BROOKELAND, TEXAS (Jan. 10, 2022) – Boater Austin Casteel of Sulphur, Louisiana, caught five bass Saturday weighing 19 pounds, 3 ounces, to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine season opener on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Casteel earned $6,000 for his victory.
“The lake is fishing tough right now, and I knew the wind was going to be kicking, so I just tried to make the right decisions,” Casteel said. “It was tough.”
The win was Casteel’s first entry as a boater – his only previous Major League Fishing BFL event was as a Strike King co-angler. Casteel said he relied on a drop-shot rig tipped with a watermelon red Zoom Finesse Worm during the tournament to bag his limit.
“I caught my kicker fish on my fourth or fifth cast of the day,” Casteel said. “The only pressure I felt after that was that I didn’t want to catch just one big fish.”
Casteel said he boated 30 to 40 fish during the course of the day.
“The only time it kind of slowed up was when a storm blew through and it was tough to get bit,” Casteel said. “But as soon as that started calming down, they started biting again.”
Top 10 boaters:
1st: Austin Casteel, Sulphur, La., five bass, 19-3, $6,000
2nd: Lee Livesay, Longview, Texas, five bass, 18-15, $3,000
3rd: Cole Moore, Anacoco, La., five bass, 16-15, $2,000
4th: Chris Diberardino, Jasper, Texas, five bass, 16-9, $1,900 (includes $500 Phoenix Bonus)
5th: Easton Heigley, Brookeland, Texas, five bass, 16-7, $1,200
6th: Tater Reynolds, Florien, La., five bass, 15-13, $1,100
7th: William Hillebrandt, Ragley, La., five bass, 15-9, $1,000
8th: Rickey Elliott, Spring, Texas, five bass, 15-6, $1,850
8th: Randy Kvapil, Crandall, Texas, five bass, 15-6, $850
10th: Benji Gulett, Converse, La., five bass, 15-4, $700
Elliott caught 7-pound, 12-ounce largemouth that was the heaviest of the event in the Boater Division and earned the day’s Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $1,000.
J.J. Matzke of League City, Texas, won the Strike King Co-angler Division and $3,000 Saturday after catching five bass weighing 21 pounds, 4 ounces.
Top 10 Strike King co-anglers:
1st: J.J. Matzke, League City, Texas, five bass, 21-4, $3,000
2nd: Case Singleton, Orange, Texas, four bass, 17-6, $2,000
3rd: James Moore Jr., Lampasas, Texas, five bass, 15-9, $1,000
4th: Cameron Petras, Biloxi, Miss., five bass, 14-3, $700
5th: Cole Ashby, Orange, Texas, five bass, 14-0, $600
6th: Steve Barnett, Conroe, Texas, five bass, 13-7, $550
7th: Samuel Riche, Maurice, La., five bass, 13-2, $475
7th: Luke Allendorf, McKinney, Texas, five bass, 13-2, $475
9th: William Young, Livingston, Texas, four bass, 12-6, $400
10th: Jerry Morgan, New Caney, Texas, four bass, 12-3, $350
Singleton caught the largest bass in the Co-angler Division, a fish weighing in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces. The catch earned him the day’s Berkley Big Bass Co-angler award of $500.
The top 45 boaters and co-anglers in the region based on point standings, along with the five winners in each qualifying event, will be entered in the Oct. 20-22 Bass Fishing League Regional Championship on Grand Lake in Grove, Oklahoma. Boaters will compete 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 fish for a new Phoenix 819 Pro with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard.
The 2022 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine is a 24-division circuit devoted to weekend anglers, with 128 tournaments throughout the season, five qualifying events in each division. The top 45 boaters and Strike King co-anglers from each division, along with the five winners of the qualifying events, will advance to one of six Regional Championships 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 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American. The 2022 All-American will be held June 2-4 at Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and is hosted by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and Visit Hot Springs.