th: Brandon Hendrix, Anderson, S.C., five bass, 12-12, $556
  • 5th: Benjie Winkler, Cleveland, Ga., five bass, 12-9, $476
  • 6th: Adam Seagle, Lincolnton, N.C., five bass, 11-5, $417
  • 6th: Wesley Mullins, Guyton, Ga., five bass, 11-5, $417
  • 8th: Darvin Cannon, Columbia, S.C., five bass, 11-2, $337
  • 8th: Todd Huntley, Inman, S.C., five bass, 11-2, $337
  • 10th: Brian Ruppe, Irmo, S.C., five bass, 11-1, $264
  • 10th: Harold Addison II, Columbia, S.C., five bass, 11-1, $814

Rob Nicholson of Union Mills, North Carolina, earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $355, catching a bass that weighed in at 4 pounds, 14 ounces – the largest co-angler catch of the day.

After three events, Greg Rikard of Leesville, South Carolina, leads the BFL South Carolina Presented by Mystik Lubricants Division Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 690 points, while Stephen Sprouse of Pauline, South Carolina, leads the Strike King Co-Angler Division AOY race with 712 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. 19-21 BFL Regional tournament 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 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: 4WP, 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.