Louisiana's "Cajun Baby" Crochet earns Qualifying Round win for Group B at Fox Rent A Car Stage Three on Lake Murray Presented by Mercury - Major League Fishing
Louisiana’s “Cajun Baby” Crochet earns Qualifying Round win for Group B at Fox Rent A Car Stage Three on Lake Murray Presented by Mercury
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Louisiana’s “Cajun Baby” Crochet earns Qualifying Round win for Group B at Fox Rent A Car Stage Three on Lake Murray Presented by Mercury

Louisiana pro catches two-day haul of 41-15 to pace Group B and advance, field of 40 set for Thursday’s Knockout Round
Image for Louisiana’s “Cajun Baby” Crochet earns Qualifying Round win for Group B at Fox Rent A Car Stage Three on Lake Murray Presented by Mercury
April 5, 2023 • MLF • Press Releases

COLUMBIA, S.C. – An incoming full moon on Thursday night, bright and sunny bluebird skies, and a very light wind made for extremely favorable sight-fishing conditions Wednesday to wrap up the Group B Qualifying Round at the MLF Bass Pro Tour Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury in Columbia, South Carolina. Pro Cliff Crochet of Pierre Part, Louisiana , had the best Qualifying Round – 10 bass weighing 41 pounds, 15 ounces, to win Group B and advance along with the top 20 finishers into Thursday’s Knockout Round.

Link to Hi-Res Photo of Qualifying Group B Winner Cliff Crochet
Link to HD Video – Fish-Catch Highlights of Group B Qualifying Round Day 2 on Lake Murray 

Link to Photo Gallery of Group B’s Day 2 Qualifying Round Afternoon Highlights

Googan Baits pro Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, who held the lead early in Period 1 before backing off his fish, caught a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 39-8 to end the Qualifying Round in second place. Day 1 leader, rookie Nick LeBrun of Bossier City, Louisiana, caught 10 bass weighing 39-2 to finish the round in third. Both held the lead for periods of time Wednesday, but both were eventually overtaken by Crochet.

The remaining 40 anglers – the top 20 from each group – now advance to Thursday’s Knockout Round, where weights are zeroed, and the anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to the Championship Round on Friday. Weights will carry over from the Knockout Round into the Championship Round, which will feature the final 10 anglers competing for the heaviest two-day cumulative total and the top prize of $100,000. 

“Man, it feels a lot better being inside the cut then it does being outside the cut, when time runs out,” Crochet said in his post-game interview. “It was a perfect day, today. I started out early and caught a couple of fish, and it went down pretty good. Just chunk after chunk, and I caught the weight that I needed to move onto the Knockout Round.”

Most of Crochet’s fish on Wednesday came on a River2Sea Whopper Plopper, but he also added a keeper to his limit using a NetBait BaitFuel Infused Toad.

“One of the coolest things that happened today was that I was catching them on equipment that I helped design for some of my sponsors,” Crochet said. “The KastKing (Speed Demon Elite) Deadbolt reel, which has the lockdown drag system – that’s been a big key to how I’m catching them this week. And the new (KastKing) Hammer Braid line we got – those two products are really playing a big part for me this week.

“I caught a few more at the end of the day, and I think that may play later this week so I feel like my pattern is trending up and life is good,” Crochet went on to say. “I’m very thankful for today. I’m ready to go home, eat supper, and go to sleep so we can get after it again tomorrow.”

The Top 20 pros from Group B that advance to Thursday’s Knockout Round on Lake Murray are:

  • 1st:          Cliff Crochet, Pierre Part, La., 10 bass, 41-15
  • 2nd:         Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 10 bass, 39-8
  • 3rd:         Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., 10 bass, 39-2
  • 4th:         Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., 10 bass, 38-5
  • 5th:         Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, 10 bass, 37-9
  • 6th:         Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, 10 bass, 37-5
  • 7th:         Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa., 10 bass, 36-3
  • 8th:         Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., 10 bass, 36-3
  • 9th:         Randy Howell, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 35-3
  • 10th:       Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 35-0
  • 11th:       Ryan Salzman, Huntsville, Ala., 10 bass, 34-7
  • 12th:       Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 10 bass, 34-4
  • 13th:       Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., 10 bass, 33-13
  • 14th:       Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif., 10 bass, 33-12
  • 15th:       Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., 10 bass, 33-12
  • 16th:       James Watson, Lampe, Mo, 10 bass, 33-6
  • 17th:       Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 10 bass, 33-3
  • 18th:       Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, 10 bass, 33-1
  • 19th:       Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla., 10 bass, 32-12
  • 20th:       Dean Rojas, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 10 bass, 32-5

Eliminated from competition are:

  • 21st:       Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 31-11
  • 22nd:      Josh Butler, Hayden, Ala., 10 bass, 31-2
  • 23rd:      Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn., 10 bass, 30-15
  • 24th:       Roy Hawk, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 10 bass, 30-15
  • 25th:       Luke Clausen, Spokane, Wash., 10 bass, 30-8
  • 26th:       Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 10 bass, 30-8
  • 27th:       Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala., nine bass, 29-9
  • 28th:       Jacob Wall, New Hope, Ala., 10 bass, 29-1
  • 29th:       Randall Tharp, Port Saint Joe, Fla., 10 bass, 27-15
  • 30th:       Fletcher Shryock, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 27-13
  • 31st:       Cody Meyer, Star, Idaho, 10 bass, 27-11
  • 32nd:      Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., nine bass, 26-10
  • 33rd:      Mark Davis, Mount Ida, Ark., nine bass, 26-7
  • 34th:       Greg Vinson, Wetumpka, Ala., 10 bass, 26-7
  • 35th:       Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., nine bass, 26-6
  • 36th:       Timmy Horton, Muscle Shoals, Ala., 10 bass, 26-3
  • 37th:       Kelly Jordon, Flint, Texas, seven bass, 25-9
  • 38th:       Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., 10 bass, 25-5
  • 39th:       Josh Bertrand, Queen Creek, Ariz., nine bass, 22-15
  • 40th:       Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss., 10 bass, 20-12

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

Overall, there were 342 scorable bass weighing 921 pounds, 13 ounces caught by the 40 pros Wednesday.

Wednesday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award was awarded to General Tire pro Skeet Reese of Auburn, California, who weighed in a 6-pound, 4-ounce largemouth which bit his big glide bait in Period 3. 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, hosted by Capital City/Lake Murray Country, 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 competed in their two-day qualifying round on Sunday and Tuesday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Monday and Wednesday. Now that each two-day qualifying round is complete, the top 20 anglers from each group advance to Thursday’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 Friday’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 Dreher Island State Park, located at 3677 State Park Road in Prosperity. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the launch locations, 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.

On Championship Friday, April 7, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF will welcome fans of all ages to visit Dreher Island State Park and celebrate the top 10 and crown the Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Champion at the Watch Party and Trophy Presentation. 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.

The Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury will feature pros competing using the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, with each angler’s five (5) 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 the Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury will air as two, two-hour episodes starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 7 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on the 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 FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.