UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. – Just prior to the start of the 2023 Bass Pro Tour season, the winningest professional bass angler of all-time, Kalamazoo, Michigan’s Kevin VanDam, announced that he is retiring and that the 2023 season would be his last as a touring professional. The seven-event Bass Pro Tour season would be his farewell tour.
Tuesday, on Cayuga Lake, VanDam showed that he is not going away quietly.
VanDam caught 12 scorable smallmouth bass, with his best five weighing 28 pounds, 1 ounce to take the early lead in Qualifying Group A on Day 1 of the of the Bass Pro Tour Favorite Fishing Stage Five on Cayuga Lake Presented by ATG by Wrangler. Weights remain fairly tight throughout the remainder of the Top 20, as 20 pounds, 1 ounce is the current mark to break inside the Toro Cutline and advance to the Knockout Round.
Link to Hi-Res Photo of Qualifying Group A Leader Kevin VanDam
Link to HD Video – Fish-Catch Highlights of Group A Qualifying Round Day 1 on Cayuga Lake
Link to Photo Gallery of Group A’s Day 1 Qualifying Round Afternoon Highlights
Pro Cliff Pace of Petal, Mississippi, had his best day of the year catching a limit weighing 25-15 to end the day in second place, while reigning Bally Bet Angler of the Year (AOY) Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, ended the day in third with five bass weighing 25-10. General Tire pro Edwin Evers of Talala, Oklahoma, caught 25-3 to end the day in fourth, while B&W Trailer Hitches pro Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Arkansas, rounds out the top five with five bass weighing 24-11.
The 40 anglers in Group A will now have an off day from competition on Wednesday, while the 40 anglers competing in Group B will begin their first day of competition. Group A will resume competition on Thursday.
“Today was a really good day. I got to do what I really love to do – sight-fish for smallmouth,” VanDam said in his post-game interview. “I love to fish that way, it’s something that I’ve been doing my whole life. Just put a spinning rod in my hand, grab a Ned rig, a drop-shot rig, a big tube – all of those finesse baits. A lot of the time they’ll bite on one cast, but today I really had to work for it.”
“This lake is a tremendous fishery and they’re all really healthy fish – they weigh so big,” VanDam said. “The good thing is it should keep getting better as the week goes on – there should be a lot more fish coming in. There is a huge population of bass in this lake, and they spawn the whole month of June up here.
“We’re off to a really good start, and hopefully we can do the same thing again on Thursday and then we’ll go from there,” he said. “We’re in a great position right now and I feel really good about it, but it is a long week.”
The standings for the 40 pros in Group A after Day 1 on Cayuga Lake are:
1st: Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., five bass, 28-1
2nd: Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss., five bass, 25-15
3rd: Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., five bass, 25-10
4th: Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., five bass, 25-3
5th: Mark Davis, Mount Ida, Ark., five bass, 24-11
6th: Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., five bass, 24-6
7th: Luke Clausen, Spokane, Wash., five bass, 24-3
8th: Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 23-12
9th: Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., five bass, 23-3
10th: Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark., five bass, 22-15
11th: James Elam, Tulsa, Okla., five bass, 22-10
12th: Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., five bass, 22-3
13th: Bradley Roy, Lancaster, Ky., five bass, 22-2
14th: Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., five bass, 22-1
15th: Alton Jones Sr., Lorena, Texas, five bass, 21-15
16th: Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, five bass, 21-9
17th: Mark Daniels Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., five bass, 21-8
18th: Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., five bass, 21-4
19th: Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, five bass, 20-14
20th: Fred Roumbanis, Russellville, Ark., five bass, 20-1
21st: Jeremy Lawyer, Sarcoxie, Mo., five bass, 19-15
22nd: Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., five bass, 19-4
23rd: Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala., five bass, 19-1
24th: Jacob Wall, New Hope, Ala., five bass, 19-0
25th: Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn., five bass, 18-7
26th: Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., five bass, 18-3
27th: Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., five bass, 17-15
28th: Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., five bass, 16-12
29th: John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky., five bass, 16-9
30th: Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., five bass, 16-9
31st: Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif., five bass, 15-7
32nd: Shinichi Fukae, Osaka, Japan, five bass, 15-6
33rd: Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas, five bass, 15-4
34th: Josh Bertrand, Queen Creek, Ariz., five bass, 15-2
35th: Jeff Kriet, Ardmore, Okla., five bass, 15-1
36th: Gary Klein, Mingus, Texas, five bass, 14-11
37th: Tommy Biffle, Wagoner, Okla., five bass, 14-3
38th: Brett Hite, Phoenix, Ariz., four bass, 12-9
39th: John Murray, Spring City, Tenn., five bass, 12-8
40th: Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., two bass, 5-13
A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 444 scorable bass weighing 1,447 pounds, 2 ounces caught by the 40 pros Tuesday, which included 32 5-pounders and four 6-pounders.
Pros Dakota Ebare and Brandon Coulter tied for Tuesday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award, as each weighed in a largemouth totaling 6-pounds, 9-ounces, to claim a share of the daily 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 bass-fishing event showcases 80 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing for a purse of more than $805,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters All-Star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship.
The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day qualifying round on Tuesday and Thursday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Wednesday and Friday. After each two-day qualifying round is complete, the Top 20 anglers from each group advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 40 anglers compete to finish in the Top 10 to advance to the Championship Round. In Sunday’s final day Championship Round, weight carries over from the Knockout Round and the angler with the heaviest two-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.
Anglers will launch each day at 7:30 a.m. ET each day from Frontenac Park, located at 15 Creamery Road in Union Springs. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the park 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 MLFNOW! live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Also, as part of the event, on Saturday, June 10 and Sunday, June 11 the MLF Fan Experience will be taking place at Bass Pro Shops, located at 1579 Clark Street Road in Auburn, New York, from 1-6 p.m. MLF will welcome fans of all ages to celebrate fishing and the outdoors. Fans can hang out and watch the pros live on the MLFNOW! big screen during the MLF Watch Party. On Sunday at 5 p.m., the final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand for the trophy celebration and to meet and greet fans, sign autographs, and take selfies.
Favorite Fishing Stage Five at Cayuga Lake Presented by ATG by Wrangler features pros competing using the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, with each angler’s five heaviest bass per day tallied as their day’s weight. Anglers strive to catch their heaviest five fish each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the live scoring SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. Minimum weights are determined individually for each competition waters that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.
The 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour features a field of 80 of the top professional anglers in the world competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, fishing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship, held March 13-17, 2024, on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Alabama.
The MLFNOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on all six days of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET. MLFNOW! will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.
Television coverage of Favorite Fishing Stage Five at Cayuga Lake Presented by ATG by Wrangler will air as two, two-hour episodes starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Oct. 21 and Saturday, Oct. 28 on Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on Outdoor Channel.
Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, Ark Fishing, ATG + Wrangler, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bally Bet, Bass Cat Boats, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, Daiwa, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Ferguson, Fox Rent A Car, General Tire, Grundéns, Humminbird, Lowrance, Minn Kota, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Power-Pole, Rapala, Star tron, T-H Marine, TORO, Toyota, U.S. Air Force, Yellowstone Bourbon, Yo-Zuri and Zoom Baits.
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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.