Jacob Wheeler leads Top 10 to Championship Round at PowerStop Brakes Stage Three at Dale Hollow Lake Presented by Mercury  - Major League Fishing
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Jacob Wheeler leads Top 10 to Championship Round at PowerStop Brakes Stage Three at Dale Hollow Lake Presented by Mercury 

Tennessee pro catches 25 bass weighing 79-13 to lead Knockout Round, final 10 anglers set for Championship Sunday in final-day shootout for top prize of $100,000
Image for Jacob Wheeler leads Top 10 to Championship Round at PowerStop Brakes Stage Three at Dale Hollow Lake Presented by Mercury 
April 13, 2024 • MLF • Press Releases

BYRDSTOWN, Tenn. – Each of the 10 anglers who qualified for the Championship Round on Dale Hollow Lake will start Sunday morning with zero pounds, but it sure feels like two have separated from the rest of the pack in the chase for the trophy at the Bass Pro Tour PowerStop Brakes Stage Three Presented by Mercury.

On a day during which many of the 20 anglers on the water struggled to generate consistent bites, two-time Angler of the Year (AOY) winner Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, and rookie Drew Gill of Mount Carmel, Illinois, seemingly stacked weight on SCORETRACKER® at will. While it took 31 pounds, 2 ounces on the day to earn a spot in the Top 10 and a berth to the Championship Round, both Wheeler and Gill surpassed that mark within the first 90 minutes. Each eclipsed 50 pounds in Period 1 before easing off the throttle, saving as many fish as possible for what’s looking like a final-day prize fight.

Wheeler ultimately finished atop the leaderboard with 25 scorable bass for 79-13. That put him 3-7 ahead of Gill, with a sizable gap to Alton Jones Jr. of Waco, Texas, in third place at 54-7. 

Still, with several of the best anglers in the game at using forward-facing sonar to find and catch schools of bass (Jones Jr., Dustin Connell,Michael NealSpencer Shuffield) among the Top 10, the only sure thing entering Championship Sunday is that whoever prevails will have to earn it.

Link to Hi-Res Photo of Knockout Round Winner Jacob Wheeler
Link to HD Video – Fish-Catch Highlights of Knockout Round on Dale Hollow Lake
Link to Photo Gallery of Knockout Round Highlights on Dale Hollow Lake

The final 10 anglers are now set, and competition resumes Sunday morning with the Championship Round. In the Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

When Wheeler won his seventh Bass Pro Tour trophy at Stage Two on Santee Cooper, he quipped that he had to keep pace with Connell, his travel roommate and close friend who had won the prior event on Toledo Bend. So, after Connell prevailed again at last month’s REDCREST championship, there was some semi-serious speculation that Wheeler would have no choice but to win at Dale Hollow.

Suddenly, the possibility appears very real. While Wheeler is more focused on trying to add to his record BPT victory tally and consolidate his lead in the Fishing Clash Angler of the Year competition, he’d be happy to continue the trend.

“It would be cool, obviously,” he said. “(Connell) won the first one, I won the second one, he won the third one. It’d be nice to win this one, for sure. Right now, the house is undefeated.”

Usually an ironclad lock to make the Championship Round (he’s now up to an astounding 31 Top 10s in 45 career BPT events), Wheeler admitted that it took him a bit longer than he expected to figure out the bass on Dale Hollow this week, especially considering that he visits the lake regularly. He started competition fishing around the bank, but by Saturday morning, he’d realized that the offshore, forward-facing sonar pattern that has dominated tournament fishing all year would once again be the way to win.

“I really anticipated this tournament to be a shallow-water tournament,” he said. “It’s April, the trees are blooming. Now, this lake right here is well known for forward-facing sonar, and half my fish have come that way this week; the other half didn’t, I wasn’t looking at my screen. But I fully believe that it’ll be won doing that.”

That’s fine by Wheeler, who’s proven himself as effective as anyone with the technology. He started Saturday morning on an offshore school of largemouth. Using a jighead minnow, he put together a furious flurry that saw him boat 17 scorable bass totaling 53-13 in less than two hours.

“I thought it was going to take 50 pounds to probably make it, and I was able to catch that pretty quickly this morning,” Wheeler said. “And so, I was able to practice the rest of the day and look around and ultimately come up with a pretty solid game plan.”

Despite the fact that smallmouth accounted for the majority of the scorable bass caught by the field Saturday for the first time, 22 of Wheeler’s 25 fish were largemouth. That was by design.

“I was targeting largemouth for the most part,” Wheeler said. “I’ve spent a lot of time here in the wintertime, and I know the typical zones those bass live in.”

As good as Wheeler’s opening period was, he’s not committed to revisiting that spot to start Sunday’s action. In typical Wheeler fashion, once he amassed enough weight that he didn’t have to worry about the cut line, he spent the final five or so hours scouting new water. He found a few new areas that piqued his interest, and as the first boat to launch, he’ll have his pick of real estate on the 28,000-acre reservoir.

“I was able to eliminate a lot of stuff,” Wheeler said of his afternoon. “Now, I still have some stuff that I need to go look at. I found some stuff late; I realized what was transpiring late. So, I’m going to have to practice tomorrow as well.”

While he might practice in the sense that he’ll continue searching for the winning fish, there will be no easing off his efforts to catch them during the Championship Round. Wheeler believes it will take at least 100 pounds to claim the trophy, maybe more.

“I think 100 pounds will probably win,” Wheeler said. “I mean, it could take even as much as 120 or more. Heck, I don’t know. Obviously, a lot of guys put some pressure on their fish, but a lot of guys are sandbagging, too.”

The Top 10 pros from Saturday’s Knockout Round that now advance to Sunday’s Championship Round on Dale Hollow Lake are:

1st:          Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 25 bass, 79-13
2nd:        Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., 25 bass, 76-6
3rd:        Alton Jones Jr., Waco, Texas, 17 bass, 54-7
4th:         Marshall Robinson, Landrum, S.C., 17 bass, 49-6
5th:         Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., 18 bass, 49-0
6th:         Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 16 bass, 43-15
7th:         Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 14 bass, 43-0
8th:         Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., 14 bass, 39-3
9th:         Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., 11 bass, 31-9
10th:       Alton Jones, Lorena, Texas, 11 bass, 31-2

Finishing in 11th through 20th place are: 

11th:      Shin Fukae, Osaka, Japan, seven bass, 26-5
12th:      Britt Myers, Lake Wylie, S.C., eight bass, 26-2
13th:      Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., nine bass, 23-6
14th:      David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., eight bass, 23-3
15th:      Grae Buck, Green Lane, Penn., six bass, 19-15
16th:      Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., seven bass, 17-11
17th:      Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., six bass, 15-14
18th:      Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, five bass, 12-5 
19th:      Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., four bass, 12-1
20th:      Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., four bass, 9-6

A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Overall, there were 232 scorable bass weighing 684 pounds, 1 ounce caught by the 20 pros Saturday, which included two 5-pounders, 14 4-pounders and 91 3-pounders.

General Tire pro Britt Myers of Lake Wylie, South Carolina, caught a 5-pound, 3-ounce smallmouth on a jig in the first period to claim Saturday’s Berkley Big Bass Award. 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 six-day tournament, hosted by the Byrdstown-Pickett County Chamber of Commerce & Bill Dance Signature Lakes, showcases 79 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing for a purse of $659,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST 2025, the Bass Pro Tour championship.

The 40 Anglers in Group A competed in their two-day Qualifying Round on Tuesday and Thursday – the 39 anglers in Group B on Wednesday and Friday. After the two-day Qualifying Rounds were complete, the anglers that finished first through 10th from both groups advanced to Saturday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights were zeroed, and the remaining 20 anglers competed to finish in the top 10 to advance to Sunday’s Championship Round. Tomorrow, in the final-day Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

The final 10 anglers competing in Sunday’s Championship Round will launch at 7:30 a.m. CT from Sunset Marina and Resort, located at 2040 Sunset Dock Road in Monroe. The General Tire Takeout will be held at the marina, 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 SCORETRACKER® leaderboard and event coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The MLFNOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on Championship Sunday from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT. MLFNOW! will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

On Sunday, April 14, from 1-6 p.m. MLF welcomes fans of all ages to visit Sunset Marina and Resort for the MLF Watch Party, Kids Fishing Derby and Trophy Celebration. Fans can watch the pros live on the MLFNOW! big screen, enjoy free food, enter to win hourly giveaways and cheer on their favorite pros. The first 50 kids 14 and under will receive a free rod and reel from Pure Fishing. Additional fishing gear will be provided onsite for the fishing derby or kids can bring their own. 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.

Television coverage of PowerStop Brakes Stage Three at Dale Hollow Lake Presented by Mercury Knockout Round will air as a two-hour episode starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Oct. 5 on Discovery, with the Championship Round premiering on Oct. 6. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on Outdoor Channel.

PowerStop Brakes Stage Three at Dale Hollow Lake Presented by Mercury features the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, in which anglers catch as much weight as they can each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. The tournament features anglers competing with a 2-pound minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. The MLF Fisheries Management Division determines minimum weights for each body of water that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery. 

The Bass Pro Tour features a field of 79 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2025 championship. 

Wheeler will have a chance to not only hoist his second trophy of the young season but further build his lead in the Fishing Clash Angler of the Year race, where the winner of the season-long competition will take home an additional $100,000 check. Wheeler, who won AOY in 2021 and 2022 before finishing second last year, entered Stage Three with a lead of seven points over Jesse Wiggins. Wiggins narrowly missed out on the Championship Round, finishing 13th, while reigning Angler of the Year Matt Becker failed to qualify for the Knockout Round after arriving at Dale Hollow in third place.

Fishing Clash, an interactive 3D fishing simulation game that’s played by more than 80 million people worldwide, is the official AOY sponsor of the Bass Pro Tour, Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, Toyota Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League. You can download Fishing Clash for free in the App Store and on Google Play, or log on to www.fishingclash.game for more information.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, BUBBA, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, Garmin, General Tire, Humminbird, Lowrance, Mercury, MillerTech, Minn Kota, Mossy Oak Fishing, NITRO, Onyx, Plano, Power-Pole, Rapala, StarBrite, Suzuki, Toyota and U.S. Air Force.

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 FacebookXInstagram and YouTube.