Kentucky’s Wilson and Illinois’ Feldermann tied at the top after Day 1 of Phoenix All-American Presented by T-H Marine at Cherokee Lake - Major League Fishing
Kentucky’s Wilson and Illinois’ Feldermann tied at the top after Day 1 of Phoenix All-American Presented by T-H Marine at Cherokee Lake
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Kentucky’s Wilson and Illinois’ Feldermann tied at the top after Day 1 of Phoenix All-American Presented by T-H Marine at Cherokee Lake

Great Lakes and Mountain Division anglers catch 12-pound, 15-ounce limit to tie for first and take early lead in the race for up to $120,000
Image for Kentucky’s Wilson and Illinois’ Feldermann tied at the top after Day 1 of Phoenix All-American Presented by T-H Marine at Cherokee Lake
May 29, 2024 • MLF • Press Releases

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The early going of the 41st annual Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) All-American Championship Presented by T-H Marine on Cherokee Lake has not been easy for the anglers. Rising water has the fish in a tricky mood, and most of the 49 boaters and Strike King co-anglers have struggled to figure them out. 

On the boater side, more than half the field failed to weigh a limit on Day 1, and nobody cracked 13 pounds. Still, the cream always rises, and Brian Wilson of Nancy, Kentucky, and Mike Feldermann of Galena, Illinois, both boated 12 pounds, 15 ounces to tie for the lead. They are narrowly ahead of Tyler Ivie of West Haven, UtahPaul Marks Jr of Cumming, Georgia, and Lucas Murphy of West Columbia, South Carolina, each of whom caught bags in the 12-pound range. 

Link to Photo of Day 1 Boater Leaders Brian Wilson and Mike Feldermann

The three-day tournament, hosted by Visit Jefferson County TN, showcases 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 – and the winning Strike King co-angler a top prize of $50,000.

If there’s a common thread among the early leaders, it’s that experience is paying off. Though Feldermann had never been to Cherokee Lake before pre-practice, the Mississippi River legend has pretty much seen it all during 171 tournaments and 12 wins (the most recent coming in April) across FLW and MLF competition. So, as usual, Feldermann went out, fished hard and came back with five. 

“It seems like every tournament is a little different,” he said. “Some tournaments, when you do really good in practice, you seem to get a little more nervous throughout the day. But, when you know it’s a grind, you just settle in and let the chips fall. The other thing is, I’ve been fishing tournaments since 1989 — you could call it seasoned.” 

Today, the seasoned angler got away from the tech wizards pestering the smallies mid-lake. 

“I went up the river, and I had one rod on the deck, and I just flipped the whole day,” he said. “I fished about a 10-mile section. I was catching them off isolated bushes in practice, and I waypointed them and ran them today and threw at a few new spots.”

Flipping for fish that have nearly infinite cover options, Feldermann didn’t get many bites, but he covered enough water and made enough presentations to fill out his limit.

“I snapped the big one off today and just caught five keepers,” he said. “Pretty basic — just running and gunning, hitting pockets and points and different bushes.”

Competing in his 199th tournament with MLF, Wilson’s old Kentucky home is less than 100 miles from Cherokee. Though he doesn’t fish the lake a lot, he’s got plenty of experience on similar highland impoundments and knows his way around the conditions the field is facing this week. 

“I keep expecting some of the fish to show up in the bushes, and I did catch almost a 4-pounder flipping, but for some reason, they’re not jumping up there,” he said. “It may take ‘em a little while to get there. But, usually when the water comes up really fast, I try to concentrate on steeper banks.” 

Steep banks and being in the right zone put Wilson in the mix early. 

“I didn’t have a very good practice, but I got a couple bites in an area of the lake,” Wilson said. “Normally, when I have a practice like that, I just hunker down and work it real good. It worked for me today and enabled me to go chasing the smallmouth.”

Running a combo pattern, Wilson started the day looking for a limit before striking out in search of the smallmouth Cherokee is best known for. 

“The largemouth, I’m concentrating on steeper banks, and I’ve got a little deal to try to get them to trigger, because they’re not wanting to bite very much,” he explained. “I went smallmouthin’ late in the day after the wind got up, throwing a swimbait.” 

Despite his experience with similar conditions, Wilson did not expect the fishing to be as tough as it was. 

“It surprised me; I thought 15 to 17 pounds would be leading,” he added. “I don’t think someone can catch that all three days, but I really expected to see a bag like that, especially late in the day when I saw the bigger smallmouth were biting. It’s surprising to be tied for the lead, but I’ll take it.” 

While Feldermann is no stranger to the winner’s circle, Wilson has earned over $97,000 in his career with MLF at just about every non-pro level imaginable but never actually hoisted a trophy. This would be a good week for the first one. 

“This is my third All-American, and I’ve never won an FLW or MLF tournament,” he said. “I’ve had some seconds, and some top fives, but I’ve never got the W. It would be nice for my first one to be this, but we’ll see.” 

The Top 20 boaters after Day 1 of the All-American on Cherokee Lake are:

1st:         Brian Wilson, Nancy, Ky., five bass, 12-15
1st:         Mike Feldermann, Galena, Ill., five bass, 12-15
3rd:        Tyler Ivie, West Haven, Utah, five bass, 12-13
4th:        Paul Marks Jr., Cumming, Ga., five bass, 12-11
5th:        Lucas Murphy, West Columbia, S.C., five bass, 12-9
6th:        Dillon Falardeau, Hixson, Tenn., five bass, 11-5
7th:        Jordan Hartman, Benton, Ky., five bass, 10-14
8th:        Brett Carnright, Plattsburgh, N.Y., five bass, 10-13
9th:        Jason Barnes, Concord, N.C., four bass, 10-10
10th:      Matt O’Connell, Brooks, Ga., five bass, 10-5
11th:      Andy Newcomb, Camdenton, Mo., five bass, 10-0
12th:      Eldon Newcomb, Mt. Vernon, Ky., five bass, 9-14
13th:      Bradley Enfinger, Donalsonville, Ga., five bass, 9-13
14th:      Christopher Wilder, Macon, Ga., five bass, 9-12
15th:      Jacob Woods, Loudon, Tenn., four bass, 9-10
16th:      Jackie Flack, Cullman, Ala., four bass, 9-9
17th:      Buddy Benson, Dahlonega, Ga., five bass, 9-7
18th:      Eli Brumnett, Wagoner, Okla., five bass, 9-6
19th:      Jake Lee, Powell, Tenn., four bass, 9-3
19th:      Donavan Carson, Bluff City, Tenn., five bass, 9-3

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

Overall, there were 164 bass weighing 355 pounds, 4 ounces caught by 45 boaters Wednesday. The catch included 16 five-bass limits.

Pop Catalin of Cookeville, Tennessee, leads the Strike King Co-angler Division at Cherokee Lake after Day 1 with a five-bass limit weighing 12 pounds, 1 ounce — a massive bag considering the grueling circumstances. Catalin will begin Day 2 of competition on Thursday with a 1-pound, 4-ounce advantage over second-place co-angler Caleb Welch of Boliver, Missouri, who weighed in five bass totaling 10 pounds, 13 ounces on the opening day. 

The Top 20 Strike King co-anglers after Day 1 of the All-American on Cherokee Lake are:

1st:         Pop Catalin, Cookeville, Tenn., five bass, 12-1
2nd:       Caleb Welch, Bolivar, Mo., five bass, 10-13
3rd:        Terry Laverack, Martin, S.D., five bass, 9-12
4th:        Matthew Strickland, Portsmouth, Ohio, five bass, 9-8
5th:        Tyler Nekolny, Coral Springs, Fla., four bass, 7-13
6th:        Jody Jones, Harvey, Ark., three bass, 7-8
7th:        Justin McGaha, Knoxville, Tenn., three bass, 7-7
8th:        Justin Parchman, Oologah, Okla., three bass, 7-4
8th:        Stephen Vick, Dandridge, Tenn., four bass, 7-4
10th:      Brian Carroll, Glencoe, Ala., four bass, 7-2
11th:      Dennis Blakely, Norwalk, Ohio, three bass, 6-10
12th:      Zion Dunaway, Campbellsburg, Ind., two bass, 6-5
13th:      Marcus Mann, Benton, Ky., three bass, 6-2
14th:      Colby Elliott, Blairsville, Ga., three bass, 6-1
15th:      Jerry Vitiello, Wayne, N.J., two bass, 5-13
16th:      Larry Elliott, Enoree, S.C., three bass, 5-12
17th:      Philip James, Benton, Ark., two bass, 4-13
18th:      Cody Stokes, Ooltewah, Tenn., two bass, 4-4
19th:      Ashley Klaus, Thomson, Ga., two bass, 4-1
20th:      Kris McCarter, Pheba, Miss., one bass, 4-0

Overall, there were 80 bass weighing 172 pounds, 11 ounces caught by 34 Strike King co-anglers on Wednesday. The catch included 4 five-bass limits.

Anglers will launch Thursday and Friday at 6:30 a.m. ET from the TVA Cherokee Dam Boat Launch, located at 2805 N. Highway 92 in Jefferson City. Weigh-in will be held each day 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 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 Nov. 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.