MASSENA, N.Y. – Although the bite was a little harder to come by Thursday for Group A anglers, pro Spencer Shuffield of Hot Springs, Arkansas, made it seem like a breeze, bringing a five-bass limit to the stage weighing 23 pounds, 3 ounces to win the automatic Championship Round berth at the Tackle Warehouse TITLE Presented by Mercury – the Pro Circuit Championship – in Massena, New York. Shuffield’s two-day total of 44-8 earned him the win by a 1-pound, 7-ounce margin over Berkley pro Joey “Cowboy” Cifuentes of Clinton, Arkansas, who led Day 1, and punched Shuffield’s ticket straight through to Sunday’s Championship Round finale. Cifuentes’ two-day total of 43-1 finished the Group A Qualifying Round in second place.
The Top 10 anglers from Group A will now have an off-day Friday, while the 25 anglers in Group B will complete their two-day Qualifying Round of competition. The Knockout Round, featuring 18 anglers competing to finish in the top eight, will take place on Saturday. Sunday’s Championship Round will feature Shuffield, Friday’s Group B winner and the top eight anglers from the Knockout Round, competing in a one-day shootout to catch the heaviest five-bass limit for the top prize of up to $235,000.
The six-day event, hosted by the Town of Massena, showcases the top 48 pros in the 2022 Pro Circuit standings, along with last year’s reigning TITLE champion and reigning Angler of the Year – all competing for a purse of more than $800,000.
Shuffield said he struggled early in the day and was sitting without a bass at 10 a.m.
“I had a slow start today, then lost a big bass at the end that could have put me up around 25 to 26 pounds, so I’m thrilled to be sitting in the top spot at the end of the day,” Shuffield said. “This place has got a ton of large smallmouth right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a 27- or 28-pound bag before the week is over.
“I don’t know if the one I lost was quite 6 pounds, but she for sure was a heavy 5-pounder. It might be a blessing from God that I lost that fish though. These smallmouth are very aggressive and tend to bite again, so there’s a good chance I can catch her again on Sunday. She’s on a very small spot and there were five or six fish there with her, so hopefully I can land at least one of those big ones in the Championship Round.”
Shuffield said the area he’s fishing is featureless and doesn’t look like anything special, but he found it on the second day of practice, using his electronics.
“My Garmin Livescope is key because it shows the contour lines so well,” he said. “There’s nothing there, but I found a good, sharp grass edge with a narrow channel running through it and the bass are really holding up in there. I caught several smallmouth really quick once I pulled over there today, and I found two more places in that area that may be even better.”
All of Shuffield’s bass were caught fishing a drop-shot rig and he said he couldn’t be more thrilled about earning the straight shot through to the Championship Round.
“It feels great to be guaranteed to fish for the win, especially since I laid off them a bit and still managed to finish on top,” Shuffield said. “I’ve already narrowed down an area where I’m going to live or die on Sunday, so laying off those fish for two days and then hitting them again should be a great advantage.
“I plan to go straight back to that spot on Sunday, and I’ve got several other areas that are producing a big bite, so I feel really good going into the Championship Round,” Shuffield said.
The Top 10 pros from Qualifying Group A that now advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round on the St. Lawrence River are:
Finishing in 11th through 25th in the Group A Qualifying Round were:
A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 115 bass weighing 412 pounds even caught by the 25 pros on Thursday, with 23 five-bass limits.
Pro Alex Davis of Albertville, Alabama’s 6-pound, 3-ounce bass caught Tuesday earned him the $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler in each group that weighs the biggest bass over their two-day Qualification Round.
The Tackle Warehouse TITLE Presented by Mercury – the Pro Circuit Championship – features a hybrid tournament format. All 50 anglers are seeded into two groups of 25 – Group A and Group B, based on points earned in 2022 qualifying events – where they compete in Qualifying Rounds over the first four days of the tournament. Group B will fish again on Day 4, with total weight determined by the cumulative weight of their biggest five-bass limit from both days.
The winner of Group B will join Shuffield to advance directly to the Championship Round on Sunday, while pros who finish in second to 10th place in each group will again battle it out with zeroed weights in the Knockout Round on Saturday. On the final day of the event, the Championship Round, weights will again be zeroed and the top eight pros from the Knockout Round, plus the two Qualifying Round winners will compete. The winner will be determined by the heaviest five-bass limit of the final round.
Anglers will take off at 7 a.m. ET each day of competition from the Massena Intake Boat Launch, located at 1415 State Hwy 131 in Massena. Weigh-ins will also be held at the boat launch daily at 3 p.m. The MLF NOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. Fans are welcome to attend the event or follow the action online through the MLF NOW! live stream and coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Along with the launch and weigh-in, fans and community members are invited to the MLF Fishing and Outdoor Expo on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 20-21 from noon to 8 p.m. ET at the Massena Intake Boat Launch, where fans can meet the pros and check out the latest in fishing and outdoor gear. The expo includes live music, food trucks, kids’ activities, giveaways, fireworks and more.
The first 100 middle school and high school students will receive a free Abu Garcia rod and reel at the Expo on Saturday and Sunday and fans can register for a Polaris Sportsman 570 ATV giveaway onsite at the Expo. The winner will be drawn after the final weigh-in on Aug. 21. PAW Patrol’s Skye and Marshall will also be at the event with MLF pro Charlie Evans and will be available for photos. Appearance times may vary. Visit MajorLeagueFishing.com for updates and more details.
In addition to the launch, weigh-ins and Expo, youth 14 and under are also invited to attend a free Kid’s Fishing Derby on Saturday, Aug. 20, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Wilson Hill Causeway. Participants can bring their own fishing gear or use provided gear on a first come, first serve basis to compete for tagged fish and cash prizes.
The 2022 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit featured a field of 154 of the top professional anglers in the world competing at six regular-season events around the country. The Top 50 anglers in the Angler of the Year (AOY) standings after the six events qualified to compete in the Tackle Warehouse TITLE Presented by Mercury, the Pro Circuit Championship.
Television coverage of the Tackle Warehouse TITLE Presented by Mercury event will be showcased across six two-hour episodes, premiering at 9 a.m. ET, Oct. 8 on CBS Sports Network. Episodes premiere Sunday mornings on Outdoor Channel, with additional re-airings on Sportsman Channel. Each two-hour long episode goes in-depth to break down each day of competition. Episodes will run through Nov. 13.
Proud sponsors of the 2022 MLF Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Presented by Fuel Me include: 4WP, 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, A.R.E. Truck Caps, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, E3, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Fuel Me, Gary Yamamoto Baits, General Tire, Lew’s, Lowrance, Lucas Oil, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota, Wiley X and YETI.
For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit on the MLF5 social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.