4:00 p.m. – Lines out
That’s it for the first day of Qualifying Round competition for Group B. No one crushed them the way Kurt Mitchell did yesterday, but it wasn’t a bad day of fishing at all. Just ask John Cox.
Cox didn’t practice for this event and decided to do some practicing today – to the tune of 66-5 and the Group B lead. The DeBary, Fla. pro didn’t catch huge numbers (18 scorable), but he caught some huge fish, including a pair of 5-pounders to really establish his lead in Period 3. A John Cox with a day of fish-catch knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Spencer Shuffield made a late charge of his own after a long lull during the afternoon hours. He ended the day with 61-2 to finish the day in second.
Joey Cifuentes had a great day for himself as well. The man in the cowboy hat caught 18 scorable bass for 60-6 and sole possession of third. Behind him, Matt Becker made a late push to finish the day in fourth with 51-1.
Dylan Hays (49-13), Wade Strelic (43-8) and Clark Reehm (39-14) aren’t far behind. The top seven has been pretty stacked today.
Still, it’s not as if the next 10 or so pros below that mark are in bad shape. Every one of those pros has north of 22 pounds, and with another full day of competition to challenge for the top-10 cut, anything can happen.
Thanks for following along with our live coverage today. Be sure to come back tomorrow morning for the live blog (7:30 a.m. CT) and FLW Live show (7:45 a.m. CT) for all the action. Check back at flwfishing.com and majorleaguefishing.com later this afternoon for stories about today’s Group B performances.
3:30 p.m. – Half hour to go
With 30 minutes left to fish, it’s all John Cox. He recently added a 4-14 to eclipse the 60-pound mark and take an almost 6-pound lead over Joey Cifuentes. Dylan Hays lurks behind in third with 49-13.
As we saw yesterday, there hasn’t been a ton of movement in the top seven or eight spots on SCORETRACKER. One notable exception is Jacob Wall, who now has 29-8 with nine scorable bass. Wall really came on late today to put himself in pretty good position ahead of Thursday.
Clark Reehmn is just ahead of Wall and still has the largest bass of the day, but he also has by far the most penalties with five (for 10 total minutes).
Ninth through 11th are within 11 ounces of one another. That’s the line to watch Thursday. The top 10 pros in each group make Friday’s Knockout Round. Of course, today’s standings will mean very little come lines-in on Thursday.
Every angler in today’s field has caught at least two scorable bass, with Darrell Davis bringing up the rear with 6-2 (two fish). All but he and Alex Davis has more than three scorable bass today.
2:25 p.m. – Cox is on ‘em, takes lead
John Cox is simply an enigma. He has a reputation for always fishing shallow (and he does that a lot), but that’s not nearly all he does well. In fact, he does nearly everything really, really well. Take this derby as the prime example.
In the last few minutes, Cox has added a 5-2 and a 5-1 to his total. He now has an 8-pound lead and he’s not letting up. The best part: he’s having a lot of fun doing it. It’s rare to be around a John Cox who isn’t laughing and having a good time, regardless of how the fishing is.
Even more impressive is the fact that Cox just fished a Bassmaster Elite Series event before coming to Wisconsin, and he’s doing all this without any practice.
2:02 p.m. – Two hours to go
With about two hours left to fish, there really hasn’t been a ton of movement on SCORETRACKER since the start of the third period. Things seem to have slowed a bit, though that might come partly from pros taking this time to make moves in search of a big school that can get them right in a hurry. We just saw Billy McDonald (ninth place) running to a new spot on the Live broadcast.
The bottom line is this: The top of SCORETRACKER is stacked up tight, as is the middle. Really, from first to seventh is a tier unto itself, but six more anglers are within 15 pounds or so of that group. There’s still a lot of movement we could see by the end of the day. Regardless, this is still just day one of the Qualifying Round for Group B, so any ground lost can be made up on Thursday. And being at the top of the list at the end of the day means very little.
That said, Dylan Hays, John Cox and the like have to feel pretty good. Being where they are right now is probably enough of a cushion to not have to smash them on Thursday to make the Elimination Round on Friday.
1:15 p.m. – End of Period 2
The second period has come to an end, and boy was it a fun one. If there was a lull to end the morning in the middle of the period, it certainly wasn’t around by the end of it. The top of SCORETRACKER is changing quicker than we can keep up with it.
Dylan Hays in back out in front with 43-6 on 14 scorable fish. John Cox continues to be John Cox and catch nothing but big fish. In third, right behind Cox, Joey Cifuentes has 12 scorable for 41-6.
While Wade Strelic and Spencer Shuffield have stumbled a bit, Clark Reehm has jumped into the top five with 35-8 on 10 fish. It’s hard to overstate how impressive the quality has been across the board today.
The top 10 anglers on SCORETRACKER have at least 21 pounds each with a 4 1/2-pound gap between 10th and 11th. That’s the line to watch today and into the second day of Group B’s Qualifying Round on Thursday.
12:29 p.m. – Top 5 is packed
The top five (and really all the way down to seven) is super tight on today’s SCORETRACKER. Dylan Hays just jumped into the lead, but he only has an ounce on Joey Cifuentes, who has less than 3 pounds on John Cox. From there, only 7 pounds separates Cox from Matt Becker (26-12) in seventh place.
No one has run away with things today, and it’s important to keep in mind that weights in the Qualifying Rounds are cumulative, so every ounce matters for every angler today. A lot can change when they get back out on the water in two days.
Twenty-three of 25 pros fishing today have caught multiple fish, headlined by Hays’ 12 scorable bass. Clark Reehm still has the day’s biggest bass (5-11), which is going to be hard to top. Still, there are 6-plus-pounders swimming around in this pond. We’d sure like to see one or two this week.
11:58 p.m. – SCORETRACKER update
Don’t look now, but John Cox is making moves. He’s up over 30 pounds and in third place, just behind Joey Cifuentes and Dylan Hays. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Cox just finds ways to get the job done, and the job’s not even done yet.
Cifuentes and Hays both have tallied 10 scorable fish. Things are definitely slower right now than in the first period, though maybe not by a ton. It’s just the top SCORETRACKER that’s stalled out as everyone chips away from the middle and bottom. Eighteen pros are over the 10-pound mark. Only Tyler Woolcott is without a fish today.
Spencer Shuffield is still around bait and bass. Neither is helping him much at the moment. It’s really a timing deal right now, and when it comes time for the smallies to feed, we’ll see another nice flurry this afternoon.
11:05 a.m. – New leader
Joey Cifuentes has been on a tear since before the first period break. He’s now in the lead with 31-1, just over a pound ahead of Spencer Shuffield. Cifuentes recently landed a 4-15 to get within one scorable fish of lead – the kind of fish that can jumpstart a day in a hurry.
John Cox, who fished both the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit and Bassmaster Elite Series this year, just can’t get away from that big-fish mentality he’s known for. He’s sitting in ninth place with just four fish, but they’ll go 15-8 for an almost 4-pound average. He’s also lost a few key fish, including a giant. Right before lines out, Cox tried to boat flip one with seconds to spare and broke everything. Still, he’s on fish after getting off to a slow start.
10:30 a.m. – Period 1 in the books
That’s it for the first period of day two. No one smoked them like Kurt Mitchell did in Group A yesterday, but overall, the fishing seems to be a tick better across the board. Average weights are right in line, and 22 of 25 pros have at least one scorable fish on SCORETRACKER.
Spencer Shuffield is in the lead with 29-13. He’s lost a couple good fish today, and while he’s not rattled, it was apparent Shuffield knows how crucial landing every fish can be in this format. Still, he’s in good shape. He’s one of only four anglers over 20 pounds right now.
After spending much of his first hour or so just searching and practicing, John Cox finally seems to be in a good area to increase his total (12-4). Every fish he’s hooked has been of really good size, though he did lose one he thought might have been close to 6 pounds and another good one seconds before lines out. Cox isn’t necessarily known as a smallmouth hammer, but he has a knack for just finding something that works for him. So far, he’s making his new area work.
In second, Wade Strelic is just over 4 pounds behind Shuffield. Both pros have weighed nine scorable bass to this point. Dylan Hays has seven scorable and Mitch Crane, Billy McDonald, Matt Becker and Joey Cifuentes all have at least five.
Clark Reehm has big bass so far today with a 5-11 (besting Mitchell’s 5-10 from yesterday). McDonald joins him in the 5-pound club with a 5-6.
Period 2 is typically the slowest of the three, especially on Sturgeon Bay, but stable weather conditions today might lead to more consistency throughout the day. We’ll find out soon.
10:02 a.m. – Sturgeon Bay smallies are fattening up
If you’re looking for a snapshot comparison between the biology of the Sturgeon Bay fishery in late August versus mid-July, here are a few notes: the average size of the 228 fish weighed yesterday on the first day of the TITLE was 3 pounds, 5 ounces; the 2,986 newly post-spawn scorable fish weighed during the MLF event on these same waters July 10-15 was 3-0 pounds even. The MLF pros caught an average of 13.69 fish apiece over the course of that six-day event – the 25 Group A anglers who fished yesterday caught an average of 9.12 bass apiece.
Turns out that practice dock talk (which said that the bite was slower, but with better quality as fish have added weight two months after the spawn) was right. So far, anyway. We'll see how the rest of the week plays out.
9:31 a.m. – Shuffield surging
Spencer Shuffield, who finished the 2020 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit regular season in second place in AOY points, is making his mark on Group B today. Has has five scorable for 17-9, just 3-7 off Wade Strelic’s lead. An average fish on this pond will put him just about in the lead. Shuffield loves fishing up north, as we saw in the final event of the Pro Circuit season just a couple weeks ago, and it’s no surprise he’s making the most of his opportunities today.
Twenty of 25 Group B pros are on the board now. Of them, 15 have more than one scorable bass and eight have three or more. Things may have slowed a bit since the first hour of competition, but not by a whole lot. Stable weather throughout the day should keep things moving along at a pretty steady pace.
As was the case yesterday, pros today are fishing pretty clean vis-a-vis MLF rules. We’ve only seen a few penalties so far, including one from Clark Reehm, who’s in timeout at present.
8:41 a.m. – Strelic jumping out to early lead
Wade Strelic is picking up where Kurt Mitchell left off yesterday. He already has six scorable bass for 17-12, the biggest of which went 4-9 (largest of the day so far). He’s catching them consistently, too. Every catch with the exception of one came six minutes from the last.
Behind him, Billy McDonald is similarly hot, sitting with four scorable bass for 10-8. Dylan Hays (8-9) and Spencer Shuffield (8-4) are the only two other anglers with at least three and 15 of 25 anglers are on the board.
Yesterday morning, Group A got off to a hot start with the morning bite. The same is true today. One thing to watch, though, will be the cloud cover (or lack thereof). Yesterday was a lot more overcast and today calls for sun all day. We’ll see what that does to reposition the fish for this group.
8:07 a.m. – Out the gates hot
It took less than seven minutes for Bradford Beavers, Clark Reehm and Kyle Hall to get on the board, and all three hooked up and landed within 20 seconds of one another. Shortly before that, Joey Cifuentes caught his first scorable fish and Billy McDonald took the lid off SCORETRACKER with a 2-pound, 6-ounce smallie.
Reehm’s fish went 4-1 for the first over 4 pounds today. We saw 43 such fish yesterday (not including three 5-pounders).
7:30 a.m. CT – Group B underway
Anglers are off to their starting spots and 30 minutes from lines-in for the start of competition for Group B in the Qualifying Round of the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota.
Yesterday lacked the drama MLF's catch, weigh and immediate release format often provides, but it's no one's fault unless you want to blame Group A leader Kurt Mitchell. And you can't be mad at anyone for catching 119 pounds, 10 ounces of smallmouth. Mitchell was chasing records yesterday. Sturgeon Bay can make that happen in a hurry.
Today, we'll see a new group of 25 pros gunning for records and big checks. Because of the format of the tournament (Group A and Group B fish alternating days until the Knockout Round), no one is chasing Mitchell down. Qualifying Round weights are cumulative and then zeroed before Friday's cut to 20.
Period 1 for Group B starts at 8 a.m. CT. Fortunately, our live video coverage starts even sooner. Be sure sure to head on over to MajorLeagueFishing.com for the FLW Live stream at 7:45 CT, and hang out here all day for analysis, updates and a lot more.
Temperature at takeoff: 64 degrees
Forecast high: 82 degrees
Precipitation: 10 percent chance of rain
Wind: S 5 to 10 mph
Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
August 24-29, 2020
Hosted by Destination Sturgeon Bay