Mizell comes from behind to win Toyota Series at Lake Okeechobee - Major League Fishing
Mizell comes from behind to win Toyota Series at Lake Okeechobee
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Mizell comes from behind to win Toyota Series at Lake Okeechobee

Image for Mizell comes from behind to win Toyota Series at Lake Okeechobee
April 3, 2023 • MLF • Press Releases

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Pro Jessie Mizell of Myakka City, Florida, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday weighing 22 pounds, 7 ounces to win the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at Lake Okeechobee and earn the top payout of $51,500. Over the three days of competition Mizell weighed in 15 bass totaling 51-15 to earn the win by a 1-pound, 9-ounce margin over Florida’s Bobby Bakewell of Orlando, who finished second with a three-day total of 14 bass weighing 50-6, good for $20,000. 

Mizell came into the final day of competition with a 13-pound deficit to Bakewell, but as weather conditions – namely the strong winds – shifted on the final day, he said he knew he still had a chance. 

“I’ve been doing this my whole life,” Mizell said. “This is my home lake, but I always fell a little short. So, to finally capitalize and take it, it means a lot.”

While the strong winds made for a stingy bite, Bakewell had found a shell-bed pattern far up the river that was less weather dependent. However, once the area dried up and the fish moved out, Bakewell only brought in four fish on the final day – and that was all the margin that Mizell needed. 

According to Mizell, Okeechobee has tides caused by sustained winds that can raise the water levels in an area as much as 6 inches while muddying up the water. Once that wind dies, there’s a “backflush” of clean water coming in from the marshes as the water recedes.

Armed with his knowledge of the Big O, its “tides” and a special frog, Mizell went into the Championship Round primed and ready to make a massive comeback.

“Those mud mats make a cavern underneath, and the bass will sit around the edge of that or around sparse cattails or buggy whips nearby,” Mizell said. “I’d make very specific casts to the edges of those mats with my frog and always working it like there was a fish watching it.”

Mizell said he caught the majority of his fish on a customized SPRO Bronzeye Poppin Frog 70, mixing in a Medlock Jig, and said he could have made a run at a 30-pound bag, if he hadn’t lost a pair of 7-pounders.

“Had it been different, I might care more about those two lost fish, but right now this is a dream come true,” Mizell said.

The Top 10 pros on Lake Okeechobee finished:

1st:           Jessie Mizell, Myakka City, Fla., 15 bass, 51-15, $51,500
2nd:          Bobby Bakewell, Orlando, Fla., 14 bass, 50-6, $20,000
3rd:          Brandon Medlock, Lake Placid, Fla., 15 bass, 49-10, $14,250
4th:           Mike Surman, Boca Raton, Fla., 15 bass, 45-4, $12,250
5th:           Destin Lesesne, Blue Ridge, Ga., 15 bass, 45-2, $11,250
6th:           Alex Terescenko, West Palm Beach, Fla., 15 bass, 45-0, $9,125
7th:           Jared McMillan, Clewiston, Fla., 13 bass, 44-11, $8,900
8th:           Marlon Crowder, Tampa, Fla., 15 bass, 42-12, $7,400
9th:           Dillon McMillan, Vero Beach, Fla., 15 bass, 41-14, $5,900
10th:        Casey Warren, Longs, S.C., 15 bass, 41-5, $4,500

Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Crowder won the $500 Day 1 Berkley Big Bass award in the pro division Thursday with a bass weighing 7 pounds, 13 ounces. On Friday, pro Michael Catt of Jacksonville, Florida earned the $500 Berkley Big Bass prize after bringing an 8-pound, 1-ounce bass to the scale.

McMillan took home an extra $1,000 as the highest finishing Phoenix MLF Bonus member. Boaters are eligible to win up to an extra $35,000 per event in each Toyota Series tournament if all requirements are met. More information on the Phoenix MLF Bonus contingency program can be found at PhoenixBassBoats.com.

Sam Maxwell of Vincennes, Indiana, won the Strike King co-angler division Saturday with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 37 pounds, 4 ounces. Maxwell took home the top prize package worth $33,500, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard motor.

The Top 10 Strike King co-anglers on Lake Okeechobee finished: 

1st:           Sam Maxwell, Vincennes, Ind., 15 bass, 37-4, Phoenix 518 Pro boat w/115-hp Mercury outboard
2nd:          Tyler Carey, Lake Worth, Fla., 14 bass, 37-0, $6,125
3rd:          Skip Reed, Coral Springs, Fla., 12 bass, 34-12, $4,900
4th:           William Lewis, Jacksonville, Fla., 11 bass, 32-3, $4,150
5th:           Zack Barrera, Morriston, Fla., 15 bass, 30-2, $3,450
6th:           Kurt Chelminiak, Delafield, Wis., 12 bass, 29-8, $2,950
7th:           Stephen Draghi, Sparrowbush, N.Y., 14 bass, 29-7, $2,450
8th:           Jeff Cox, Saline, Mich., 15 bass, 28-6, $1,975
9th:           Phil Witmer, Huddleston, Va., 14 bass, 27-15, $1,590
10th:        David DiMauro, Longwood, Fla., 14 bass, 27-11, $1,350

Bill Fox of Lake Worth, Florida, was the Berkley Big Bass $150 award winner in the Strike King co-angler division, Thursday, with a 7-pound, 15-ounce bass, while the Day 2 $150 award went to JP Sims of Port St. Lucie, Florida, with a whopping 9-pound, 10-ounce fish.

With two of three regular-season events in the Toyota Series Southern Division now complete, Mizell leads the Southern Division Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 510 points, while Alan Hults of Gautier, Mississippi leads the Strike King Co-angler Division AOY race with 509 points.

The Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at Lake Okeechobee, hosted by the Hendry County Tourism Development Council was the second of three regular-season events for the Toyota Series Southern Division. The next event for Toyota Series anglers will be the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at Lake Dardanelle, April 4-6, in Russellville, Arkansas. For a complete schedule of events, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The 2023 Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats consists of six divisions – Central, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and the Western Division Presented by Tackle Warehouse – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International and Wild Card divisions. Anglers who fish in any of the six divisions or the Wild Card division and finish in the top 25 will qualify for the no-entry-fee Toyota Series Championship for a shot at winning up to $235,000 and a qualification to REDCREST 2024. The winning Strike King co-angler at the championship earns a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard. The 2023 Toyota Series Championship will be held Nov. 2-4 on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, and is hosted by ExploreBranson.com.

Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Toyota Series include: 4WP, 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Black Rifle Coffee Company, E3, Favorite Fishing, Fox Rent a Car, General Tire, Gill, Grundéns, Lew’s, Lowrance, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Wiley X and YETI.

For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular Toyota Series updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the MLF5 social media outlets at FacebookInstagram and YouTube.