BAINBRIDGE, Ga. – Toyota Series angler Nick Thliveros of St. Augustine, Florida, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday weighing 21 pounds, 13 ounces to win the three-day Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. at Lake Seminole in Bainbridge, Georgia. Thliveros’ three-day total of 15 bass weighing 62-11 earned him the win by a 1-pound, 12-ounce margin over second-place angler Matt Baty of Bainbridge, Georgia, and earned Thliveros the top payout of $37,809 in the third and final tournament of the 2021 Toyota Series Southern Division.
Settling down in Spring Creek, Thliveros said he fished one 50-yard stretch all week.
“It’s something I’ve had some previous knowledge on but I’ve never really been here at the right time for it,” said Thliveros. “I’ve never been here far enough in the postspawn to make those fish get in the deeper water.
“It’s basically a sand spot with hydrilla on the edge. The water’s about 10-foot deep around it and the sand is in 15 feet of water. It’s a depression and today they were on the sand.”
The unique aspect of his area was that Thliveros was essentially fishing side-by-side the fourth-place finisher Braxton Clements all three days. The two fished different areas all week, though the areas were nearly a cast apart.
“I have to give a huge shoutout to Braxton,” Thliveros said. “You got to watch him because that boy can fish and he is first class. We were 40 yards apart every day. I didn’t know him, but that’s a good man right there. We worked together – he had his hole, I had mine. We’d congratulate each other on catching fish all week and in this sport you don’t see that often, so to be a part of it is amazing.”
Thliveros said dissecting the grass and sand was a repetitive and meticulous process the entire week. Getting bites early in the day helped to reinforce the fact that the tiny spot still had fish and gave him the confidence to keep grinding.
“I’ve never been in a situation where you can go to one spot and just catch ‘em all three days,” he said. “Today, I could see them on my down imaging and I backed off and it was awesome.”
Thliveros kept it simple and a bit old school with two worms of choice – a Strike King Cut-R Worm or a Strike King Anaconda worm rigged on a 3/16- or ¼-ounce Bullet Weights Tactical Tungsten weight. Though he tried other baits, Thliveros said the worm was his primary producer.
“My dad has, you know, 35 years in [tournament fishing on a worm], so I had a pretty good teacher,” he said. “He taught me how to drag a worm and that’s what it took this week.”
With his family cheering him on from the crowd, Thliveros was emotional on stage when his name was announced as champion.
“It’s been two years since my last win,” he said. “I won Okeechobee  and I hadn’t cashed a check since the end of that year, but I came back on this one. I’ve got to thank my family and sponsors, because without y’all I wouldn’t be here. I’m speechless.”
The top 10 pros on Lake Seminole finished:
1st: Nick Thliveros of St. Augustine, Fla., 15 bass, 62-11, $37,809
2nd: Matt Baty of Bainbridge, Ga., 15 bass, 60-15, $15,651
3rd: Clint Brown of Bainbridge, Ga., 15 bass, 59-14, $11,343
4th: Braxton Clements of Donalson, Ga., 15 bass, 51-3, $9,452
5th: Joey Cifuentes of Clinton, Ark., 15 bass, 50-04, $8,507
6th: Brandon Classon, Sr. of Leesburg, Ga., 15 bass, 48-11, $7,562
7th: David Ellis of Crestview, Fla., 11 bass, 47-7, $6,617
8th: Anthony Ford of New Smyrna, Fla., 12 bass, 44-4, $5,671
9th: Nicholas Davico of Cantonment, Fla., 12 bass, 42-2, $4,726
10th: Terry Segraves of Kississimmee, Fla., 13 bass, 37-2, $3,781
A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Cole Hewett of Orange Park, Florida, took home an additional $136 for the Day One Berkley Big Bass award in the pro division, with a bass weighing 7 pounds, 15 ounces. Nolan Gaskin of Broussard, Louisiana, won the Day Two Berkley Big Bass award in the pro division, bringing an 6-pound, 12-ounce bass to the scale.
Pro Matt Baty of Bainbridge, Georgia, took home an extra $1,000 as the highest finishing Phoenix MLF BIG5 Bonus member. Boaters are eligible to win up to an extra $35,000 per event in each Toyota Series tournament if all requirements are met. More information on the Phoenix MLF BIG5 Bonus contingency program can be found at PhoenixBassBoats.com.
Stephen Draghi of Sparrowbush, New York won the Strike King Co-angler Division Saturday with a three-day total of 13 bass weighing 34 pounds, 6 ounces. Draghi took home the top prize package of a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard motor.
The top 10 Strike King co-anglers on Lake Seminole finished:
1st: Stephen Draghi of Sparrowbush, N.Y., 13 bass, 34-6, Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat w/115-hp outboard
2nd: Joe Cifuentes of Clinton, Ark., 11 bass, 32-3, $4,762
3rd: Allen Carter of Bainbridge, Ga., 13 bass, 31-5, $3,809
4th: Brandon St. Pierre of Cape Coral, Fla., 12 bass, 28-7, $3,333
5th: John Stahl of Land O’Lakes, Fla., 10 bass, 26-1, $2,947
6th: Gary Haraguchi of San Jose, Calif., eight bass, 23-13, $2,381
7th: Ronald Young of New Braunfels, Texas, eight bass, 21-9, $1,905
8th: George Kapiton of Inverness, Fla., eight bass, 21-6, $1,667
9th: John Ebbe of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc., seven bass, 20-7, $1,428
10th: Mark Denney, Jr. of Perry, Ga., 10 bass, 19-0, $1,515
In the Strike King co-angler division, the $90 Day One Berkley Big Bass award winner was Charles Tucker of Eustis, Florida, with a 6-pound, 6-ounce bass, while the $90 Day Two award went to John Stahl of Land O’Lakes, Florida, with a 7-pound, 10-ounce bass.
The Toyota Series at Lake Seminole was hosted by the Bainbridge Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was the third and final regular-season tournament in 2021 for Southern Division anglers. The next event for Toyota Series anglers will take place May 13-15 – the Toyota Series at the California Delta in Oakley, California. For a complete schedule, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.
The 2021 Toyota Series presented by A.R.E. consists of six divisions – Central, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and Western – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International division. Anglers who fish all three qualifiers in any of the eight divisions and finish in the top 25 will qualify for the no-entry-fee Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. Championship for a shot at winning $235,000 cash, including a $35,000 Phoenix MLF BIG5 Bonus for qualified anglers. The winning Strike King co-angler at the championship earns a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard.
The 2021 Toyota Series Championship Presented by A.R.E. will be held Oct. 28-30 on Pickwick Lake in Counce, Tennessee, and is hosted by the Hardin County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Toyota Series presented by A.R.E. on the MLF BIG5’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.