March 13, 2020 (LAKE FORK, Texas) Major League Fishing (MLF) shined a bright light on a nearly dark sports world with the Bass Pro Tour on Lake Fork, Texas. At the end of Day 1, 39-year-old Mark Daniels, Jr. led the field after catching 84 pounds, 15 ounces, Jason Christie emerged from zero to hero by catching the largest bass in the history of MLF, and the field of 40 managed to catch a cumulative total of 1649 pounds in three 150-minute periods. With 25 bass weighing in at 6 pounds or more, Lake Fork and MLF pros combined on Day 1 to bring a mid-March madness in competitive bass fishing. The six-day competition continues Saturday, March 14th at 10 a.m. when Group B takes to the lake in search of the coveted championship berth.
Jason Christie arrived in Texas with only five bass total after two Stages of the Bass Pro Tour. The Oklahoma-native was unable to catch any scorable bass in his first three days of competition throughout Lake Eufaula and Lake Okeechobee. Christie shook the curse with a 2-pound, 10-ounce bass 21 minutes into Period 1 before breaking the MLF league and Bass Pro Tour records with a 10-pound, 4-ounce largemouth in Period Two.
“What a day,” exclaimed Christie after lines out. “The first period with 12 pounds, I thought was my best stuff. But we called an audible, and I was fortunate enough to figure something out.”
Christie also caught the third biggest fish of the day weighing in at 9 pounds, 2 ounces. Randall Tharp, who finished the day in 26th place, caught the second largest of the day late in Period 3 weighing in at 9 pounds, 15 ounces – the second largest in MLF and Bass Pro Tour history. With 17 fish weighing in at 68 pounds, 12 ounces, Christie finished the day in third place behind Jeff Sprague and Mark Daniels Jr.
Mark Daniels, Jr. (MDJ to fans and friends) took an early lead in Period 1 with 12 scorable bass totaling 38 pounds, 1 ounce. Leveraging a small area with a large pool of fish, Daniels expanded his lead in Period 2 with another nine scorable bass and 25 pounds. A resident of Tuskegee, Alabama, MDJ has three major tour wins in his career and 16 Top 10s.
“Excellent day, no complaints,” said Daniels. “I came out and fished hard; you never know what’s going to happen. I went into this spot looking for a couple of bites and it just blew my mind how many fish kept coming into the area. Eighty-four pounds… that’s a good day!”
By the end of the day, Daniels lead had shrunk to 12 pounds, 3 ounces over Jeff Sprague who’d leapt into second place with a five-fish, 14-pound, 7-ounce run in the last hour of Period 3. Mark is sponsored by Bill Lewis and Favorite Fishing, among others.
Sprague, who claims Fork as his “home lake,” opened Day 1 with a 3-pound, 12-ounce bass six minutes into competition. His biggest fish of the day also came in Period 1 weighing in at 6 pounds, 5 ounces. It was the third period, 11-fish run that added another 33 pounds to Sprague’s total and moved him from 27th to second place by lines out.
“I was really nervous about fishing my own lake,” said Sprague. “I know how the home-lake curse comes back to get you sometimes, and I really thought after my day of practice that it was going to come – and it still may. But we had a phenomenal day of fishing and I’m very happy with where I’m sitting in second place for the day.”
Lake Fork, known as the “Big Bass Factory” thanks to a protective slot limit, prevents many pro tournaments from using its field of play. The Major League Fishing conservation-friendly, catch-weigh-immediately-release format fits perfectly with Texas Park and Wildlife (TPW) lake management strategies, which include the Toyota ShareLunker program.
The Top 10 of Day One, Qualifying Group A finished as follows:
|Place||Angler||Total Weight||Total Fish||Largest Fish|
|1||Mark Daniels, Jr.||84-15||24||7-05|
For complete results, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com, Bass Pro Tour, Results.
The competition continues Saturday when Group B takes to the water for the first day of their Qualifying Round, including Stage One and Two winners Jacob Wheeler and Jacob Powroznik and Heavy Hitters leader Jordan Lee. The weather forecast suggests thunderstorms may hinder the competition throughout the day. Bass Pro Tour Tournament Director Aaron Beshears will consider safety over competition every time.
“We continuously monitor weather on the entire body of water to determine the safest situation for the anglers and MLF staff,” said Beshears.
Pending no weather delays, the day begins with launch at Oak Ridge Marina, Quitman, Texas, 9:15 a.m. CT before lines-in at 10:00 a.m. Period 1 ends at 12:30 p.m. Period 2 spans 12:45 p.m. until 3:15 p.m. Period 3 begins at 3:30 p.m. and lasts until day’s end at 6:00 p.m. The General Tire Takeout show airs approximately 6:15–7:15 p.m. as anglers return to the ramp.
The Bass Pro Tour began in 2019 and features 80 of the best professional anglers in the world, including Kevin VanDam, Edwin Evers, Aaron Martens, Mike Iaconelli, Jordan Lee, and Skeet Reese. Each stage includes six days of competition using the Major League Fishing, catch-weigh-and-immediately-release format, where every bass over a variable minimum weight, which is two pounds on Lake Fork for Stage Three, toward a cumulative weight total for the day. Variable minimum weights are determined by fishery, akin to a golf course handicap. The field of 80 anglers is divided into two groups of 40 (Groups A and B) to compete on days one through four for the Qualifying Round. The winners of each Group earn an automatic berth the Championship Round. The anglers finishing in places 2-20 from each group in the Qualifying Round (40 total) advance to the Knockout Round on day five (Tuesday), which determines who will compete on that final day, the Championship Round (Wednesday), for the Stage title and $100,000.
Each of the eight Stages of the Bass Pro Tour have the following payout schedule: 1st $100,000; 2nd $42,000; 3rd $30,000; 4th $24,000; 5th $18,000; 6th $16,800; 7th $15,600; 8th $14,400; 9th $13,200; 10th $12,000; 11th – 40th $6,000; Big Bass Daily $1,000; Big Bass Overall $1,000.
Jacob Wheeler won the B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One presented by Power-Pole on Lake Eufaula (Ala.) on February 12, 2020. Jacob Powroznik won the Favorite Fishing Stage Two presented by Bass Cat on Lake Okeechobee (Fla.) on February 26, 2020.
In addition to the economic impact on a host community, Major League Fishing showcases the region through their award-winning, live and linear programming. Each Stage of the Bass Pro Tour is broadcast live on the Major League Fishing app, MyOutdoorTV (MOTV), and majorleaguefishing.com, totaling more than 325 hours of original programming. Fans can follow the fast-paced nature of the MLF format as it unfolds on the live leaderboard through “SCORETRACKER® updates.” Highlights from each Stage of the 2020 Bass Pro Tour will air on Discovery Network beginning in July 2020 and Sportsman Channel in early 2021.
“MLF offers the strongest broadcast presence in the industry to fans and sponsors,” said Jim Wilburn, President and CEO of Major League Fishing. “And with these lakes planned for this coming Bass Pro Tour, we know 2020 will be our best year yet as we continue to capture a broad audience of both longtime fishing fans and those new to the sport, thanks to our fast-paced, fan-friendly format,”
Founded in 2011, Major League Fishing (MLF) brings the high-intensity sport of competitive bass fishing into America’s living rooms on Outdoor Channel, Discovery, CBS, CBS Sports Network, World Fishing Network, Sportsman Channel, and on-demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). The Bass Pro Tour consists of eight events and a championship streamed live on www.MajorLeagueFishing.com and MOTV.
In late 2019 MLF acquired FLW, which expands their portfolio to include the world’s largest grassroots fishing organization, including the strongest five-fish format professional bass fishing tour, the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, as well as the Toyota Series, Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine, and Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI, and High School Fishing presented by Favorite Fishing.
For more information on the league and anglers, visit www.MajorLeagueFishing.com and follow MLF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.