COLUMBIA, S.C. – Bass Pro Tour 2023 newcomer Nick LeBrun of Bossier City, Louisiana, caught 13 scorable largemouth bass Monday, with his best five weighing 25 pounds, 10 ounces to take the early lead for the 40 anglers competing in Group B at the Bass Pro Tour Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury. LeBrun will bring a 2-pound, 9-ounce advantage into Day 2 of competition Wednesday over second-place angler Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, who weighed his best five today totaling 23-1.
The six-day bass-fishing tournament, hosted by Capital City/Lake Murray Country, showcases 80 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing for a purse of more than $805,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters All-Star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship.
Link to Hi-Res Photo of Qualifying Group B Leader Nick LeBrun
Link to HD Video – Fish-Catch Highlights of Group B Qualifying Round Day 1 on Lake Murray
Link to Photo Gallery of Group B’s Day 1 Qualifying Round Afternoon Highlights
The 40 anglers in Group B will now have an off day on Tuesday, while the 40 anglers competing in Group A will complete their two-day Qualifying Round of competition. Group B will conclude their Qualifying Round on Wednesday.
“What a day,” said LeBrun, a former Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American Champion. “To catch 25 pounds out on Lake Murray on Day 1 for Group B – I couldn’t be more excited. The Lord just blessed me today, above and beyond what I thought I could do. I’m excited to get back out there.”
LeBrun spent the majority of his day targeting largemouth feeding on blueback herring on points and humps.
“It’s not a secret, but you have to find the right areas that are holding the quality largemouth, and not the stripers,” LeBrun said. “The striped bass are everywhere. I probably caught 100 stripers today, but I caught the big bass, too.”
LeBrun said he rotated between a ½-ounce Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap and, “a couple of different swim-style baits.”
“Every fish that I weighed in today was caught on a Hayabusa TBL 930 (NRB Treble) hook,” LeBrun said. “That treble hook has the NRB coat on it, and I’ve won a couple of major events using it. It really helps you get a few more fish to the boat, especially when they’re not aggressive.
“I threw everything on a 7-foot, 3-inch medium-heavy TFO (Tackle Fork Outfitters) Resolve rod, with 16-pound (test) Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon, and it’s been a lot of fun. I look forward to getting back out on Wednesday for Day 2.”
The Top 20 anglers in Qualifying Group B after Day 1 on Lake Murray are:
1st: Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., five bass, 25-10
2nd: Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., five bass, 23-1
3rd: Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., five bass, 21-2
4th: Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., five bass, 19-11
5th: Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 19-9
6th: Ryan Salzman, Huntsville, Ala., five bass, 19-6
7th: Cliff Crochet, Pierre Part, La., five bass, 19-6
8th: Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, five bass, 19-2
9th: Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla., five bass, 18-15
10th: Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., five bass, 18-5
11th: Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., five bass, 17-15
12th: Josh Butler, Hayden, Ala., five bass, 17-11
13th: Randy Howell, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 17-10
14th: Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala., five bass, 17-3
15th: Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa., five bass, 17-2
16th: Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., five bass, 17-2
17th: Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, five bass, 17-0
18th: Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., five bass, 16-15
19th: Mark Davis, Mount Ida, Ark., five bass, 16-13
20th: Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., five bass, 16-12
A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 405 scorable bass weighing 630 pounds, 10 ounces caught by the 40 pros Monday, which included 10 5-pounders, four 6-pounders and one 7-pounder.
LeBrun earned Monday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award with a 7-pound, 1-ounce largemouth bass that bit his swimbait in Period 2. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and a $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.
The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day qualifying round on Sunday and Tuesday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Monday and Wednesday. After each two-day qualifying round is complete, the Top 20 anglers from each group advance to Thursday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 40 anglers compete to finish in the Top 10 to advance to the Championship Round. In Friday’s final day Championship Round, weight carries over from the Knockout Round and the angler with the heaviest two-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.
Anglers will launch each day at 7:30 a.m. ET each day from Dreher Island State Park, located at 3677 State Park Road in Prosperity. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the launch locations, beginning at 4 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch and takeout events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLFNOW! live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
In conjunction with the tournament, on Tuesday, April 4 from 9-10 a.m. at Lake Greenwood State Park, located at 302 State Park Road in Ninety Six, South Carolina, Bass Pro Tour anglers, under the guidance of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and members of the Major League Fishing Fisheries Management Division (FMD) in Partnership with Berkley Labs will deploy MossBack Artificial Habitat into Lake Greenwood. The efforts come as part of the Minn Kota Habitat Restoration Program supported by Mercury Marine and MossBack to create habitat for the numerous fish that call Lake Greenwood home. Tuesday’s artificial habitat deployment is the second of three this year for the FMD Minn Kota Habitat Restoration Program at Bass Pro Tour stops across the country.
On Championship Friday, April 7, from 1-6 p.m. MLF will welcome fans of all ages to visit Dreher Island State Park and celebrate the Top 10 and crown the Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Champion at the Watch Party and Trophy Presentation. The final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand at the trophy celebration to meet and greet fans, sign autographs, and take selfies.
The Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury will feature pros competing using the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, with each angler’s five heaviest bass per day tallied as their day’s weight. Anglers strive to catch their heaviest five fish each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the live scoring SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. Minimum weights are determined individually for each competition waters that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.
The 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour features a field of 80 of the top professional anglers in the world competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, fishing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship, held March 13-17, 2024, on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Alabama.
The MLFNOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on all six days of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET. MLFNOW! will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.
Television coverage of the Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury will air as two, two-hour episodes starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 7 on Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on Outdoor Channel.
Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, Ark Fishing, ATG + Wrangler, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bally Bet, Bass Cat Boats, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, Daiwa, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Ferguson, Fox Rent A Car, General Tire, Grundéns, Humminbird, Lowrance, Minn Kota, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Power-Pole, Rapala, Star tron, T-H Marine, TORO, Toyota, U.S. Air Force, Yellowstone Bourbon, Yo-Zuri and Zoom Baits.
For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.