5:00 p.m. – We have a champion
Rusty Salewske is your first-ever Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota champion.
In stunning fashion, Salewske boated a 4-pound, 14-ounce kicker with just 12 minutes left to fish to overtake Bradford Beavers, who held the lead all of Period 3. Salewske could not have been calmer as he played the winning fish, landed it, weighed it and released it back over the gunwale. Even knowing it might be a fish worth $200,000, he went through the motions as if it were any other smallmouth.
It’s hard to put into words just how incredible finish this proved to be. We’ll have the full story up on flwfishing.com and MajorLeagueFishing.com shortly. Thanks for following along with us this week.
4:49 p.m. – Salewske takes the lead
With just 12 minutes to go, Rusty Salewske hooked into and landed a 4-14 to overtake Bradford Beavers by 8 ounces. That’s the very definition of clutch.
Meanwhile, Beavers is in a marina hunting for largemouth. He’s almost out of time. With so much on the line, you don’t have to be fishing in this tournament to feel the pressure on Beavers.
4:30 p.m. – 30 minutes to the finish line
There’s a half hour left to fish, and nothing much has changed at the top of SCORETRACKER. Rusty Salewske is 4-6 in back of Bradford Beavers. He’s going to need to find the right fish in a hurry.
Beavers, meanwhile, has decided it’s too rough on the main lake. He’s dipping into a marina to probe around with a ChatterBait and spinnerbait to see what kind of largemouth population he might be able to find. That’s one heck of a play considering what’s at stake. We can say this for Beavers: He trusts his instincts.
Spencer Shuffield has moved up into sixth and is now 2-1 behind Grae Buck for fifth. Shuffield has been around some good fish in the last hour or two, but it’s just a little too little, a little too late.
4:17 p.m. – Salewske isn’t done yet
Rusty Salewske isn’t letting Bradford Beavers run unopposed.
While Beavers still has a 4-6 lead, Salewske just shortened the gap with a 2-15 to bring his Championship Round total to 43-13. Four pounds, 6 ounces is one fish if it’s the right one. This isn’t over yet.
4:00 p.m. – 60 minutes to go
There’s one hour left to fish. One hour to overtake Bradford Beavers. One hour to protect your lead if you are Bradford Beavers. At the end of those 60 minutes lies the Tackle Warehouse TITLE champion’s belt.
No one has been catching them very well this period, but Beavers has done enough. We’ve seen a little movement further down SCORETRACKER, as Spencer Shuffield finally found a little area with some fish showing up on his graph. Kurt Mitchell landed a nice one and Grae Buck found a scorable for the first time since Period 1. Joey Cifuentes joined the party just a few minutes ago with a 2-14, his first of this period.
For those pros down the leaderboard, every fish can be more money in the bank. But with an hour to go, all eyes are on Beavers, Rusty Salewske and John Cox – the latter two having done a whole lot of nothing in the last hour or so. That’s going to have to change soon, or Beavers is going to be crowned the first-ever TITLE champion in 60 minutes.
3:41 p.m. – Beavers keeps tacking on
“It ain’t much, but it’s something.”
That was Bradford Beavers after that last bass, a 2-2 to extend his lead over Rusty Salewske to 7-5 and 11-5 over John Cox. It’s a little more than “something” when you consider how much is at stake. Beavers is just so cool under pressure, and he needs to be in this situation.
Kurt Mitchell just boated a 4-10 to move up from sixth to fourth. He’s still 25-11 out of the lead, so it’s probably not happening for Mitchell. Still, every jump up the standings is more money in the bank at the end of the tournament.
3:31 p.m. – Shuffield is on the board
It took most of the day, but Spencer Shuffield is finally on the board with a 2-13. “That fish is worth at least $2,000 extra,” he said on the live broadcast. Right after that first fish, Shuffield hooked into a giant that went 5-2.
As hopeful he was about having a big day today, it’s good to see Shuffield in fairly good spirits. He’s a guy who just lives for fishing, and he’s not done yet.
2:58 p.m. – Salewske answers back
Minutes after Bradford Beavers extended his lead with a 4-3, Rusty Salewske answered back with a 4-pounder of his own. Beavers’ lead is back to 5 pounds, 3 ounces. That’s exactly what Salewske needed at exactly the right time.
Meanwhile, John Cox is still fishless in this period. He’s in danger of getting left behind as Beavers and Salewske remain locked up in a heavyweight fight above him.
The rest of the field is at least 27-9 behind the leader. It’s not impossible to make up that much ground, but it’s looking more and more like a three-horse race at this point.
2:51 p.m. – Beavers pulling away
After a fight that seemed to last an eternity, Bradford Beavers finally landed the fish in question – a 4-3 that moves him 9 pounds out front of Rusty Salewske. Beavers thought it was a drum or walleye at first, so it had to have come as a pleasant surprise to see the quality smallie at the end of his line. That was his 15th scorable bass of the day.
Salewske and John Cox haven’t caught a fish in this final period yet. Both are going to need to get on them in a hurry to keep Beavers from gaining any more traction.
2:33 p.m. – Beavers strikes first
Leader Bradford Beavers needed a hot start to this period to put a little separation between him and Rusty Salewske, He got it in the form of a 2-2, which isn’t huge, but it extends his lead to 5 pounds. That’s essentially a two-fish lead, though 5-pounders aren’t prohibitively uncommon here. That is definitely huge.
2:00 p.m. – One period to win the belt
Period 2 has come to a close, and following this 30-minute break, anglers will have one more period to make some moves to claim the first-ever Tackle Warehouse TITLE champion’s belt. The pressure cooker is cranking up in a big way. As stressful as Period 3 has been at times this week, nothing comes close to what we’ll see over the next few hours.
As was the case yesterday, pros are sort of tiered out from first through 10th. At the top, Bradford Beavers leads with 39-12. Rusty Salewske is 2-14 behind with 36-14 and John Cox is hot on their heels with 30-1.
After the top three, there’s a group of four pros (Kyle Hall, Grae Buck, Kurt Mitchell and Joey Cifuentes, respectively) all within 5-15 of one another and, at closest, 21-4 off the lead.
The bottom three pros (Casey Scanlon, Evan Barnes and Spencer Shuffield) are without a scorable bass.
Two-and-a-half hours is plenty of time for any one pro to make some big moves. We’ve seen it happen before. This is such a good fishery that one big school can change everything. We’ll see who, if anyone, finds that school in Period 3. Buckle up.
1:30 p.m. – Cox is at it again
John Cox is back to doing John Cox things. With his family watching on from the shoreline, he just landed two good ones that’ll move him all the way up to within 7-3 of the lead. Cox now has nine scorable bass for the day and he’s in a good area to add some more in the next 30 minutes before the end of the period.
1:18 p.m. – Salewske closing the gap
Rusty Salewske, after a period of absolutely nothing happening, landed a 3-10 to move within 6 ounces of leader Bradford Beavers. Beavers then hooked up a few minutes later, but it came off, leaving the door open a little wider. There’s still plenty of time left to fish (40 minutes in Period 2 alone), but we’re getting closer to what you might consider crunch time.
Below them, John Cox now has seven scorable bass for 23-14, 13-6 in back of Beavers. He’s catching them slow and steady, and while he could use some more keepers, the quality has been there today.
1:00 p.m. – Shuffield still grinding
It’s really a shame how bad Spencer Shuffield’s day has been so far. When we left him yesterday afternoon after time expired, he was riding high and amped up about fishing today. All afternoon he graphed what he said was thousands of fish and was catching them seemingly at will. He expected to go back to that spot today and absolutely smash them.
As the grizzled weekend warriors like to say, “that’s why they call it ‘fishing’ and not ‘catching.’” Shuffield’s fish disappeared on him and he’s still stuck with zero for the day. He’s been so good on these Northern fisheries to close out the season, though, and he has all the talent to make something happen this afternoon. It just hasn’t yet.
12:41 p.m. – Cox into third
John Cox is making his move at the perfect time today. He just tacked on a 4-8 to move all the way up into third with 21 pounds even. Bradford Beavers and Rusty Salewske haven’t caught a scorable bass in a little while. Things might be getting more interesting.
12:18 p.m. – 5-pounder hour
Shoutout to host JT Kenney for calling this “5-pounder hour” after John Cox and Kurt Mitchell went virtually back-to-back with them in the shipping channel. Both desperately needed those fish to keep the gap from widening any further. Maybe it’s just time for those shipping channel fish to start chewing like they did earlier in the week. Cox is 2 ounces ahead of Mitchell at present, and both are still trailing Grae Buck (third) and Kyle Hall (fourth).
12:07 p.m. – Beavers back in the lead
No one has caught more fish today than Bradford Beavers, so it stands to reason that he’s also got the most weight – but not by a lot. He’s in the lead with a 2-pound edge over Rusty Salewske. It’s been all Beavers and Salewske to this point.
The next tier of pros behind them consists of Grae Buck (17-9) and Kyle Hall (15-3). It took Hall just 50 minutes to catch all four of his fish, and he’s got some good ones.
John Cox, Joey Cifuentes and Kurt Mitchell are all in the 9- to 9 1/2-pound range. They need to start catching them in a hurry or Beavers and Salewske could start pulling away.
At the bottom, Casey Scanlon, Evan Barnes and Spencer Shuffield are all still without a scorable bass. We’ll be keeping a close eye on all three, as that trio really crushed them yesterday.
11:42 a.m. – Salewske keeps catching as the field makes moves
Leader Rusty Salewske is picking up right where he left off in Period 1. He has nine scorable fish for 33-4 total now and he’s holding a 4-14 over Bradford Beavers.
Beavers, despite his solid start, is tired of getting beat up by the waves. He’s moving into the same protected shipping channel where John Cox and Kurt Mitchell are. It sounds like Spencer Shuffield, still in his truck at the start of Period 2, is also on his way to the shipping channel.
A wind-protected area with a ton of fish, it’s no surprise we’re about to see almost half the field in there.
11:00 a.m. – Period 1 in the books
With the first 2 1/2 hours in the books, Rusty Salewske has a nice lead over most of the rest of the field, with the exception of Bradford Beavers. Beavers is 9 ounces out of first with 28-6. After him, Grae Buck is 11-6 back with four fish for 17-9. John Cox, Joey Cifuentes and Kurt Mitchell all have three scorable bass on the books.
It was a rough first period for Casey Scanlon, Evan Barnes and Spencer Shuffield. None of the three landed a scorable bass, despite all three having really solid to spectacular days yesterday. That just goes to show how finnicky and nomadic these Great Lakes smallmouth can be.
This between-periods break will last 30 minutes (twice as long as usual) to give anglers additional time today given the boating conditions. Pros will also have the freedom to move around during the period break should they so choose.
We’ll be back in 30 minutes for Period 2.
10:45 a.m. – Salewske padding lead, Cox on the board… redux
We usually try to avoid repeating headings, but this one is especially appropriate to duplicate.
Rusty Salewske is up to 25-02 after catching a 5-1 (the first of two 5-plus-pounders we’ve seen today) and John Cox has added two more scorable fish to get up to fourth with 9-7 (three scorable total).
Speaking of 5-pounders, Grae Buck is pushing to get back into the lead after a 5-pound, 10-ounce giant to bring his total to 17-9. He’s 7-9 back of Salewske.
10:18 a.m. – Salewske padding lead, Cox on the board
Rusty Salewske is having himself a day so far. He’s got six scorable bass for 20-1 with about 40 minutes to still fish in this first period. Bradford Beavers is 4-15 behind him with five fish, but no one else has more than three scorable bass yet.
John Cox got his first scorable bass of the day just a moment ago. His went 2-14. Yesterday, Cox caught his fish throughout the day, never really getting on a big group and adding a lot of weight in a hurry. That resulted in a nail-biter of a final period in which Cox nearly slipped out of the top 10 if not for a 4-plus-pounder. If he wants to avoid getting too far behind, Cox needs to find an area with a concentration of fish.
9:50 a.m. – New leader
Rusty Salewske just added a 3-9 to jump Grae Buck and grab the lead. He now has four fish for 13-10, 1-11 ahead of Buck. Meanwhile, Buck is fishing the back side of a shoal acting as a current break. He says there aren’t a ton of fish left in the spot he was fishing yesterday, but it may be that they’re just really scattered out as a result of heavy winds and some partly cloudy skies.
Just watching Buck today can make a person seasick. The Northern guys would call it a walleye chop, but to everyone else, it’s big waves on a big fishery.
9:38 a.m. – Beavers moving on up
Bradford Beavers has jumped into second with his second and third scorable bass. He’s now at 8-7 and 3-8 behind Buck, who added a third scorable of his own about 15 minutes ago.
After about an hour, half the field of the final 10 pros has at least two on the board. The other half the field has zero. We’ve already seen quite a bit of game plan adjustments to this point, starting with Casey Scanlon dumping his boat, spearing some waves and putting it back on the trailer to go fish in the same area as Kurt Mitchell (a fairly wind-protected area).
It’s choppy out there and only getting choppier.
9:23 a.m. – Buck out to early lead
Three pros have two scorable fish on SCORETRACKER, including Grae Buck, who’s leading the way with 8 pounds, 5 ounces. His fish went 4-2 and 4-3 to start the day. Not bad at all, especially when you consider that he’s still struggling to relocate the schools he found yesterday.
Rusty Salewske and Joey Cifuentes both have two scorables as well. Salewske has 6-12 and Cifuentes is close behind with 6-6. Behind them, Bradford Beavers and Kurt Mitchell have one scorable bass apiece.
There’s certainly an adjustment period for a lot of anglers this morning. Between relocating schools and managing the conditions, it might be a bit before we see these pros really settle in ahead of the potential feeding window set to open up here in a just a little bit.
8:49 a.m. – Couple early catches
Grae Buck (4-3) and Joey Cifuentes (3-11) were the first two pros on the board today. With the wind blowing the way it is, pros in this championship field are going to have to spend some time this morning relocating their fish. Buck is on the board thanks to one he saw on his electronics and casted to, but it wasn’t part of a larger school. So far, it seems like the overnight and early morning wind have the fish spread out a bit.
Just a moment ago, Kurt Mitchell also joined the party and caught a 2-12. He’s back in his spot where he’s caught almost all his fish this week. It’s somewhat wind-protected, so he’s in good shape today as long as they’re biting for him.
8:15 a.m. – Live is live
Head on over to MajorLeahueFishing.com for the Live show, beginning right now and running through the entire day. We’re about 15 minutes from lines in, and we’ve had a ton of angler movement so far. From the sounds of it, running just about anywhere today is going to be a slow, challenging task.
7:30 a.m. CT – Change in plans
As we prepare to get the Championship Round of the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota underway, there are several important notes to address that will affect today's action. We'll still crown a champion at the end of the day. It's just going to be a little later than originally planned.
Because of heavy winds that are expected to increase throughout the day – potentially into the mid- to upper-20-mph range – blowing out of the northwest, this fishery is going to be incredibly rough for fishing and boating. With angler, staff and media safety in mind, lines in will be pushed back 30 minutes to 8:30 a.m. CT to give these pros some additional time to get to their starting spots.
In addition, each break will be increased from 15 to 30 minutes in duration, and pros will now be allowed to move, run and trailer to new spots during the breaks, though they're still prohibited from fishing and marking waypoints during that time. With longer breaks, an hour will be added on to the end of the day to give pros a little extra fishing time, so we'll be wrapping up at 5 p.m. CT today.
These top 10 pros made it to the Championship Round because they were able to adjust to new, unfamiliar rules and not just survive, but thrive. They'll do the same today.
Be sure to head on over to MajorLeagueFishing.com for the FLW Live stream at and hang out here all day for analysis, updates and a lot more. Today is the day someone is getting crowned first-ever Tackle Warehouse TITLE champion.
Temperature at takeoff: 63 degrees
Forecast high: 74 degrees
Sky: Sunny in the morning with increasing cloud cover throughout the day
Precipitation: 10 percent chance of rain
Wind: NW 15 to 25 mph
Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
August 24-29, 2020
Hosted by Destination Sturgeon Bay