HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Boater Christopher Wilder of Macon, Georgia, brought a three-day total of 15 bass to the scale weighing 38 pounds even to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine Regional Event on Lake Norman in Huntersville, North Carolina. For his victory, Wilder earned $60,330, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro bass boat with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard and $10,000. Wilder also received automatic entry into the 2024 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American Championship, May 29-31, at Cherokee Lake in Jefferson County, Tennessee.
Wilder, who had never fished Lake Norman before, split his practice days between upper-, mid- and lower-lake areas. He found fish that were moving from deeper water to docks and planned his tournament around the docks at the mouths of pockets.
“Where I found the most consistent, quality bites for me ended up being down the lake,” Wilder said. “That’s the area I focused on during the tournament.”
Wilder said he was so dialed in on fish during practice that he had to quit fishing early because he was hooking doubles on his Alabama rig on multiple docks.
“I told my wife I was on fish and that I may zero when the tournament starts, but if I can catch them like I had been, I might have found $60,000 worth of fish,” Wilder said.
Wilder said his hot bite didn’t begin until about 11 a.m. each day when the sun got higher in the sky and fish held tighter to the corners of docks to ambush baitfish. He said anything he fished early in the morning did not produce for him.
“I had three pockets in one creek that I was consistently catching fish out of, and by the time I was done running those three pockets, I’d have a decent limit each day that weighed 10 pounds or so,” Wilder said. “Later in the week the fish started moving to docks further back in the pockets, and it ended up by the end of the week I was catching the fish in the very back of the pockets.
“After I ran those pockets and caught my limit, I would leave them alone and go fish new water,” Wilder said. “And every day on the new stuff I would find at least one key fish that would be a good cull for me. I think the biggest thing for me was finding the new water and not burning my fish up in those pockets.”
Wilder said his weekend was a whirlwind of emotions. After Saturday’s tournament win, he learned on Sunday that he would be welcoming his second daughter to his family in the coming months.
“It’s been a busy weekend,” Wilder said. “It feels like it’s just not real. This is the first BFL I’ve won, and it ended up being a real good one to win.”
The top six boaters that qualified for the 2024 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American were:
Rounding out the Top 10 boaters were:
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
The top four boaters from each division that earned a $1,000 bonus for placing highest in the event were:
Bulldog: Matthew O’Connell, Brooks, Ga., 2nd Place, $1,000
Mountain: Eldon Newcomb, Mount Vernon, Ky., 4th Place, $1,000
Shenandoah: Frank Poirier, North Prince George, Va., 10th Place, $1,000
South Carolina: Lucas Murphy, West Columbia, S.C., 3rd Place $1,000
O’Connell took home an extra $500 as the highest finishing Phoenix MLF Bonus member. Boaters are eligible to win up to an extra $7,000 per event in each Phoenix Bass Fishing League tournament if all requirements are met. More information on the Phoenix MLF Bonus contingency program can be found at PhoenixBassBoats.com.
Rodney Tapp of Inman, South Carolina, weighed in 14 bass over three days totaling 27 pounds, 13 ounces to win the top Strike King co-angler prize package of $50,000, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro bass boat with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard.
The top six Strike King co-anglers that qualified for the 2024 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American were:
Rounding out the Top 10 Strike King co-anglers were:
The top four Strike King Co-anglers from each division that earned a $500 bonus for placing highest in the event were:
Bulldog: Ross Turner, Kingston, Ga., 3rd Place, $500
Mountain: Keith Bridges, Spring City, Tenn., 28th Place, $500
Shenandoah: David Williams, Fredericksburg, Va., 2nd Place, $500
South Carolina: Ashley Klaus, Thomson, Ga., 4th Place $500
The Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine Regional Tournament on Lake Norman was hosted by Visit Lake Norman, Visit Charlotte, and Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation. It featured the top pros and Strike King co-anglers from the Bulldog, Mountain, Shenandoah and South Carolina divisions.
The 2023 Phoenix BFL Presented by T-H Marine is a 24-division circuit devoted to weekend anglers, with 128 events throughout the season, five qualifying tournaments in each division. The top 45 boaters and Strike King co-anglers from each division, along with the five qualifying event winners, advanced to one of six BFL Regional tournaments where they competed to finish in the top six, which then qualifies them for one of the longest-running championships in all of competitive bass fishing – the BFL All-American.
The top 45 boaters and Strike King co-anglers plus tournament winners from each Phoenix Bass Fishing League division will also earn priority entry into the Toyota Series, the pathway to the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals and ultimately the Bass Pro Tour.
Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, E3, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, General Tire, Grundéns, Gill, Lew’s, Lowrance, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Mystik Lubricants, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota, Wiley X 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 Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.