Archives 2021

Tennessee’s Michael Neal Clinches Pro Circuit AOY Title

TULSA, Okla. – Based in Dayton, Tennessee and growing up in a family of anglers, Michael Neal started fishing as a pro on the former FLW Tour at just 20 years old. Since then, he’s finished second in the Forrest Wood Cup and REDCREST, and generally been excellent, consistent … and shy of a win. Though it took all year to make it happen, the 29-year-old pro finally has that win after being crowned Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Angler of the Year on Day 3 of  Savage Arms Stop 6 Presented by Abu Garcia on the St. Lawrence.

Fishing a nearly flawless season, Neal started the year with a 22nd-place showing at Okeechobee and a 33rd-place finish at Lewis Smith. Then, he turned up the heat. In the final four events on Lake Murray, the Potomac River, Lake Eufaula and the St. Lawrence, Neal’s lowest finish was 11th, which surged him past a slipping Cole Floyd and well ahead of Skeet Reese.

Finishing 11th at the St. Lawrence with 55 pounds, 3 ounces of smallmouth, Neal wrapped up the win in style.

“It still really hasn’t set in, I’m excited, but I don’t think I have everything emotionally coming out yet,” Neal said of the AOY title. “It’s just a great year, there are so many things I can look back on that shouldn’t have happened that did. Randy Haynes once told me, ‘When you’re going to win a tournament, stuff like that will happen.’ It’s happened every tournament this year and his words came true.”

Neal said he’s gotten lucky all year, with one good call after another making the season come together. When you do it all year long it stops being luck at some point, but he’s still grateful for the things that have gone right.

“There’s something from every single tournament that I can look at and say ‘Wow, that was lucky’. Either catching a big one or catching a couple off a place, or whatever,” Neal said. “At Murray, for one, I went up the river in practice for about three hours and had one bite and it was a 2-pounder. Then, the first day I had an OK bag skipping docks, the second day I had to find something else to do – I went up the river and started catching them. The fourth day, that’s where I caught almost all my fish.

“At the Potomac, I didn’t fish down south all tournament, then I ran back to Aquia [Creek] the last day and caught some fish that were really key to coming in second. Every tournament, there’s something that happened that just helped things go right.”

Even at the St. Lawrence, on his very last day of fishing, Neal had some things just go right.

“I was re-tying and I had individual rock piles marked, and I set my trolling motor to go towards the next one and it actually put me up on top of a grass flat,” Neal said. “As soon as I got done re-tying, I realized where I was, stood up, picked up a drop-shot, flipped to the edge of the grass and caught a 4-pounder right there. It’s been like that all year.”

A pitcher in his youth, Neal lettered for the varsity team as a freshman in high school, but quickly turned to fishing.

“When I hurt my elbow playing baseball, I had to make a choice, to either completely tear my ligament for Tommy John surgery or quit,” Neal said. “When I quit baseball, fishing was pretty much all I did all summer, and any time I got the opportunity.”

Shepherded along by his father Mike Neal, his grandfather Alan Brown and his uncle Rogne Brown, Neal has been competitive from the get-go.

“My first couple years were pretty rough, ’12 and ’13,” Neal said. “2012 was pretty much a learning experience, my first year being on tour, but since then, everything has kinda clicked. I’ve always went out there and did my own thing, trying not to worry too much about what everybody else is doing or what you’re supposed to do at that lake. Especially now, I just do what I want to do and go fish my way, and it’ll either work out or it won’t.”

Fishing BFL events and as a co-angler on the FLW Tour in 2008 and 2009, Neal worked his way up so quickly that it’s easy to think he’s been around for longer than he has. Starting on the Tour as a pro in 2012, Neal fished five events the first season while still in college to get his feet under him.

Back then, the same low-key and friendly angler was catching fish all over the country and putting up highlight reel finishes when he got in his wheelhouse on the Tennesee River. In 2014 and 2016, Neal banked Top 10 finishes on Pickwick Lake, finishing second both times and absolutely cracking them on the final day in 2014. In 2016, he sat on one schooling spot for the entire event to finish runner-up to John Cox in the Forrest Wood Cup on Wheeler Lake.

This year, fishing both the Bass Pro Tour and the Pro Circuit, Neal put together his best year yet.

“Going into the year I was on the fence of whether I should have signed up for both [tours] or not,” Neal said. “I didn’t know if I would be able to do it stamina-wise, and I wasn’t sure if I would get burnt out. But I really think that’s what has caused me to have the year I have had on both sides. When I’m home I don’t fish, ever. Just spending more time on the water, it doesn’t matter if you’re smallmouth fishing, largemouth fishing, in Florida, New York or Texas, you’re still staying in tune with the fish and making decisions and staying in rhythm.”

Now, with his best smallmouth finish ever under his belt to cap off an AOY season, Neal feels like he’s really accomplished something.

“I consider this a win, it’s not one tournament, but it was the best for the year,” Neal says. “I feel like now I’ve got an accolade I can hold as a career accomplishment that’s better than a win. Now that’s done, maybe some wins will follow.”

With a BPT event this week on Lake Champlain and then the Tackle Warehouse TITLE Presented by Mercury on the Mississippi, Neal will have some opportunities to get a win in short order. Then, he’ll finally get to go home to East Tennessee.

“It’ll probably be a party when I get back,” Neal chuckled. “Which will be about a month from now.”

For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit presented by Bad Boy Mowers on the MLF BIG5’s social media outlets at FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour B&W Trailer Hitches Stage Four at Lake Chickamauga Presented by ATG by Wrangler

DAYTON, Tenn. (June 4, 2021) – It was the best opening day of the season at the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour B&W Trailer Hitches Stage Four Presented by ATG by Wrangler at Lake Chickamauga in Dayton, Tennessee. The 40 pros in Group A caught a single-day total of 271 bass weighing 806 pounds, 10 ounces, Thursday – the heaviest weight caught on any Day 1 so far this season.

B&W Trailer Hitches pro Russ Lane of Prattville, Alabama, was firmly in control of the Group A leaderboard after Day 1 concluded, catching 23 bass totaling 70 pounds,12 ounces, to grab the early lead in the two-day Group A Qualifying Round. The six-day event, hosted by Fish Dayton and the Rhea Economic & Tourism Council, features 80 of the top professional anglers from around the world competing for a purse of $805,000, including a top cash prize of $100,000 to the winner.

Lane will bring a 21-pound, 6-ounce, lead into Sunday’s second day of competition for Group A. Berkley pro Jordan Lee of Cullman, Alabama, the reigning Bass Pro Tour Angler of the Year (AOY),  caught 13 bass weighing 49-6 to end the day in second place. Michie, Tennessee’s Jason Lambert sits in third place after a 34-pound third period rally, just 1-ounce behind Lee with at total of 17 bass weighing 49-5.

The 40 anglers in Group A will now enjoy a day off Saturday, while the 40 anglers in Group B will begin their first day of competition. Group A resumes competition on Sunday.

“Man, what a day,” said Lane in his post-game interview from the water. “It is so much fun out here when things go right, and they really did today. I’ve got around a 20-pound lead and that is rare territory for me. I’m just enjoying the moment right now and I cannot wait to get back out here again for Day 2.”

Lane said that he mainly targeted Chickamauga’s offshore hydrilla beds and grass flats.

“I’m around them. There are a lot of good ones under the hydrilla, I just have to cover a lot of water,” Lane continued. “I caught them on a ¾-ounce ChatterBait with a little Big Bite (Baits) (Kamikaze) Swimon trailer with the tails cut down to make it have a little less action so the bait would get down deeper. I had 16-pound-test Sunline Sniper line spooled on a 7:1 (Shimano) Curado reel, and that setup has been doing some work today.”

Reigning AOY Jordan Lee has struggled so far this season and has not made it out of the Qualifying Rounds. But, after a productive day Thursday, it looks like the 30-year-old Alabamian may have broken out of his slump.

“It was a really good day for me,” Lee said. “I made some good decisions and things were just going right for me this morning. I haven’t made a cut yet this year, so to get off to a good start today feels really good.

“I caught some nice ones early and then just kept the ball rolling, picking up a few here and there all day. I mixed in a lot of different summertime, Tennessee River, ledge baits – cranking, a hair jig, and a Berkley (Havoc) Bottom Hopper. These fish here get a lot of pressure, so it was important to get off to a good start. Now, we’ll regroup and get after them again on Sunday.”

The top 20 pros in Group A after Day 1 on Lake Chickamauga are:

1st:           Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala., 23 bass, 70-12
2nd:          Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala., 13 bass, 49-6
3rd:          Jason Lambert, Michie, Tenn., 17 bass, 49-5
4th:           Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn., 17 bass, 44-8
5th:           Mark Rose, Wynne, Ark., 11 bass, 38-14
6th:           Matt Becker, Finleyville, Pa., eight bass, 31-11
7th:           Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., 10 bass, 29-12
8th:           Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., nine bass, 27-5
9th:           Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., eight bass, 26-2
10th:        Alton Jones, Lorena, Texas, nine bass, 23-5
11th:        Roy Hawk, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., eight bass, 22-13
12th:        Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss., eight bass, 21-10
13th:        Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., seven bass, 21-4
14th:        Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., eight bass, 20-8
15th:        Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla., seven bass, 20-4
16th:        Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., five bass, 20-4
17th:        Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., seven bass, 19-5
18th:        Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., six bass, 19-4
19th:        Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark., five bass, 18-13
20th:        Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif., seven bass, 18-12

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

Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Oklahoma, won Friday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award, weighing in an 8-pound, 7-ounce largemouth on a Carolina rig during Period 1. Berkley will award $1,000 to the angler who weighs the biggest bass each day, and a $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the largest bass of the tournament.

The MLF Bass Pro Tour B&W Trailer Hitches Stage Four at Lake Chickamauga Presented by ATG by Wrangler is hosted by Fish Dayton and the Rhea Economic & Tourism Council.

The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day qualifying round on Lake Chickamauga on Friday and Sunday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Saturday and Monday. After each two-day qualifying round is complete, the anglers that finish in 2nd through 20th place from both groups advance to Tuesday’s Knockout Round, while the winner of each group advances directly to Wednesday’s Championship Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed and the remaining 38 anglers compete to finish in the top 8 to advance to the Championship Round. In the final day Championship Round, weights are zeroed and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

Anglers will take off from the Dayton Boat Dock, located at 175 Lakeshore St., in Dayton, at 6:30 a.m. ET each day of competition. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will also be held at the Dayton Boat Dock, beginning at 3:30 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all takeoff and takeout ceremonies and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLF NOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The Bass Pro Tour features a field of 76 of the top professional anglers in the world – joined at each event by 4 pros that qualify from the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit – competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, competing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2022 championship.

The MLF NOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action on all six days of competition from 6:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CT. MLF NOW!®  will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Television coverage of the B&W Trailer Hitches Stage Four Presented by Wrangler at Lake Chickamauga will be showcased across two two-hour episodes, premiering at 7 a.m. ET, Oct. 9 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on the Discovery Channel, with additional re-airings on the Outdoor Channel and the Sportsman Channel. Each two-hour long reality-based episode goes in-depth to break down each day of competition.

For complete details and updated information on the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at FacebookTwitter Instagram, and YouTube.

About Major League Fishing
Major League Fishing (MLF) is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, producing more than 250 events annually at some of the most prestigious fisheries in the world, while broadcasting to America’s living rooms on CBS, the Discovery Channel, the Outdoor Channel, CBS Sports Network, the World Fishing Network, the Sportsman Channel and on-demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with offices in Benton, Kentucky, the MLF roster of bass anglers includes the world’s top pros and more than 30,000 competitors in all 50 states and 13 countries. In 2019 MLF acquired FLW and rebranded it as MLF BIG5, which expanded its portfolio of catch, weigh and immediately release events to include the sport’s strongest five-biggest-fish format tournament circuits. Since its founding in 2011, MLF has advanced the sport of competitive fishing through its premier television broadcasts and livestreams, and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for bass through research, education, fisheries enhancement and fish care.

Major League Fishing – WE ARE Bass Fishing™

FLW Abu Garcia College Fishing Open Coming to Lake Chick

Major League Fishing (MLF) announced that Dayton, Tennessee will host the 2021 Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open on March 30-31 at Lake Chickamauga. The famed big-bass fishery has produced some of the best trophy bass fishing opportunities in the country and has served as a highly competitive playing field for many major bass tournaments over the years.

2021 schedule 

“We are extremely excited to give our college anglers the opportunity to compete on Lake Chickamauga,” said Kevin Hunt, MLF Senior Director of Tournament Operations, College and High School. “This will be the first experience for many college anglers on this fishery, and with the tournament set for late March we expect to see plenty of big bass and an awesome competition.”

The two-day event will be hosted by Fish Dayton and the Rhea Economic & Tourism Council, a proud and prominent supporter of bass fishing and the substantial economic impact it brings to the region.

“Fish Dayton is thrilled to host the 2021 Abu Garcia College Fishing Open on Lake Chickamauga,” said John Bamber, Executive Director of Rhea Economic and Tourism. “We are excited to see some great weights brought in by these talented college anglers and are thankful for their stewardship of this fishery.”

The 60-mile-long impoundment of the Tennessee River provides diverse cover and substantial space for the hundreds of anglers and boats that will be competing in the event. The top 20 teams from the 2021 College Fishing Open advance to the 2022 Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI National Championship presented by Lowrance, where the top two teams will advance to the 2022 Toyota Series Championship to compete as pros, for a shot at winning as much as $235,000. In addition to the automatic berth into the 2022 College Fishing National Championship, the first-place team will also earn a new Phoenix 518 Pro boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard, valued at $33,500. Additional teams will qualify for the National Championship if the Open field size exceeds 200 boats.

As in all College Fishing events, the College Fishing Open at Lake Chickamauga will feature live weigh-in coverage on both days of competition.

Priority entry for the 2021 Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI season opens at 8 a.m. CT on December 14, 2020, for teams from schools represented in the 2020 College Fishing National Championship. All other teams may enter beginning December 15, 2020. Teams can enter at FLWFishing.com or by calling (270) 252-1000. The entry fee remains the same for 2021 – $75 per team for teams who enter prior to onsite check-in and $100 for teams who enter onsite.

Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI teams compete in three regular-season qualifying tournaments in one of five conferences – Central, Northern, Southeastern, Southern and Western. The top ten teams from each division’s three regular-season tournaments and the top 20 teams from the annual Abu Garcia College Fishing Open advance to the following year’s Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI National Championship presented by Lowrance.

Complete rules for the 2021 Abu Garcia College Fishing program can be found online at FLWFishing.com.