Wheeler leads going into final day at Bass Pro Tour Toro Stage Four on Lake Guntersville Presented by Bass Cat Boats - Major League Fishing
Wheeler leads going into final day at Bass Pro Tour Toro Stage Four on Lake Guntersville Presented by Bass Cat Boats
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Wheeler leads going into final day at Bass Pro Tour Toro Stage Four on Lake Guntersville Presented by Bass Cat Boats

Tennessee pro catches five largemouth weighing 29 pounds, 9 ounces to pace Knockout Round field, final 10 Anglers set for Championship Sunday and shootout for $100,000
Image for Wheeler leads going into final day at Bass Pro Tour Toro Stage Four on Lake Guntersville Presented by Bass Cat Boats
May 20, 2023 • MLF • Press Releases

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – Reigning Bally Bet Angler of the Year (AOY) Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, caught 21 scorable bass Saturday, with his best five weighing 29 pounds, 9 ounces, to lead the 40-angler Knockout Round and advance along with the Top 10 anglers to Sunday’s final day Championship Round at the Bass Pro Tour Toro Stage Four at Lake Guntersville Presented by Bass Cat Boats.

Link to Hi-Res Photo of Knockout Round Winner Jacob Wheeler
Link to HD Video – Fish-Catch Highlights of Knockout Round on Lake Guntersville 
Link to Photo Gallery of Knockout Round on Lake Guntersville Afternoon Highlights

Wheeler will bring a sizeable 5-pound, 1-ounce advantage over second-place pro Ott Defoe of Blaine, Tennessee, who weighed in five bass totaling 24-8 to end the day. Pro Adrian Avena of Vineland, New Jersey, sits in third place with five bass weighing 23-12, while Edwin Evers of Talala, Oklahoma, weighed in five bass totaling 23-11 to finish the day in fourth. Lynchburg, Virginia’s, David Dudley caught five bass weighing 23-1 to round out the top five.

Sunday’s final standings are still up in the air – a 30-pound bag is always a possibility at Guntersville – and less than nine pounds separates the 10 remaining anglers. Competition resumes Sunday 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.

“I had a great day on the water, and you live for those days,” Wheeler said. “It was one of those days where every decision I made seemed like the right one.”

Wheeler is known for his tendency to bounce from spot to spot to cover water, but he said recreational boat traffic kept him stationary during part of the day.

“I was bouncing around a little bit,” Wheeler said. “I would spend some time in some zones, but I didn’t spend all my time in those areas. It was tough to get around on a Saturday in some places, so I squatted a little bit more than I would. As the rain hit, things opened up, and I was able to bounce around a little bit.”

Rain fell in the afternoon for 20 to 30 minutes, and the bite turned on as the rain approached. The rain, combined with a slowdown in recreational boat traffic, allowed fish to set back up on schools. As a result, a large number of fish turned on to feed and were caught during that period.

Wheeler said four of his five biggest bass of the day came on a yet-to-be released bait he designed called the Hitchhiker that will debut at ICAST in July. Wheeler’s Saturday catch included nine bass over 4 pounds – including three that weighed more than 6 pounds.

“Lake Guntersville is impressive,” Wheeler said. “It might be the best Tennessee River bass-fishing lake in the country. It just pumps them out every single day. There are more 3- to 5-pounders in this lake than just about anywhere else that I’ve ever been.

“Obviously it was a really good day,” Wheeler said. “Better than I anticipated. I was fortunate to get a couple of the right bites, got them in the boat, and hopefully, I can repeat that tomorrow. Anybody can drop a 30-pound bag at any point in time, so I’m definitely not safe. I think I need to catch another 25 pounds to have a real good shot at taking this one home.”

The Top 10 pros that now advance to Sunday’s Championship Round on Lake Guntersville are:

  • 1st:        Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., five bass, 29-9
  • 2nd:       Ott Defoe, Blaine, Tenn., five bass, 24-8
  • 3rd:       Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., five bass, 23-12
  • 4th:        Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., five bass, 23-11
  • 5th:        David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., five bass, 23-1
  • 6th:        Randall Tharp, Port Saint Joe, Fla, five bass, 22-7
  • 7th:        Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., five bass, 21-7
  • 8th:        Jacob Wall, New Hope, Ala., five bass, 21-2
  • 9th:        Bradley Roy, Lancaster, Ky., five bass, 21-1
  • 10th:     Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, five bass, 20-12

Finishing in 11th through 40th are:

  • 11th:     Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, five bass, 20-2, $10,000
  • 12th:     Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., five bass, 19-6, $10,000
  • 13th:     Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., five bass, 19-0, $10,000
  • 14th:     Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., five bass, 18-12, $10,000
  • 15th:     Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., five bass, 18-7, $10,000
  • 16th:     Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., five bass, 18-2, $10,000
  • 17th:     Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala., five bass, 17-8, $10,000
  • 18th:     James Elam, Tulsa, Okla., five bass, 17-4, $10,000
  • 19th:     Josh Butler, Hayden, Ala., five bass, 17-3, $10,000
  • 20th:     Cody Meyer, Star, Idaho, five bass, 17-0, $10,000
  • 21st:      James Watson, Lampe, Mo., five bass, 16-12, $10,000
  • 22nd:    Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., five bass, 15-12, $10,000
  • 23rd:     Greg Vinson, Wetumpka, Ala., five bass, 15-10, $10,000
  • 24th:     Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, five bass, 15-0, $10,000
  • 25th:     Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Ala., five bass, 15-0, $10,000
  • 26th:     Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., five bass, 14-15, $10,000
  • 27th:     Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., five bass, 13-15, $10,000
  • 28th:     Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., five bass, 13-11, $10,000
  • 29th:     Kelly Jordon, Flint, Texas, five bass, 13-11, $10,000
  • 30th:     Brett Hite, Phoenix, Ariz., five bass, 13-6, $10,000
  • 31st:      Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., five bass, 12-11, $10,000
  • 32nd:    Mark Daniels, Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., five bass, 12-11, $10,000
  • 33rd:     Shin Fukae, Osaka, Japan, five bass, 12-1, $10,000
  • 34th:     Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., five bass, 12-0, $10,000
  • 35th:     Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., four bass, 11-9, $10,000
  • 36th:     Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., four bass, 11-3, $10,000
  • 37th:     Timmy Horton, Muscle Shoals, Ala., three bass, 9-2, $10,000
  • 38th:     Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., two bass, 6-4, $10,000
  • 39th:     Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark., two bass, 4-14, $10,000
  • 40th:     Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., one bass, 4-10, $10,000

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

Overall, there were 334 scorable bass weighing 1,031 pounds, 8 ounces caught by the 40 pros Saturday, which included 13 5-pounders, 10 6-pounders and one 7-pounder.

Saturday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award went to pro Bryan Thrift of Shelby, North Carolina, who caught a 7-pound, 6-ounce largemouth in Period 1 on a Texas-rigged ribbon-tail worm 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 event, hosted by Marshall County Tourism & Sports, 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 Tuesday and Thursday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Wednesday and Friday. After the two-day qualifying round, the Top 20 anglers from each group advanced to Saturday’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 Sunday, 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 at 7:30 a.m. CT Sunday from the Guntersville Civitan Park, located at 1130 Sunset Drive in Guntersville. The General Tire Takeout will be held at the park 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.

As part of the event, on Sunday, May 21 the MLF Fan Experience will be taking place at Civitan Park in Guntersville from 1-6 p.m. MLF will welcome fans of all ages to celebrate fishing and the outdoors with concerts in the park, hosted by Explore Lake Guntersville, featuring country music artist Jackson Chase. Food and drinks will be available from local food trucks and fans can check out the latest gear and offerings from MLF and MLF sponsors including Toyota, Favorite Fishing, Kubota, U.S. Air Force, and The Fallen Outdoors. Fans can hang out and watch the pros live on the MLFNOW! big screen during the MLF Watch Party, and 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.

Toro Stage Four at Lake Guntersville Presented by Bass Cat Boats 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. CT. MLFNOW! will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Television coverage of Toro Stage Four at Lake Guntersville Presented by Bass Cat Boats will air as two, two-hour episodes starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Oct. 7 and Saturday, Oct. 14 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.