IUKA, Miss. – Boater Jake Lawrence of Paris, Tennessee, caught 10 bass weighing 51 pounds, 2 ounces, to win the two-day MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine on Pickwick Lake in Iuka, Mississippi, by more than 20 pounds over the second-place finisher. The tournament was the fifth and final regular-season event for the Phoenix Bass Fishing League Mississippi Division. Lawrence earned $5,690 for his victory.
Lawrence’s 20-pound, 11-ounce margin of victory was the second-largest winning margin in BFL history. Only Anthony Sharp’s 21-5 margin at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in 2020 was higher.
“It’s well known that Pickwick is fishing tough,” Lawrence said. “These fish are somewhere; they don’t just disappear. In my mind, when you have a big tournament with this caliber of anglers in it, and the weights are low, we’re just not fishing around them. So, I came into this with an open mind and tried not to fish like I generally do. And that’s what led me to the pattern I eventually ended up fishing. It was focused on where the bait was.”
Lawrence said he caught bass in depths from 5 feet to 28 feet in various locations, but one factor remained constant – the bass were found where baitfish were present.
“You just have to cover a lot of water in a situation like that,” Lawrence said. “It’s tough to put a finger on where you even start like that. I just put the trolling motor down and it just kind of led me to what it was. It wasn’t one specific area.”
Lawrence said he fished water from Bear Creek to the dam, but did not focus on a particular or recurring feature or pattern. His bait of choice was a 4-inch Jenko Fishing Booty Shaker Swimbait in no particular color.
“It seemed like I could catch every 3.20- to 3.80-pound fish in the lake, but when I finally came across a 5-pounder he would just follow my swimbait until he got to the trolling motor,” Lawrence said. “There was an acre or two out there where the bait was just kind of hanging out. And you could find those little zones, and they would be packed. There was no specific target; I was out there hunting and pecking.”
Lawrence posted a Toyota Series win at Kentucky-Barkley Lakes in April and has finished first in other local tournaments this year as well.
“It’s been a fun year,” Lawrence said. “I’m looking forward to the future.”
The Top 10 boaters finished the tournament in:
Larry Jenkins of Memphis, Tennessee, had a bass that weighed 5 pounds, 11 ounces that was the heaviest of the event in the Boater Division and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $742.
Brayden Gray of Pontotoc, Mississippi, won the Strike King Co-angler Division and $2,599 Sunday after catching a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 33 pounds, 3 ounces.
The Top 10 Strike King co-anglers were:
Richie Madison of Jasper, Alabama, caught the largest bass in the Strike King Co-angler Division, a fish weighing in at 5 pounds, 8 ounces. The catch earned him the Berkley Big Bass Co-angler award of $326.
With the regular season now complete, boater Taurian Parks of Clinton, Mississippi, won the 2023 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Mississippi Division Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with a five-event total of 1,273 points to earn the $1,000 boater AOY award. Hunter Averett of Carriere, Mississippi, won the 2023 Strike King Co-Angler Mississippi Division AOY race with 1,321 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. 5-7 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Regional Championship on Lake Eufaula in Eufaula, Oklahoma. 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 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 MLF Toyota Series, the pathway to the MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals and ultimately the MLF 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.