Matt Becker takes early lead for Group A at Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes - Major League Fishing
Matt Becker takes early lead for Group A at Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes
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Matt Becker takes early lead for Group A at Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes

Tennessee pro catches 12 bass weighing 45-8 to earn Day 1 lead for Group A – Group B begins competition Wednesday
Image for Matt Becker takes early lead for Group A at Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes
February 20, 2024 • MLF • Press Releases

CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. – The reigning Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) Matt Becker of Ten Mile, Tennessee, boated 12 scorable bass Tuesday, totaling 45 pounds, 8 ounces, to jump out to the early lead in the Group A Qualifying Round at the Suzuki Stage Two Presented by Fenwick at Santee Cooper Lakes in Clarendon County, South Carolina.

Link to Hi-Res Photo of Qualifying Group A Leader Matt Becker
Link to Photo Gallery of Group A’s Day 1 Qualifying Round Highlights

Just 4 pounds, 3 ounces behind Becker in second place on the SCORETRACKER® leaderboard is Hot Springs, Arkansas, pro Dylan Hayes, who caught 10 bass totaling 29-11. Alton Jones, Jr., of Waco, Texas, sits in third place, less than 6 pounds back of Becker with 10 bass weighing 39-10.

The 40 anglers in Group A will now have an off day from competition Wednesday, while the 40 anglers competing in Group B will begin their first day of competition. Group A will resume competition on Thursday.

The six-day tournament, hosted by the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce, showcases 80 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.

Entering the first day of competition at Santee Cooper, Becker wasn’t feeling optimistic. The reigning AOY on the Bass Pro Tour said he had a “horrible practice” amid the muddy, prespawn conditions that greeted the field at Stage Two. He picked his starting spot because he got a single bite there during the three-day practice period.

Within the first 35 minutes of Tuesday morning, Becker had turned that one bite into six scorable bass weighing a combined 23 pounds, 6 ounces. That flurry gave him an early lead over the rest of Group A, and he never relinquished the top spot on SCORETRACKER®. 

“I went to an area where I had one bite — that’s where I decided to start,” Becker said. “And before I knew it, I had six fish in the boat, and I didn’t even know what was happening. So yeah, it was fast and furious this morning. I did not expect that at all.”

It wasn’t just Becker who found the fishing better than expected on Santee Cooper. While bass didn’t hit the scales in the same numbers as Stage One on Toledo Bend, plenty of big ones showed up. Thirteen bass weighing 6 pounds or bigger were caught Tuesday, including one over 8 pounds. Fifteen pros topped the 20-pound mark on the day.

“Honestly, everybody caught ‘em – myself included – better than I expected,” Becker said. “I did not see this coming. I expected it to be a lot tougher on everybody. But I’m super happy with how it turned out.”

Becker burst onto the national tournament scene in a big way last year, beating out the likes of Jacob WheelerOtt DeFoe and Jones Jr. to claim both the Stage Seven and Angler of the Year trophies at the season finale on Saginaw Bay. 

Clearly, the offseason did nothing to stem his momentum.

Becker started the 2024 campaign with a Championship Round appearance on Toledo Bend. He then finished 16th in the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals season-opener on Sam Rayburn. Now, even on a fishery that, at least on paper, doesn’t suit his strengths, Becker looks like he’s figured out the Santee Cooper bass.

Becker attributed the strong start to simply fishing with confidence.

“Definitely it’s a confidence thing,” he said. “I feel very confident in myself right now, and it just seems like every decision I make turns into the right one. Like today, for instance, I literally had one bite in that area that I started, but my gut was telling me to go start there, and it turned into the lead. 

“I don’t ever want it to end. I want to keep this train rolling as long as we can.”

His fast start Tuesday only fueled his confidence. Becker said it made him believe in his area, removing the temptation to fire up his Suzuki outboard and make a time-consuming run across the treacherous fishery. He spent the rest of the day exploring new water in the same vicinity as his starting spot.

“It kind of slowed me down and allowed me to expand and fish new water,” he explained. “I had that one spot where I got a bite in practice, and then I kind of just expanded around the area the rest of the day. But having that confidence of getting a couple bites early really let me expand and keep fishing new water.”

After a bit of a lull, Becker continued to pad his total throughout the afternoon. Midway through Period 2, he boated a 6-10 kicker. On a fishery that lacks numbers of bass, triggering big bites looks like it’ll be key to contending. Seven of the top eight anglers on SCORETRACKER® caught at least one bass over 6 pounds.

“There’s a lot of big fish, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time — if you set the hook enough times, it’s going to be a 6- to 8-pounder,” Becker said. “So, it’s going to take a couple of big fish every day to do well in this tournament.”

Becker didn’t want to divulge too many details about his pattern, but he said he’s not relying on forward-facing sonar to target fish. Instead, he’s power fishing around “classic prespawn stuff.” He’s not slowing down, covering water with his trolling motor and fishing whatever cover he encounters — in his words, “pretty much just junk fishing around in one section of the lake.”

While Becker noted that he only saw one other competitor all day, which excites him, he’s not sure whether he’ll be able to ride his starting spot, or even the general area, to another Top 10. He plans to spend the second day of the Qualifying Round exploring more of the massive, habitat-rich playing field.

“I feel like I might have burnt up that area today, but you just never know,” Becker said. “It’s springtime, more fish could be coming with a warming trend. The sun was out this afternoon, and it was warming up. So maybe some more fish are coming. But I’m going to keep an open mind going into the rest of the tournament and try to expand on Day 2, try to fish some new water and maybe find something else as well.”

The Top 20 pros in Group A after Day 1 on Santee Cooper Lakes are:

1st:        Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 12 bass, 45-8
2nd:      Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., 10 bass, 41-5
3rd:       Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, 10 bass, 39-10
4th:        James Watson, Lampe, Mo., 11 bass, 37-15
5th:        Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., 13 bass, 36-9
6th:        Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 11 bass, 34-5
7th:        Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, nine bass, 33-5
8th:        Ron Nelson, Berrien Springs, Mich., 10 bass, 32-10
9th:        Greg Vinson, Wetumpka, Ala., 11 bass, 26-15
10th:     Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan., eight bass, 26-10
11th:     Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., six bass, 26-8
12th:     Jacob Wall, New Hope, Ala., five bass, 23-9
13th:     Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala., eight bass, 22-3
14th:     Jesse Wiggins, Cullman, Ala., seven bass, 21-4
15th:     Mark Daniels, Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., eight bass, 20-13
16th:     Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla., eight bass, 19-1
17th:     Jacopo Gallelli, Florence, Italy, four bass, 17-7
18th:     Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., five bass, 17-7
19th:     Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., six bass, 17-3
20th:     Shinichi Fukae, Osaka, Japan, four bass, 15-14

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

General Tire pro Britt Myers of Lake Wylie, South Carolina, won Tuesday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award with an 8-pound, 3-ounce largemouth that he caught on a deep-diving crankbait with just 10 minutes remaining in the day late in Period 3. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and another $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.

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 anglers that finish first through 10th from both groups advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 20 anglers compete to finish in the Top 10 to advance to Sunday’s Championship Round. In the final-day Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

Anglers will launch at 7:30 a.m. ET each day from the John C. Land III Landing, located at 4404 Greenall Road in Summerton. 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 .

The MLFNOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on the final four 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.

On Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24-25, from 1-6 p.m. MLF welcomes fans of all ages to visit the John C. Land III landing for the MLF Watch Party. 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 each day. The final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand at the trophy celebration on Championship Sunday to meet and greet fans, sign autographs and take selfies.

Suzuki Stage Two at Santee Cooper Lakes Presented by Fenwick 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 1-pound, 8-ounce 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 80 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. 

Bass Pro Tour anglers also compete throughout the 2024 season for the prestigious Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) award and its $100,000 payday. 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.

Television coverage of Suzuki Stage Two at Santee Cooper Lakes Presented by Fenwick will premiere as a two-hour episode starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Sept. 21 on Discovery, with the Championship Round premiering the following Saturday on Sept. 28. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on Outdoor Channel.

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.