BRANSON, Mo. – The third time was certainly a charm for pro Chad Mrazek of Montgomery, Texas, who brought a five-bass limit weighing 16 pounds even to the scales Saturday to win the 2023 Toyota Series Championship at Table Rock Lake Presented by Simms in Branson, Missouri. Major League Fishing’s signature fall tournament marked the third Toyota Series Championship appearance for the Texas pro, who walked away with the top award of $200,000 and an invitation to compete in REDCREST 2024 – Major League Fishing’s most prestigious event.
After finishing the first day of competition in 22nd place, Mrazek jumped to second place on Day 2 with a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 7 ounces – the second-largest bag of the event. Mrazek backed up the Day 2 limit with another five-bass limit on the final day of competition, weighing 16-0 to catapult to the top of the leaderboard and earn the 2023 Toyota Series Championship win and $200,000. His three-day total of 47 pounds, 2 ounces gave him a slim 7-ounce margin over 2023 All-American champion Emil Wagner of Marietta, Georgia, who brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday weighing 16-11, for a three-day total of 46 pounds, 11 ounces, good for second place and $61,300.
Saturday’s final weigh-in marked the finale of the 2023 Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats season, which featured thousands of anglers from around the world competing for millions in cash and prizes.
“I have no words,” Mrazek said. “It’s been a really long season and I’ve worked so hard and have so many people to thank, I don’t even know where to start. The 17-pound bag yesterday definitely helped me. I decided to fish comfortably today and fish in a way that I knew could catch a big bag, but I didn’t have a single fish today until about noon, and only had one fish until about 1 p.m.
“Toward the end of the day, I just had this feeling, and I went over to a little drain I’d found just up the river. I caught a 3-pounder and a 4½-pound smallmouth, and everything just started falling into place. I honestly still wasn’t sure if it was my time or not at that point, but it felt good when it came together.”
Mrazek said he began the event working his LiveScope in water hundreds of feet deep with everyone else, but didn’t believe that pattern would be the winning ticket for him.
“I just wasn’t comfortable doing that,” Mrazek said. “I brought in a decent bag – 13 pounds and some change – but on Day 2 I knew I needed to make some adjustments if I really wanted to make a run at this thing.”
That adjustment meant finding shallow drains, which Mrazek said were few and far between on Table Rock Lake.
“I fished those shallow drains, just like I like to fish back home in Texas, but there aren’t many of them out here, so I only had about 4 to 5 spots to rotate through,” Mrazek said. “I rotated through them all yesterday and weighed in 17-7, then rotated through them all again today, and thankfully it worked out.”
Mrazek’s key bait was a 7/16-ounce football jig with half a 6th Sense Clout as a trailer – a bait Mrazek is super comfortable with and is part of his LiveScope rotation.
“I’ve been scoping with that bait for a while now,” he said. “I used 16-pound Sunline Sniper, and I just can’t break it. There were trees everywhere around most of my better drains, so you’re going to get wrapped up, but I think I only lost two fish all week.”
After a tough rookie year on the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals in 2023, Mrazek’s showing in the 2023 Toyota Series has been a career-saver for the Texas pro.
“This win truly means the world to me,” Mrazek said. “At the beginning of this season, I had some misfortune with a title sponsor backing out on me – it wasn’t anybody’s fault, it’s just the way things go – but since January I’ve been literally fishing paycheck to paycheck. I’ve been cashing a check just to get to the next event, and if it wasn’t for the first few good events this season, I would have been in trouble.
“Those events and those paychecks kept me going. It slowed down a little bit mid-season, but then it picked back up with the Northern Division of the Toyota Series, where I finished strong, and that helped me get here. I think this win might help a little bit as well. I just really want to thank my family and everyone who has supported me since I was five years old and had this crazy dream – everyone who has pushed me to be my best up to this point.
“Hopefully we can keep this momentum going,” Mrazek said. “I’ve got a lot of big things lined up for next year, sponsor-wise, so I’m excited for the coming year and how this win will continue to help boost those opportunities.”
The Top 25 pros at the 2023 Toyota Series Championship on Table Rock Lake finished:
1st Chad Mrazek of Montgomery, Texas, 15 bass, 47-2, $202,500
2nd: Emil Wagner of Marietta, Ga., 15 bass, 46-11, $61,300
3rd: Drew Gill of Mount Carmel, Ill., 15 bass, 44-12, $40,000
4th: Jeremy Gordon of Rutledge, Tenn., 15 bass, 44-4, $25,000
5th: Colby Miller of Elmer, La., 15 bass, 43-7, $30,000
6th: Jacob Walker of Springville, Ala., 15 bass, 43-2, $14,000
7th: Christian Ostrander of Turlock, Calif., 15 bass, 43-1, $23,000
8th: Brody Campbell of Oxford, Ohio, 15 bass, 42-12, $12,200
9th: Mike Raber of Elkhart, Ind., 15 bass, 42-11, $21,000
10th: Evan Kung of Pickering, Ontario, 15 bass, 42-9, $20,000
11th: Alec Morrison of Peru, N.Y., 15 bass, 42-2, $14,500
12th: Erik Luzak of Fenelon Falls, Ontario, 15 bass, 42-2, $4,500
13th: Dakota Ebare of Brookeland, Texas, 15 bass, 42-0, $4,500
14th: Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Ala., 15 bass, 41-15, $4,500
15th: Cole Breeden of Lebanon, Mo., 15 bass, 41-10, $4,500
16th: Jason Gramada of Les Cedres, Québec, 15 bass, 40-8, $3,500
17th: Rick Harris of Kingsland, Texas, 15 bass, 40-1, $3,500
18th: Brian Green of North Augusta, Ontario, 15 bass, 40-1, $3,500
19th: Jacob Welch of Jefferson City, Mo., 13 bass, 39-14, $3,500
20th: Travis Harriman of Huntsville, Ark., 14 bass, 39-11, $3,500
21st: Jacob Keenom of Wellston, Okla., 15 bass, 39-2, $3,000
22nd: Martin Villa of Charlottesville, Va., 15 bass, 37-6, $3,000
23rd: Derik Hudson of Concord, Va., 15 bass, 37-1, $3,000
24th: Ken Thompson of Roaring Springs, Pa., 15 bass, 36-3, $3,000
25th: Brad Jelinek of Lincoln, Mo., 11 bass, 29-0, $3,000
For a full list of results visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 120 bass weighing 326 pounds, 1 ounce caught Saturday. The catch included 23 five-bass limits.
Al Hopkins of Pendleton, Indiana, weighed in five bass totaling 10 pounds, 14 ounces, Saturday to win the top Strike King co-angler prize of a new Phoenix 518 pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard engine, with a three-day total of 12 bass weighing 25-10. Second place went to co-angler Will Lancett of Jacksonville, Arkansas, who weighed in a three-day total of 7 bass weighing 19-3, good for second place and $12,500.
The Top 25 Strike King co-anglers at the 2023 Toyota Series Championship on Table Rock Lake finished:
1st: Al Hopkins of Pendleton, Ind., 12 bass, 25-10, Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat w/115-horsepower Mercury outboard
2nd: Will Lancett of Jacksonville, Ark., seven bass, 19-3, $12,500
3rd: Zack Barrera of Morriston, Fla., seven bass, 17-9, $10,000
4th: Paul Gelles of Pingree, Idaho, eight bass, 16-13, $7,500
5th: David Matual of Chicago, Ill., eight bass, 16-12, $5,000
6th: Levi Allgeier of Bardstown, Ky., seven bass, 16-7, $4,000
7th: Casey McCommons of Ina, Ill., seven bass, 16-6, $3,500
8th: Nycholas Swanson of Cedar Falls, Ind., six bass, 16-4, $3,000
9th: Bruce Harris of Oakdale, Calif., six bass, 16-1, $2,500
10th: Zack Eggleston of Goleta, Calif., seven bass, 16-1, $2,000
11th: Pop Catalin of Cookeville, Tenn., seven bass, 15-7, $1,500
12th: Justin Curnutte of Grove, Okla., seven bass, 14-10, $1,500
13th: James Fender of Hanahan, S.C., six bass, 14-9, $1,500
14th: Brett Robbins of Solvang, Calif., seven bass, 14-1, $1,500
15th: Morgan White of Jasper, Texas, six bass, 13-6, $1,500
16th: Sakae Ushio of Tonawanda, N.Y., six bass, 13-3, $1,000
17th: Kirk Marshall of Discovery Bay, Calif., six bass, 13-2, $1,000
18th: Robert Griswold of Lincolnton, N.C., five bass, 13-0, $1,350
19th: Robert Massey of Calhoun, La., five bass, 12-12, $1,000
20th: Benjie Winkler of Cleveland, Ga., six bass, 11-13, $1,000
21st: Scott Spencer of Raleigh, N.C., five bass, 11-8, $900
22nd: Kenneth Heckel of Santa Claus, Ind., five bass, 11-5, $900
23rd: William Lewis of Jacksonville, Fla., four bass, 11-2, $900
24th: Riley Nielsen of Murray, Utah, four bass, 10-4, $900
25th: Chad Garton of Des Moines, Iowa, five bass, 9-15, $900
The 2023 Toyota Series Championship Presented by Simms at Table Rock Lake was hosted by ExploreBranson.com. The three-day, no entry fee tournament featured a field of over 400 pros and co-anglers from around the world, competing for a top cash award of up to $235,000, plus multiple contingency bonuses.
The 2023 Toyota Series Championship Presented by Simms will premiere on CBS Sports in 2024.
The full field of anglers competed on Days 1 and 2 of the event, with the Top 25 pros and Top 25 Strike King co-anglers based on cumulative weight from the first two days continuing to the third and final day. The 2023 Toyota Series champions were determined by the heaviest three-day total weight.
The 2023 Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats consisted of six divisions – Central, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and Western – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International division and the Wild Card. The highest finishing pro from each division at the championship claimed a $10,000 bonus. The bonus went to the second-highest finishing pro in the division represented by the overall champion.
The 2023 Toyota Series Championship field featured the Top 25 pros, Top 25 Strike King co-anglers and tournament winners from each of the six divisions; the Top 25 pros and 25 co-anglers from the Wild Card division plus tournament winners; the highest finishing boater and co-angler from each of the six Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine Regionals and the TBF at the All-American; the top three teams from the College Fishing National Championship; High School Fishing National Champions; TBF National Champions; and MLF International anglers from Canada, Central Europe, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Namibia, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Zimbabwe.
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 Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.