Mark Rose was the first angler to hit the 14-pound Target Weight in Sudden Death Round 1. Photo by Joe Branch

MUSKOGEE, Okla. – We knew the bite was going to be tough on Fort Gibson Lake for Sudden Death Round 1 of the Sqwincher Patriot Cup Presented by Venmo, we just didn’t know how tough. Early morning rain and some murky water made for a difficult day for much of the field, but four pros are moving on to the Championship Round with a shot at an MLF Cup trophy.

Rose Rises Above the Rest

From the moment the officials said, “Lines in,” it was Mark Rose’s day.

The Arkansas angler was first to hit the 14-pound Target Weight in Period 2, finishing with nine bass for 14 pounds, 8 ounces. Rose the first to the Target Weight thanks to 10-14 of bass in the first period, quickly building a more than 4-pound lead after the first frame.

“It was nice to get off to a good start this morning,” Rose said. “Not only is it good for you to get your confidence up, but it also begins to rush everyone behind you. You want to try to make everyone fish fast. It’s nice to win a Sudden Death Round against a group like this, it lets you know that you still have some gas left in the tank as an angler.”

Rose had great success finding drop-offs near the falling water and flipping to them. The Strike King pro said that he had a flipping stick in his hand for most of the day because that’s what he felt like he had to do.

“Stay true to what your gut tells you,” Rose said following his win. “My gut told me to flip today because that was the best thing I had going for me during the Elimination Round. I trusted my gut, even though I felt like a wounded rabbit with coyotes behind me. We’re moving on and thank to good Lord for that.”

Christie, Evers, Ehrler Championship Bound

Two Oklahoma anglers and one California pro round out the rest of the Top 4. Jason Christie lives right down the road from Fort Gibson Lake, giving him valuable local knowledge. He used that knowledge to hit the 14-pound mark shortly after Rose with eight bass for 14-4.

It wasn’t so easy for Christie’s Sooner State cohort Edwin Evers, however. The 2019 Bass Pro Tour Points Champion had only 12-1 after two periods of fishing and sat in fifth place. Jacob Wheeler and Brent Ehrler were both one scorable bass away from cracking 14 pounds.

Evers didn’t waste much time in the final period, hooking into a 1-8 and a 2-0, pushing his total weight to 15-9. But that still left one spot up for grabs between Ehrler and Wheeler.

After Evers caught his final bass, both Ehrler and Wheeler decided it was time to make a move to a new spot to catch their final fish. Ehrler found a rocky point where he had earlier caught a 2-pounder. The California pro cast a 1.5 squarebill crankbait out at a jetty, finally getting a 1-1 to bite after multiple casts. That scorable bass sent Ehrler on to the Championship Round while the defending General Tire World Champion missed out.

Wheeler, Jeff Sprague, Luke Clausen, Greg Vinson and Ott DeFoe have been eliminated from contention.

What’s Next?

The Sqwincher Patriot Cup Presented by Venmo resumes on Saturday, May 2 at 2 p.m. ET with Sudden Death Round 2 on Outdoor Channel. Nine more anglers will compete to be one of the first four to hit the Target Weight. The four moving on will meet Rose, Christie, Evers and Ehrler in the Championship Round.

Each new episode of MLF Cup events will be available on MyOutdoorTV two days after premiering on Outdoor Channel.