Ridgeville’s Austin posts second career win at Phoenix Bass Fishing League event at Santee Cooper Lakes - Major League Fishing
Ridgeville’s Austin posts second career win at Phoenix Bass Fishing League event at Santee Cooper Lakes
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Ridgeville’s Austin posts second career win at Phoenix Bass Fishing League event at Santee Cooper Lakes

Inman’s Huntley tops Strike King co-angler division
Image for Ridgeville’s Austin posts second career win at Phoenix Bass Fishing League event at Santee Cooper Lakes
Boater winner Kyle Austin of Ridgeville, South Carolina, and Strike-King co-angler winner Todd Huntley of Inman, South Carolina.
April 8, 2024 • MLF • Press Releases

SUMMERTON, S.C. – Boater Kyle Austin of Ridgeville, South Carolina, caught a five-bass limit weighing 22 pounds, 14 ounces, Saturday to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) Presented by T-H Marine on Santee Cooper Lakes. Hosted Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce, the tournament was the second event of the season for the BFL South Carolina Division. Austin earned $3,632 for his victory.

You could say it was just another day at the lake for Austin, and as ordinary as that may sound, he’s no ordinary angler. A local bass and catfish guide, Austin spent the week putting his clients on some big cats before jumping in the tournament “kind of for fun.” It turned out to be another fantastic weekend for Austin, as he earned his second big win at Santee Cooper this year – the other being the Bassmaster Open that Austin won in mid-March.

“That was probably the first wave of spawners that came to the bank was during that event,” he said of the Open. “The weather was perfect, so we had a big wave of fish pull up three weeks ago. Ever since then, it’s just been an up-and-down roller coaster.”

Changing weather, cold fronts, fluctuating water levels; all the usual springtime changes have challenged local anglers. Those challenges continued in the tournament thanks to strong winds. 

Austin started his morning on an area with some cypress trees where he’d been seeing birds working all week. It was loaded with shad, and he thought there might be an early shad spawn happening. He just couldn’t tell for sure because of the wind crashing into the spot. In fact, the wind was so strong he had to shift how he fished the trees. 

“I went around the backside of the trees. It was like a little island,” he said. “I caught them pretty much every other cast for 10 to 15 minutes early this (Saturday) morning. That was kind of the key to start.”

The spot was adjacent to a backwater area. Austin described it as a “highway” where bass pass by on their way into the backwater to spawn. 

“I caught them all on a spinnerbait and a bladed jig, and we got right in a hurry,” he added.

He spent the rest of the day running isolated cypress trees that were in relatively deeper water – about 3 to 4 feet. Though he never got a real big bite, Austin was able to cull up twice to get from 21 pounds to his final weight of 22-14. It turned out, he needed every bit of those final two fish. Austin finished just 1 ounce ahead of runner-up Conrad Manuel.

Austin said his go-to lures were a Strike King Thunder Cricket vibrating jig with a Strike King ElazTech Z Too trailer and a Treeshaker Tackle Company spinnerbait. 

The Top 10 boaters finished the tournament:

  • 1st:          Kyle Austin, Ridgeville, S.C., five bass, 22-14, $3,632
  • 2nd:        Conrad Manuel, Pilot Mountain, N.C., five bass, 22-13, $1,816
  • 3rd:        Freddie Gamble Jr., Manning, S.C., five bass, 22-9, $1,675
  • 4th:         Wade Grooms, Bonneau, S.C., five bass, 19-13, $847
  • 5th:         Ronnie McCoy, Lamar, S.C., five bass, 18-15, $726
  • 6th:         Derek Schlotterback, Simpsonville, S.C., five bass, 16-13, $666
  • 7th:         Scott Browning, Franklin, N.C., five bass, 16-7, $605
  • 8th:         Jeff Coble, Manson, N.C., five bass, 16-0, $514
  • 8th:         Oakley Connor, Travelers Rest, S.C., five bass, 16-0, $514
  • 10th:      Justin Cromer, Sumter, S.C., five bass, 15-5, $424
  • Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Freddie Gamble Jr. of Manning, South Carolina, caught a bass that weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces, and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $465.

Todd Huntley of Inman, South Carolina, won the Strike King co-angler division and $1,816 Saturday, after bringing four bass to the scale that totaled 11 pounds, 10 ounces.

The Top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished: 

  • 1st:          Todd Huntley, Inman, S.C., four bass, 11-10, $1,816
  • 2nd:        Andrew Pitman, Clover, S.C., two bass, 11-9, $908
  • 3rd:        Brian Tucci, Myrtle Beach, S.C., four bass, 10-9, $606
  • 4th:         Kyle Nash, Chapin, S.C., four bass, 9-9, $424
  • 5th:         Brandon Driggers, Timmonsville, S.C., three bass, 9-7, $363
  • 6th:         Bobby Henderson, Charlotte, N.C., three bass, 9-2, $433
  • 7th:         Marvin Godard, Charlotte, N.C., three bass, 8-7, $303
  • 8th:         Brennan Gunther, Johns Island, S.C., one bass, 7-9, $504
  • 9th:         Colby Cotterill, Alpharetta, Ga., one bass, 5-10, $242
  • 10th:      Austin Stamey, Inman, S.C., two bass, 5-9, $212

Brennan Gunther of Johns Island, South Carolina, earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $232, catching a bass that weighed in at 7 pounds, 9 ounces – the largest co-angler catch of the day.

After two events, Kevin Chandler of New London, North Carolina, leads the Fishing Clash South Carolina Division Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 480 points, while Todd Huntley of Inman, South Carolina, leads the Fishing Clash South Carolina Division Co-Angler of the Year race with 494 points.

The next event for BFL South Carolina Division anglers will be held April 27, at Lake Hartwell in Anderson, South Carolina. To register for the event as a boater or a co-angler, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com or call 270-252-1000.

The top 45 boaters and co-anglers in the region based on point standings, along with the five tournament winners of each qualifying event, will qualify for the Oct. 3-5 BFL Regional tournament on Kerr Lake in Henderson, North Carolina. Boaters will fish for a top award of $60,000, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro with a 200-horsepower Mercury or Suzuki outboard and $10,000, while co-anglers will compete for a top award of $50,000, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro with a 200-horsepower Mercury or Suzuki outboard.

The 2024 Phoenix BFL Presented by T-H Marine is a 24-division circuit devoted to weekend anglers, with 128 events throughout the season, five qualifying tournaments in each division. The top 45 boaters and Strike King co-anglers from each division, along with the five qualifying event winners, will advance to one of six BFL Regional tournaments 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 BFL All-American.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine include: 7Brew, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, BUBBA, E3, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, General Tire, GSM Outdoors, Lew’s, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Suzuki, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota and YETI.

For complete details and updated tournament information, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular Bass Fishing League updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF5’s social media outlets at FacebookInstagram, and YouTube.