LEESBURG, Fla. – Boater Tyler Sheppard of Yulee, Florida, caught a five-bass limit weighing 28 pounds, 4 ounces, Sunday to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine at Harris Chain of Lakes by a mere 2 ounces. The tournament, hosted by Visit Lake County, Florida, was the third event of the season for the BFL Gator Division, and the second event of a back-to-back double-header of events held in Leesburg this past weekend. Sheppard earned $6,765 for his victory.
“We had back-to-back BFL events scheduled this weekend due to a rescheduled event,” said Sheppard, who is a veteran of MLF College Fishing, BFL and Toyota Series competitions, with 12 top-10 finishes and three wins to his credit. “We faced two very different weather conditions for each event. Sunday morning it was 48 degrees when we woke up, and typically in Florida, that’s not good for catching fish.”
Sheppard said he had located a good group of fish in the previous day’s tournament.
“I didn’t know how good until today,” Sheppard said. “It just kind of all snowballed into a great day on the water.”
Sheppard said he targeted offshore grass with hard bottom next to it, and dragged a big worm and bladed jig to coax bites – what he calls typical offshore patterns. He said he fished multiple lakes on the Harris Chain and caught 25 fish during the tournament.
“Where I did most of my damage today I had never caught a fish previously,” the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native said. “I’ve been in Florida for about four years now, but the Harris Chain is where I’ve spent most of my time here in Florida.
“This win means a lot to me,” Sheppard added. “Coming from Pittsburgh and having success in other areas is one thing; This is my first win in Florida with MLF. So, to be able to get to notch this first win in Florida and get that monkey off my back is pretty special.”
The Top 10 boaters finished the tournament:
1st: Tyler Sheppard, Yulee, Fla., five bass, 28-4, $6,765
2nd: Joey Bloom, Winter Springs, Fla., five bass, 28-2, $3,383 (includes $500 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus)
3rd: Aaron Yavorsky, Palm Harbor, Fla., five bass, 25-14, $1,922
4th: Bobby Bakewell, Orlando, Fla., five bass, 22-3, $1,345
5th: Lane Jacobs, Summerfield, Fla., five bass, 20-10, $1,153
6th: Rodney Marks, Apopka, Fla., five bass, 19-15, $1,057
7th: Bradley Enfinger, Donalsonville, Ga., five bass, 19-2, $961
8th: Bryan Honnerlaw, Moore Haven, Fla., five bass, 18-7, $1,337
8th: John Adkinson, Winter Haven, Fla., five bass, 18-7, $817
10th: Elijah Meyers, Fort Wayne, Ind., five bass, 18-4, $673
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Darrell Munday of Wesley Chapel, Florida, caught a largemouth that weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces, and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $940.
Jordan Elmore of Saint Petersburg, Florida, won the Strike King co-angler division and $2,883 Sunday, after bringing five bass to the scale that weighed 19 pounds, 9 ounces.
The Top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished:
1st: Jordan Elmore, Saint Petersburg, Fla., five bass, 19-9, $2,883
2nd: Bryan Cox, Sanford, Fla., five bass, 17-10, $1,441
3rd: Bryan Lefefbvre, Grand Island, Fla., five bass, 17-5, $960
4th: Brandon St. Pierre, Lehigh Acres, Fla., five bass, 16-9, $673
5th: Terry Hussey, Nickerson, Neb., five bass, 16-8, $577
6th: Preston Williams, Tallahassee, Fla., five bass, 16-6, $528
7th: Scott Corliss, Kissimmee, Fla., five bass, 15-9, $480
8th: Ronny Wiemer, Wesley Chapel, Fla., five bass, 15-6, $384
8th: Tyler Nekolny, Coral Springs, Fla., five bass, 15-6, $384
8th: Ben Baran, Mound, Minn., four bass, 15-6, $384
Patrick Bartolotta of Lake Mary, Florida, earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $470, catching a largemouth that weighed in at 7 pounds, 9 ounces – the largest co-angler catch of the day.
After three events, Bryan Honnerlaw of Moore Haven, Florida, leads the BFL Gator Division Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 714 points, while Tyler Nekolny of Coral Springs, Florida, leads the Strike King Co-Angler Division AOY race with 731 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. 12-14 BFL Regional tournament on Lake Eufaula in Eufaula, Alabama. 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 through 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, 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.