HUDDLESTON, Va. – Boater Luke Nichols of Union Hall, Virginia, caught five bass Saturday weighing 24 pounds, 6 ounces, to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine on Smith Mountain Lake. The tournament was the first event of the season for the Phoenix Bass Fishing League Piedmont Division. Nichols earned $4,266 for his victory.
“I had fished weeks prior to the tournament, and this one just started out differently,” Nichols said. “I would fish in the morning and pull my boat out at noon because I knew what I wanted to do. I got on a deal on a jig that’s typical for the beginning to middle of March, but not this late in the year. But it’s been unusually cold, and the jig bite helped account for two key bites in the morning.”
Nichols said he focused on prespawn staging areas and used a Garmin Panoptix LiveScope System to locate and execute casts on specific targets the bass were holding on. Nichols said he caught his bass on green pumpkin jigs he learned to make with mentor and Bass Fishing League veteran Chris Dillow of Waynesboro, Virginia, who has seven Major League Fishing wins to his credit. The homemade jig, along with a swimbait, produced 10 keepers during the course of the day.
“I got a couple of big bites in the morning on the jig, and later in the day I got a few big bites on some key areas on the swimbait, but the bites were kind of scattered,” Nichols said. “The 7-pound, 11-ounce big bass of the day came at 2 o’clock. It was probably one of the most epic bites I’ve ever had in my life. I’ll never forget it. It was very aggressive and visual. I watched it attack the bait. My co-angler and I took a five-minute break after that and we said, ‘That’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen.’
“When it’s your day, it’s your day,” Nichols said. “I just feel blessed. It was God-type stuff that took place out there.”
The Top 10 boaters finished the tournament in:
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Nichols had a 7-pound, 11-ounce largemouth that was the heaviest of the event in the Boater Division and earned the day’s Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $500.
Ricky Grant of Callands, Virginia, won the Strike King Co-angler Division and $2,080 Saturday after catching three bass weighing 11 pounds, 9 ounces.
The Top 10 Strike King co-anglers were:
Grant also caught the largest bass in the Co-angler Division, a fish weighing in at 5 pounds even. The catch earned him the day’s Berkley Big Bass Co-angler award of $240.
After one event, Nichols now leads the Phoenix Bass Fishing League Piedmont Division Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 250 points, while Grant leads the Strike King Co-Angler Division AOY race, also with 250 points.
The Top 45 boaters and co-anglers in the region based on point standings, along with the five winners in each qualifying event, will be entered in the Oct. 6-8 Bass Fishing League Regional Championship on Lake Murray in Prosperity, South Carolina. Boaters will compete for a top award of $60,000, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard and $10,000, while co-anglers will fish for a new Phoenix 819 Pro with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard.
The 2022 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine is 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, will advance to one of six Regional Championships where they are competing to finish in the top six, which then qualifies them for one of the longest-running championships in all of competitive bass fishing – the Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American. The 2022 All-American will be held June 2-4 at Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and is hosted by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and Visit Hot Springs.
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 MLF Toyota Series, the pathway to the MLF Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit and ultimately the MLF Bass Pro Tour.
Proud sponsors of the 2022 MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine include: 4WP, 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, AFTCO, A.R.E. Truck Caps, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, E3, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Gary Yamamoto Baits, General Tire, Lew’s, Lowrance, Lucas Oil, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Revital Outdoors, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota, Wiley X, YETI and Yo-Zuri.
For complete details and updated tournament information, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular Phoenix Bass Fishing League updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF5’s social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.