BRANSON, Mo. – Chad Mrazek backed up his impressive Day 2 bag with a five-bass limit for 16 pounds even on the final day of the Toyota Series Championship Presented by Simms. His Saturday bag was enough to boost his three-day total to 47-2 and earn him the win by 7 ounces over All-American champion Emil Wagner.
The victory represents the first win as a pro for the 23-year-old Texas native. He picked a good time for it. The win is worth $200,000 plus contingencies and a berth in REDCREST 2024.
Ideally, Day 3 of the tournament sails by – big fish bite early and often, and the winner ends up back at the dock with a good chunk of time to spare. Of course, that’s usually not the case, and it was certainly not the case for Mrazek, as the Texas pro didn’t have a keeper in the boat until noon.
“I fished drains all day, ‘Scoping them of course, mainly targeting singles, casting at every one I would see,” he said. “In the evening, I was fishing flatter, shallower pockets and creeks. Every school I had that was setting up late in the day, they were only setting up in flatter, shallower drains, and there aren’t a lot in this lake. I pretty much found five of them, and rotated them all day.
“I didn’t have a fish until noon. I was sitting on one until like 1 p.m. Then, I hit the back of this drain with a giant tree. The timber fields will have standing timber, and some that have fallen sideways. This one had a giant fallen tree on it, and I caught a 3 ½-pound spot and a 3-pound smallmouth off it.”
It was part of a hot afternoon that saw Mrazek go from a goose egg to 16 pounds and the win.
This week, the young Texan started out fishing deep with an ice jig and a Damiki rig – basically on the same game as much of the field. Then, he adapted.
“Day 2, I needed to go swing, and the only way I knew how was to fish for smallmouth all day,” he said.
Swinging meant fishing “shallow” in 20 to 37 feet. Targeting main lake pockets and “drains” with a flat contour and timber, Mrazek was able to pick off fish with a jig that were in and around the trees.
“In the timber, every once in a while, there will be a tree with a ton of branches on it,” he said. “Every time you’d cast on one of them, you’ll see one come off it. Then, it’s a matter of if it’s going to bite or not. Today, 5% of the ones I casted at bit, maybe less. Yesterday, maybe 50% of them bit.”
On many of his best casts, a handful of fish would show interest, but it took patience to garner a bite.
“If five of them were there, four of them would come up and look at it on the way down, and then go away. And one would stay, and I might be able to get it to bite,” he said. “I would let it sit in front of their face, shaking it, almost like I was bed fishing. For whatever reason, if I could get one under the boat, I could get them to bite. I don’t know if they like the shadow of the boat, or if it was the way I was working it, but they would bite.”
Still, it made tedious work; in water that deep, a jig is a slow way to fish. Plus, as nearly everyone experienced on Table Rock, a huge percentage of the bass didn’t want to actually bite.
The key bait was a 7/16-ounce football jig with half a 6th Sense Clout as a trailer – it was a bait Mrazek is super comfortable with and part of his LiveScope rotation. Heavier, 16-pound line was also key.
“I’ve been scoping with that bait for a while now,” he said. “I used 16-pound Sunline Sniper, and I can’t break it. Most of my better drains, there were trees everywhere, you’re going to get wrapped up. I think only lost like two fish all week.”
Mrazek has been chasing pro fishing hard the last few years. With a bumpy rookie year on the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals in 2023, his Toyota Series success helped buoy his season.
“It takes a toll on you, sacrificing as much as I have, traveling as much as I have,” he said. “You lose friends, you miss things, but this definitely makes it all worth it.”
Mrazek was also particularly thankful for his closest relationships, including those with his mother and father, Renee and Mike, and his girlfriend, Sophie Perry.
“Sophie’s held it down; she’s in law school in Houston and on the road with me,” he said. “That’s not something a lot of people would be capable of. I want to thank everybody who has been behind me, everyone who has pushed me to be my best, my mom and dad especially. My dad has always pushed me to be my best and be a hard worker. My mom has always taught me to keep my head up, no matter what. I didn’t have a fish until noon, and I stepped it up – she gave me that grit, that mindset.”
Still, even with a $200,000 check in hand to pay for a lot more dream chasing, Mrazek knows he’s still at the start of his pro fishing journey.
“The hard work is only beginning,” he said. “These guys aren’t getting any worse, they’re getting better and better. The hard work isn’t going to stop, it’s not going to change my mindset. I want to be a household name in the sport. I just want everyone who supports me to know that it isn’t taken for granted, that’s what fuels me on days like today.”
1. Chad Mrazek – 47 – 2 (15) – $202,500
2. Emil Wagner – 46 – 11 (15) – $61,300 (includes $1,000 Phoenix Bonus)
3. Drew Gill – 44 – 12 (15) – $40,000
4. Jeremy Gordon – 44 – 4 (15) – $25,000
5. Colby Miller – 43 – 7 (15) – $30,000
6. Jacob Walker – 43 – 2 (15) – $14,000
7. Christian Ostrander – 43 – 1 (15) – $23,000
8. Brody Campbell – 42 – 12 (15) – $12,200
9. Mike Raber – 42 – 11 (15) – $21,000
10. Evan Kung – 42 – 9 (15) – $20,000
Mrazek wasn’t the only angler to leave Table Rock with major rewards. Montevallo University junior Dalton Head also earned a spot in REDCREST 2024 as the highest-finishing angler from the Abu Garcia College Fishing ranks. Head, who finished 83rd, beat out Peyton Harris, his partner from their national championship victory on the Kissimmee Chain in February, for the chance to fish for $300,000 less than an hour away from campus.
Plus, the highest-finishing boater from each Toyota Series division earned a $10,000 bonus in addition to their tournament payouts. Wagner will not only earn the prize for the Central Division, but the Southern Division, as well, since he qualified from both.
The payout winners from each division are listed below.
Northern – Mike Raber (9th)
Central, Southern — Emil Wagner (2nd)
Plains – Drew Gill (3rd)
Southwestern – Alec Morrison (11th)
Western – Christian Ostrander (7th)
Wild Card – Colby Miller (5th)
International – Evan Kung (10th)