Auburn University angler Hayden Marbut wins $100K at Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at Lake Guntersville - Major League Fishing
Auburn University angler Hayden Marbut wins $100K at Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at Lake Guntersville
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Auburn University angler Hayden Marbut wins $100K at Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at Lake Guntersville

Image for Auburn University angler Hayden Marbut wins $100K at Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at Lake Guntersville
February 16, 2024 • MLF • Press Releases

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. – Less than a week removed from 21-year-old phenom Drew Gill’s Tackle Warehouse Invitationals win at Sam Rayburn, 20-year-old Auburn University standout Hayden Marbut bested Gill (11th) Friday at Lake Guntersville in the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Central Division opener in impressive fashion, weighing in just a tick over 70 pounds of bass – the only angler in the field to crack the 70-pound mark over three days.

Like Gill at Rayburn, Marbut leaned on his aptitude with forward-facing sonar – not to mention his vast experience on Guntersville – to best an enormous field of 260 anglers. He did so with unmatched consistency, weighing in 22-10, 25-1 and 22-6, respectively, edging out Day 2 leader Matt O’Connell (69-15) by just 2 ounces.

For Marbut, the first major solo win of his bass fishing career adds to a stacked résumé for a bass fishing phenom not even old enough to have a celebratory beer.

“I’m a junior this year and I’ll be a senior next year, but I plan on staying a fifth year,” he said. “I’ve fished so much the last couple years that there’s no chance of me graduating on time.

“I’ve been super fortunate. I won a high school national championship and was able to win two college national championships last year, and that’s kind of what drove me to compete at this level.”

One of the young anglers many turn to when discussing the future of the sport, Marbut’s affinity for catching big bass using forward-facing sonar is no surprise. At Guntersville, he caught all the fish he weighed in ‘Scoping, though it wasn’t as easy as just eyeballing some fish and casting to them.

After finishing fourth in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) event at Guntersville the previous weekend, Marbut spent the following few days practicing, trying to adjust to changing weather and water conditions. In the days that followed that BFL, current started ripping on Guntersville, blowing out formerly productive areas and completely changing the way fish were setting up.

“We had a lot of changing conditions this week,” he said. “Everything changed, and I had to adjust a lot. I had to find completely new fish. Everything I was fishing last week was blown out. The current really affected it.”

Because Marbut is from Birmingham and attends Auburn University, he’s spent what he estimates to be thousands of hours on Guntersville (“I’ve idled this entire lake just about and I can tell you just about where anything is out here”). As such, he was able to pivot to new, similarly productive plans that involved finding some cleaner water outside the ripping current of the main river.

“I had two main little places in an area that had a lot of bait, and I focused in on one of them today (Friday),” he said. “They were both just out of the current and there was a little bit cleaner water. I think that was something that was really special about them.

“There was clearer water, and I could get my bait down to them. They could see it from a little bit further. Trying to lead these fish with forward-facing sonar in this current and adjust with the wind and everything like that is hard to do. That cleaner water helped me get extra bites when I was looking at them.”

In those areas, bass were more prone to suspend (as opposed to sticking tight to the bottom around current breaks as the main-lake bass were often doing throughout the event), making them a little easier to target.

For the task, Marbut relied on a 3/8-ounce Picasso ball head tipped with a fluke-style bait, tied to 15-pound-test P-Line braid with a 12-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon leader. That was spooled on 3000-size Shimano Sustain reels and a pair of different rods: A 6-foot-10 G. Loomis NRX+ and a 7-foot Hammer rod.

As for his Garmin LiveScope settings, Marbut kept it pretty simple and stuck with the range settings he’s used to: 90 feet out and 40 feet deep.

“That’s what I’ve gotten the most comfortable with,” he said. “I’ve been using that range for a long time and I’m able to hit them efficiently; I can really tell how big they are that way. You have to play with it a lot to understand and interpret everything that you’re reading on the LiveScope, but I’ve been able to look at the screen so much and get comfortable with that range that I’ve been able to target some of the bigger ones.”

That was certainly the case over three days at Guntersville. Marbut’s spots, both “way down the lake,” produced multiple 5- and 6-pound fish over the first two days and kicked out more than 20 pounds early in the day on Day 3. From there, it was just a matter of slowly culling up throughout the day for enough weight to eke out the win over O’Connell in second.

For the win, Marbut was awarded a $100,000 check (which included a $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus) and the pride of winning a major solo tournament so early in his fishing career. He’ll tell you, though, it wasn’t about the money.

“The money’s cool and all, but I’ve never fished for the money,” he said. “I just love bass fishing. This is what I do every single day, and it’s what I’m going to try to do every day for the rest of my life.”

The Top 10 pros on Lake Guntersville finished:

1st:        Hayden Marbut, Birmingham, Ala., 15 bass, 70-1, $100,000
2nd:       Matt O’Connell, Brooks, Ga, 15 bass, 69-15, $28,300
3rd:       Mickey Beck, Lebanon, Tenn., 15 bass, 66-9, $18,000
4th:        Travis Alcock, Burlington, Wis., 15 bass, 65-15, $16,500
5th:        Jordan Wiggins, Cullman, Ala., 15 bass, 64-10, $15,000
6th:        Austin Swindle, Parrish, Ala., 15 bass, 64-4, $11,500
7th:        Dillon Falardeau, Hixson, Tenn., 15 bass, 63-1, $10,000
8th:        Clint Knight, Lewisburg, Ky., 15 bass, 62-11, $8,500
9th:        Logan Dyar, Cleveland, Ala., 13 bass, 62-2, $7,500
10th:     Michael Black, Toledo, Ill., 15 bass, 61-13, $5,500

Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Pro Travis Alcock of Burlington, Wisconsin, earned the Day 1 $500 Berkley Big Bass Award on Wednesday with a largemouth weighing in at 8 pounds even, while Thursday’s Day 2 $500 Berkley Big Bass Award went to pro Matt O’Connell of Brooks, Georgia, who weighed in a nice 8-pound, 6-ounce largemouth.

Eric White of Cullman, Alabama, won the Strike King Co-angler Division Friday with a three-day total of 13 bass weighing 53 pounds, 1 ounce. Gonzalez took home the top co-angler prize package worth $38,500, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard motor and $5,000.

The Top 10 Strike King co-anglers on Lake Guntersville finished:

1st:        Eric White, Cullman, Ala., 15 bass, 53-14, Phoenix 518 Pro boat w/115-hp Mercury outboard + $5,000
2nd:       Mark Schlarb, Atwater, Ohio, 15 bass, 51-15, $8,000
3rd:       Ike Gillentine, Walling, Tenn., 15 bass, 51-4, $6,500
4th:        Rich Frey, Guntersville, Ala., 15 bass, 50-4, $5,000
5th:        Chris Bensel, Abbeville, S.C., 15 bass, 48-13, $4,650
6th:        Robert Russell, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 15 bass, 47-12, $3,750
7th:        Lenny Bays, Dayton, Ky., 15 bass, 47-11, $3,250
8th:        Brendan Johnson, Creal Springs, Ill., 15 bass, 46-5, $2,500
9th:        Brady Lunsmann, Citrus Springs, Fla., 15 bass, 45-13, $1,800
10th:     Dakota Bishop, Brodhead, Ky., 15 bass, 45-4, $1,600

Troy Calloway of Sylacauga, Alabama, earned Wednesday’s $150 Berkley Big Bass co-angler award with an 8-pound, 3-ounce largemouth, while the Day 2 $150 co-angler award on Thursday went to Luke Kerstetter of Brookfield, Wisconsin, with a 7-pound, 1-ounce bass.

The Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at Lake Guntersville was hosted by the Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce. It was the first of three regular-season tournaments for the Toyota Series Central Division. The next event for the Toyota Series Central Division will be the Toyota Series at Smith Lake, April 4-6, in Cullman, Alabama. For a complete schedule of events, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The 2024 Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats consists of six divisions – Central, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and the Western Division Presented by Tackle Warehouse – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International and Wild Card divisions. Anglers who fish in any of the six divisions or the Wild Card division and finish in the top 25 will qualify for the no-entry-fee Toyota Series Championship for a shot at winning up to $235,000 and a qualification to REDCREST 2025. The winning Strike King co-angler at the championship earns a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard. The 2024 Toyota Series Championship will be held Nov. 7-9 on Wheeler Lake in Huntsville, Alabama, and is hosted by the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Madison County Commission, and the Huntsville Sports Commission.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Toyota Series include: 7Brew, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, BUBBA, E3, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, FX Custom Rods, General Tire, Lew’s, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Suzuki, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota and YETI.

For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular Toyota Series updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the MLF5 social media outlets at FacebookInstagram and YouTube.