Cherokee Lake set to host 41st annual Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American Presented by T-H Marine - Major League Fishing
Cherokee Lake set to host 41st annual Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American Presented by T-H Marine
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Cherokee Lake set to host 41st annual Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American Presented by T-H Marine

Jefferson City gears up for $120,000 grassroots bass-fishing championship, offering weekend anglers advancement opportunities to the 2024 Toyota Series Championship and REDCREST 2025
Image for Cherokee Lake set to host 41st annual Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American Presented by T-H Marine
May 16, 2024 • MLF • Press Releases

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Major League Fishing returns to Tennessee May 29-31, for the 41st annual Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) All-American Championship Presented by T-H Marine on Cherokee Lake. The three-day tournament, hosted by Visit Jefferson County TN, will showcase the nation’s best weekend grassroots anglers, and awards the winning boater a top prize of up to $120,000, and an automatic qualification into REDCREST 2025, MLF’s most prestigious event.

In addition to the automatic REDCREST 2025 qualification and the chance to win $300,000, the highest-finishing boaters and co-anglers from each of the seven regionals at the All-American advance to the 2024 Toyota Series Championship, where they will have a shot at winning up to $235,000, including the lucrative $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus, and $33,500, respectively. 

Jefferson County, Tennessee, played host to a very successful All-American Championship in 2021. That event, however, was held on Douglas Lake. Church Hill, Tennessee boater Brant Grimm, who called Douglas and Cherokee lakes his “home fisheries” added his name to the illustrious list of BFL All-American winners.   

“We are thrilled to once again be hosting the All-American Championship in Jefferson County, this time on Cherokee Lake,” said Lauren Hurdle, Director of Tourism for Visit Jefferson County TN. “The tournament could not be scheduled for a better time of year, as it is going to really showcase just how amazing this fishery is. Cherokee Lake has hosted numerous Major League Fishing events, including the Bass Pro Tour and countless Phoenix Bass Fishing League events. It will be so exciting to see what these top grassroot anglers are able to produce on these waters.”

The BFL All-American serves as a pathway for anglers who wish to advance to the Toyota Series, Tackle Warehouse Invitationals and ultimately the Bass Pro Tour. Former All-American champions who currently compete on the Bass Pro Tour and the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals include Shaw Grigsby (1984), Stephen Browning (1996), Jacob Wheeler (2011), Jeremy Lawyer (2016), Nick LeBrun (2018) and Connor Cunningham (2022). 

Local Toyota Series pro Jimmy Neece Jr. of Bristol, Tennessee, said he expects to see a lot of action on Cherokee Lake during this event. 

“I don’t think they could have picked a better time of year to hit Cherokee Lake,” Neece said. “The weather should be great, and the fish are in the perfect bite window, so this should be a pretty exciting, diverse event.

“I think we’ll see a lot of fish caught out deep and some up in the shallow cover. The upper end of the lake should play really well with the flipping and topwater bite.” 

Neece said he thinks it will take about 13 pounds per day to make it into the Top 10 on Championship Friday and 16 pounds per day to win the event. 

“I’ve fished Cherokee Lake my whole life and can remember a time when you never caught a smallmouth,” Neece said. “But the fishery has shifted through the years. Smallmouth have been dominant for the last few years, but largemouth are starting to make a comeback now and this event is really setting up to be won with a combination of species.”

Cherokee Lake, also known as Cherokee Reservoir, is an artificial reservoir formed by the impoundment of the Holston River behind Cherokee Dam. The dam was built by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1941 to create hydroelectric energy during World War II. 

“Cherokee Lake is a TVA lake, designed for power generation,” Neece said. “The TVA typically draws water out of the lake each fall, sometimes up to 30 to 50 feet, but with the spring rain, the lake starts rising and is usually at full pool by now. However, it’s currently still about 6-8 foot low. 

“We’ve had a lot of rain, so it should start getting better and be at full pool by the time the tournament starts next week, which will make for a better topwater bite,” Neece explained. “On the mid to lower end of the lake, I expect to see a lot of fish caught out deep – deep-cranking, swimbaits and things like that – but the topwater bite should be good down there as well.”

Neece said go-to-baits like the Heddon Zara Spook Walking Bait and a Carolina rig are usually key staples on the fishery. 

“I expect to see a combination of shallow and deep fishing during this event,” Neece said. “There will be a lot of (Garmin) LiveScoping going on, and I expect to see guys doing really good live scoping, but also think we’ll see other guys do well fishing up shallow or fishing the river. 

“In this event, river rats, ‘scopers and traditional fisherman can all do really well,” Neece said. “There’s a lot of backwater, creeks and shallow flats in Cherokee Lake. You can catch fish on bluff walls or in the backs of creeks, it all depends on who’s got the ability to get the furthest north up the river.”

Anglers will launch each day at 6:30 a.m. ET from the TVA Cherokee Dam Boat Launch, located at 2805 N. Highway 92 in Jefferson City. Weigh-in each day will be held at the boat launch and will begin at 2:30 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch and weigh-in events and encouraged to follow the event’s online coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The MLFNOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee and Rob Newell will break down the extended action live on Championship Friday from 6:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET. MLFNOW! will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

The full field of 49 boaters and 49 Strike King co-anglers will compete on Days 1 (Wednesday) and 2 (Thursday) of the event. After two days of competition, the field is cut to just the Top 10 boaters and co-anglers, based on two-day total cumulative weight, and the final 10 anglers compete on Championship Friday. The boater and co-angler that catch the heaviest three-day total weight will be crowned the 41st Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American Champions.

The 2023 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine was 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, advanced to one of six Regional Championships where they competed to finish in the top six, which then advanced them to compete in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American.

Television coverage of the 2024 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American will premiere November 16 on CBS Sports. The full television air schedule can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine include: 7Brew, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, BUBBA, E3, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, General Tire, GSM Outdoors, Lew’s, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, REDCON1, Strike King, Suzuki, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota, WIX Filters 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 FacebookInstagram and YouTube.