JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. – It was an even colder start to the day for the professional anglers in Group B on Sunday at the Major League Fishing U.S. Air Force Stage Two Presented by Power-Pole on Douglas Lake, with pros deicing their rods and guides well into the afternoon. Battling through the frigid temps, pro Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, managed to put together a five-bass limit weighing 14 pounds, 7 ounces to take the lead in Period 2 and narrowly maintain that lead through the end of the competition day.
Despite never weighing a fish in the third period, Faircloth will bring a slim lead into Group B’s second day of competition Tuesday, with a mere 3-ounce advantage over pro Josh Butler of Hayden, Alabama, who went on a third period flurry to finish the day in second place with a five-bass limit totaling 14-4. Pro Mitch Crane of Columbus, Mississippi, caught a 4-11 kicker fish in Period 3 to end the day in third place, with a limit weighing 14-4, while General Tire pro Mark Rose of Wynne, Arkansas, ended the day in fourth place with a limit totaling 13-15. Lorena, Texas pro Alton Jones, Sr., rounded out the top five with a limit weighing 13-14. Kicker fish were key on Douglas Lake on Sunday, as every pro in the top 5 scored a fish well over 4 pounds.
The six-day event, hosted by the Jefferson County Department of Tourism Sports Commission, 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.
“Today has exceeded my expectations, that’s for sure,” said Faircloth. “We started down the lake a little ways, in an area where I had some bites in practice, around some bait out in the middle of the pocket, but there just wasn’t much bait there this morning. I ended up catching one fish in there, then moved around a little bit and tried a couple spots.
“I ran to my second spot to fish a stretch I’d found in practice, and the guy that was leading at the time was sitting on that spot,” continued Faircloth. “So, I made another little move and started catching some fish. I caught one 5-pounder and a 3-pound smallmouth in the second period that pushed me to the top of the leaderboard.”
Despite a difficult practice and battling ice and snow flurries throughout the day, Faircloth said he was able to figure out a pattern that worked for him.
“Practice was tough for me here and it wasn’t like you could just go down the bank and catch them,” said Faircloth. “They were on key spots, but they are so hard to get to bite right now. For some reason, I cannot catch anything dragging bait on the bottom. They want something above them, and particularly either cranking or throwing a jerkbait.
“It was a little aggravating, because I can see them with my Lowrance Active Target, but they are so hard to catch,” Faircloth continued. “I noticed the start of the shad die-off in practice, and whenever that happens it gets especially hard to catch fish, because they basically have a buffet in front of them all the time.”
Shad die-off generally happens because water temps have gone up, then dropped dramatically. In this case, water temps had been pushing the 60’s on Douglas Lake, so the extreme 10- to 12-degree plunge over the last several days threw the shad into shock. Largemouth and smallmouth can adjust to the sharp downward swing, but smaller baitfish typically cannot handle that extreme change in water temperatures.
“I caught the majority of my fish on a sexy shad-colored Strike King KVD Elite 300 Jerkbait,” said Faircloth. “The water is a little stained on Douglas this week, so the white shows up real good in the water, and that coupled with the shad die-off made this a key bait for me today.”
The 40 anglers in Group B will now have an off day from competition Monday, while the 40 anglers competing in Group A will wrap up their two-day Qualifying Round. Group B will resume competition on Monday.
The Top 20 pros in Group B after Day 1 on Douglas Lake are:
A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Butler caught a 5-pound, 1-ounce largemouth on a jerkbait in Period 2 that was the biggest fish of the day, earning him the first $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award of the event. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and another $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.
The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day qualifying round on Saturday and Monday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Sunday and Tuesday. After each two-day qualifying round is complete, the top 20 anglers from each group advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 40 anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to Thursday’s Championship Round. In the final day Championship Round, weight carries over from the Knockout Round and the angler with the heaviest two-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.
Anglers will launch Monday and Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. ET from Dandridge Ramp, located at 100 Public Drive in Dandridge and Wednesday and Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET from the TVA Boat Launch on Renfro Road in Jefferson City. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the respective launch locations above, beginning at 5 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 Thursday, March 23, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., MLF will welcome fans of all ages to come in to celebrate the top 10 and crown the Stage 2 Champion at the 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 celebration will take place at the TVA Boat Launch on Renfro Road in Jefferson City, Tennessee.
The U.S. Air Force Stage Two on Cherokee and Douglas Lakes Presented by Power-Pole features anglers competing with a 1-pound, 6-ounce minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable on Douglas Lake and a 1-pound, 12-ounce minimum weight for scorable bass on Cherokee Lake. 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 8:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET. MLFNOW! will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.
Television coverage of the U.S. Air Force Stage Two on Cherokee and Douglas Lakes Presented by Power-Pole will air as two, two-hour episodes starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, September 16 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on the Discovery Channel, with re-airings on the 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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.