Sprague leads Knockout Round at Fox Rent A Car Stage Three on Lake Murray Presented by Mercury - Major League Fishing
Sprague leads Knockout Round at Fox Rent A Car Stage Three on Lake Murray Presented by Mercury
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Sprague leads Knockout Round at Fox Rent A Car Stage Three on Lake Murray Presented by Mercury

Texas pro catches five largemouth weighing 23 pounds, 8 ounces to lead Knockout Round, final 10 anglers set for Championship Friday and shootout for $100,000
Image for Sprague leads Knockout Round at Fox Rent A Car Stage Three on Lake Murray Presented by Mercury
April 6, 2023 • MLF • Press Releases

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Pro Jeff Sprague of Wills Point, Texas, caught 13 scorable bass Thursday, with his best five weighing 23 pounds, 8 ounces, to win the Knockout Round and advance to the final day of competition at the Bass Pro Tour Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury.

Link to Hi-Res Photo of Knockout Round Winner Jeff Sprague
Link to HD Video – Fish-Catch Highlights of Knockout Round on Lake Murray 
Link to Photo Gallery of Knockout Round Afternoon Highlights on Lake Murray

Sprague will bring a slim 1-pound advantage over second-place pro James Watson of Lampe, Missouri, who weighed in five bass totaling 22-8 to qualify for his first career Bass Pro Tour Championship Round. Bass Pro Tour rookie John Hunter of Shelbyville, Kentucky, sits in third place with five bass weighing 22-7, while Qualifying Round winner Jonathon VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, weighed in five bass totaling 21-13 to finish the day in fourth. Local favorite, Prosperity, South Carolina’s, Anthony Gagliardi caught five bass weighing 20-15 to round out the top five.

Weights are extremely tight – less than 4 pounds separates the entire Top 10 and the tournament can be won by any of the remaining 10 anglers. Competition resumes Friday morning with the Championship Round, where weight carries over from the Knockout Round and the angler with the heaviest two-day total will win the top prize of $100,000.

“When everything goes right, everything goes right, and today it kind of came together and everything went right for me,” Sprague said. “My practice was just so-so, here. A lot of fish are coming up, and they had been very skittish. But they had just gotten up there and weren’t ready. Now we’ve had a couple of warm nights, and the fish are really starting to set up and lock down. And the big females are starting to show up.

“The lake really showed out today – nearly everyone in the Top 10 has 20 pounds,” Sprague said. “It’s a tremendous fishery, but it hasn’t been as easy as it looks.”

Sprague started the third period in seventh place, then caught a 5-5 and 6-11 in a quick five-minute span at 1 p.m. to vault to the top of the leaderboard and remain there for the rest of the day. His first fish of the day came on a buzzbait, and the remaining four keepers in his limit came on soft plastics.

“I’ve caught a lot of fish this week just throwing around a wacky worm,” Sprague said. “A couple of fish, including the big fish this morning, came on a prototype reel from Summit Fishing and custom-made rods that I created, bought and made through MHX Custom Rods. I made them myself, and they are great rods with great blanks. I used 20-pound fluorocarbon (line), and a little creature bait with a 3/8-ounce tungsten weight. It’s not a very pretty setup, but it really catches a lot of fish when they’re spawning. It’s basic, Fishing 101.

“I’ve said it so many times, I almost don’t want to say it again. But I want to bring that trophy back to Texas,” Sprague said. “I just want go out tomorrow, fish clean, and put some big fish in the boat and have a good time. That’s what it’s all about. It’s going to be an exciting finale, no matter who wins this thing. I saw a lot today that gave me hope, so we’re going out tomorrow and going to give them heck.”

The Top 10 pros from Thursday’s Knockout Round that now advance to Friday’s Championship Round on Lake Murray are:

1st:          Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, five bass, 23-8
2nd:         James Watson, Lampe, Mo., five bass, 22-8
3rd:         John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky., five bass, 22-7
4th:         Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., five bass, 21-13
5th:         Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., five bass, 20-15
6th:         Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan., five bass, 20-13
7th:         Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C, five bass, 20-6
8th:         Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., five bass, 20-0
9th:         Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 20-0
10th:       Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., five bass, 19-11

Finishing in 11th through 40th are:

11th:       Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, five bass, 19-9, $10,000
12th:       Ryan Salzman, Huntsville, Ala., five bass, 18-15, $10,000
13th:       Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., five bass, 18-15, $10,000
14th:       Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn., five bass, 18-14, $10,000
15th:       Alton Jones, Sr., Lorena, Texas, five bass, 18-13, $10,000
16th:       Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, five bass, 18-12, $10,000
17th:       Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., five bass, 18-11, $10,000
18th:       Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., five bass, 18-9, $10,000
19th:       Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, five bass, 17-13, $10,000
20th:       Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas, five bass, 17-3, $10,000
21st:       Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., five bass, 17-2, $10,000
22nd:      Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., five bass, 17-2, $10,000
23rd:      Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., five bass, 17-1, $10,000
24th:       Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa., five bass, 16-1, $10,000
25th:       Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., five bass, 15-15, $10,000
26th:       Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, five bass, 15-8, $10,000
27th:       Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., five bass, 15-3, $10,000
28th:       Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif., five bass, 15-3, $10,000
29th:       Randy Howell, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 15-1, $10,000
30th:       Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., five bass, 14-3, $10,000
31st:       Gary Klein, Mingus, Texas, five bass, 14-2, $10,000
32nd:      Cliff Crochet, Pierre Part, La., five bass, 14-0, $10,000
33rd:      Mitch Crane, Columbus, Miss., five bass, 12-15, $10,000
34th:       Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., five bass, 12-10, $10,000
35th:       Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla., five bass, 12-9, $10,000
36th:       Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark., five bass, 12-2, $10,000
37th:       John Murray, Spring City, Tenn., three bass, 10-1, $10,000
38th:       Dean Rojas, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., three bass, 6-0, $10,000
39th:       Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., two bass, 4-13, $10,000
40th:       Jeff Kriet, Ardmore, Okla., two bass, 4-9, $10,000

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

Overall, there were 357 scorable bass weighing 1,038 pounds, 4 ounces caught by the 40 pros Thursday.

Thursday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award went to pro Edwin Evers of Talala, Oklahoma, who caught a 7-pound, 4-ounce largemouth in Period 2 on a Berkley PowerBait Gilly to earn the payout. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and a $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.

The six-day bass-fishing event, hosted by Capital City/Lake Murray Country, showcases 80 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing for a purse of more than $805,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters All-Star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship.

The 40 Anglers in Group A competed in their two-day qualifying round on Sunday and Tuesday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Monday and Wednesday. After the two-day qualifying round, the Top 20 anglers from each group advanced to Thursday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights were zeroed, and the remaining 40 anglers competed to finish in the Top 10 to advance to the Championship Round. In the Championship Round on Friday, weight carries over from the Knockout Round and the angler with the heaviest two-day total will win the top prize of $100,000.

The final 10 anglers will launch Friday at 7:30 a.m. ET from Dreher Island State Park, located at 3677 State Park Road in Prosperity. The General Tire Takeout will be held at the launch location, 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.

On Championship Friday, April 7, from 1-6 p.m. MLF will welcome fans of all ages to visit Dreher Island State Park and celebrate the Top 10 and crown the Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Champion at the Watch Party and Trophy Presentation. The final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand at the trophy celebration to meet and greet fans, sign autographs, and take selfies.

The Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury features pros competing using the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, with each angler’s five heaviest bass per day tallied as their day’s weight. Anglers strive to catch their heaviest five fish each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the live scoring SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. Minimum weights are determined individually for each competition waters that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.

The 2023 MLF 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, fishing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship, held March 13-17, 2024, on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Alabama.  

The MLFNOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on all six 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.

Television coverage of the Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury will air as two, two-hour episodes starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 7 on Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on Outdoor Channel.

Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, Ark Fishing, ATG + Wrangler, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bally Bet, Bass Cat Boats, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, Daiwa, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Ferguson, Fox Rent A Car, General Tire, Grundéns, Humminbird, Lowrance, Minn Kota, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Power-Pole, Rapala, Star tron, T-H Marine, TORO, Toyota, U.S. Air Force, Yellowstone Bourbon, Yo-Zuri and Zoom Baits.

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 FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.