LA CROSSE, Wis. (Aug. 20, 2021) – It was a battle at the top of the unofficial leaderboard for most of the afternoon between pros Adrian Avena of Vineland, New Jersey, Mitch Crane of Columbus Mississippi and Jared McMillan of Clewiston, Florida at the Major League Fishing (MLF) Tackle Warehouse TITLE Presented by Mercury – the Pro Circuit Championship, Presented by Bad Boy Mowers. Fans watching the MLF NOW ! livestream and the anglers themselves were a bundle of nerves throughout the entire two-day Group B Qualifying Round as the trio of anglers stayed within 1½ pounds of each other on the unofficial leaderboard, in a tight race for the top position and the automatic berth to Sunday’s Championship Round.
Avena shored up the Group B win at the Friday weigh-in, punching his ticket straight through to the final round with a five-bass limit weighing 13 pounds, 10 ounces, bringing his two-day total to 29-6. His winning bag gave him a 1-pound, 1-ounce advantage over McMillan, who weighed 13 pounds, 6 ounces on Friday, for a total of 28-5, good for second place. After some heart-breaking penalties, Crane brought a limit of 13-6 to the stage for a two-day total of 27-15, ending the day in third.
Only the top 20 anglers will move on in the competition. Anglers finishing 21st – 30th earned $10,500 at the event, while anglers finishing 31st – 50th took home $10,000.
Group A and Group B Qualifying Round winners will enjoy a day off on Saturday, while the remaining 18 anglers – 9 from Group A and 9 from Group B – will compete Saturday in the Knockout Round. Weights will be zeroed, and anglers will compete to finish in the top eight and advance to Championship Sunday.
The Championship Round on Sunday will feature Group A winner Miles Berghoff, Group B winner Adrian Avena and the top eight anglers from the Knockout Round, competing in a final-day shootout for a top prize of up to $235,000. The six-day event, hosted by Explore La Crosse, showcases the top 48 pros in the 2021 Pro Circuit standings, along with last year’s reigning TITLE champion and reigning Angler of the Year – all competing for a purse of nearly $900,000.
“I had a good day, and this honestly feels like a million dollars because I really didn’t want to fish tomorrow,” Avena admitted. “I’m burning up fish out there, but I’ve still got something in my back pocket that I’m glad I don’t have to burn tomorrow. I have no idea if I’m going to be able to get to it or not, but at least I’m going to do it on Championship Sunday. If I get stuck, I get stuck – if I take off my lower unit, I take off my lower unit – but at least it’s on championship day.”
Avena said he caught approximately 20 keepers on Friday but had a bit of unique pressure in his area.
“There are a couple young kids out where I’m fishing – and I’ve got nothing against them because I’d be out there fishing my heart out too – but I blasted the fish on a topwater that first day,” said Avena. “Today it got to the point where those kids were lined up and were literally throwing a topwater at the same school of fish I’m throwing at. It’s unbelievable, but I somehow got it done.”
As the water levels on the Mighty Miss continue to fall, Avena said he expects the event to get even more difficult over the next two days.
“This river is bittersweet to me. It’s one of those places where I can honestly get spun out a little bit,” admitted Avena. “You guys give us too many options with pools 7, 8 and 9 and I was literally all over the place trying to practice the whole system.
“I’m mostly throwing a swimbait and a topwater,” continued Avena. “I’m mixing in a bunch of other stuff as well. I think I’ve caught one on a fluke and maybe one or two on a jerkbait. I’m fishing schoolers, and it all comes down to making the right casts. I had a couple opportunities and pulled off some 3-pounders today, and I had some other opportunities where I made bad casts.”
As for the pressure from the young enthusiasts in his area, Avena said he is taking it in stride but wouldn’t mind a little intervention.
“I hope their moms and dads or whoever are reading this, man,” Avena said. “These kids – they’re reckless, dude. I’m catching fish out of two little areas, and if I catch one, they all go to that area. If they come up schooling in the other area, the kids all run to that area. There were a few times today where literally four topwaters were landing on the same breaking fish and one of them was mine.
“It’s just one of those deals – I feel like if I could just talk to their parents a bit,” Avena laughed. “Maybe they need to go to church on Sunday. If they can just let me fish it’d be alright.
“Either way, I’m looking forward to getting back out there Sunday. Anything can happen.”
The top 10 pros from Qualifying Group B that now advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round on the Mississippi River are:
1st: Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J, 10 bass, 29-6 – ADVANCES TO CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND
2nd: Jared McMillan, Clewiston, Fla., 10 bass, 28-5
3rd: Mitch Crane, Columbus, Miss., 10 bass, 27-15
4th: Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla., 10 bass, 26-8
5th: Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif., 10 bass, 26-3
6th: Jimmy Reese, Witter Springs, Calif., 10 bass, 25-7
7th: Matt Stefan, Junction City, Wis., 10 bass, 25-1
8th: Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 24-10
9th: Cody Meyer, Star, Idaho, 10 bass, 24-9
10th: Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., nine bass, 23-10
Finishing in 11th through 25th in the Group B Qualifying Round were:
11th: Jeremy Lawyer, Sarcoxie, Mo., 10 bass, 23-4
12th: Kyle Hall, Granbury, Texas, 10 bass, 22-7
13th: Lawson Hibdon, Versailles, Mo., eight bass, 21-8
14th: Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn., 10 bass, 20-14
15th: Larry Nixon, Quitman, Ark., 10 bass, 20-14
16th: Ryan Davidson, Branchland, W.Va., 10 bass, 18-13
17th: Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., seven bass, 18-7
18th: Brad Knight, Lancing, Tenn., eight bass, 18-5
19th: Terry Bolton, Benton, Ky., nine bass, 17-13
20th: Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, seven bass, 14-11
21st: Shin Fukae, Harlem, Ga., six bass, 12-13
22nd: Ron Nelson, Berrien Springs, Mich., four bass, 9-15
23rd: Jon Canada, Helena, Ala., five bass, 7-13
24th: Evan Barnes, Hot Springs, Ark., four bass, 7-7
25th: Justin Cooper, Zwolle, La., four bass, 6-12
A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 107 bass weighing 256 pounds even caught by the 25 pros on Thursday, with 18 five-bass limits.
Mitch Crane and Dylan Hays tied for Friday’s $500 Berkley Big Bass Award, each bringing in a 4-pound, 3-ounce largemouth and taking home $250. Berkley awards $500 to the angler in each group that weighs the biggest bass over their two-day Qualification Round.
Evan Barnes of Hot Springs, Arkansas was also presented the Forrest L. Wood Sportsmanship and Community Leadership Award during the weigh-in on Friday. The award recognizes a TITLE qualifier, nominated by his peers, who displays an overall commitment to sportsmanship and community leadership, on and off the water, through ethical behavior, integrity, class, selflessness, conservation, volunteerism and kindness to others. Evan’s nomination cited his profound respect for the sport and its ability to connect people from all walks of life and his reflection of a true sportsman who will go above and beyond for others.
The MLF Tackle Warehouse TITLE Presented by Mercury – the Pro Circuit Championship, Presented by Bad Boy Mowers features a hybrid tournament format. All 50 anglers were seeded into two groups of 25 – Group A & Group B, based on points earned in 2021 qualifying events – where they competed in Qualifying Rounds over the first four days of the tournament.
The top 18 anglers will fish the Knockout Round on Saturday. Ten anglers will be eliminated on Saturday and the top eight anglers from the Knockout Round will join Group A and Group B leaders in the Championship Round on Sunday.
Anglers will take off at 7 a.m. CT Saturday and Sunday from Veterans Freedom Park, located at 1 Clinton Street in La Crosse. Weigh-ins will also be held at the park daily at 3 p.m. The MLF NOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. Fans are welcome to attend the event or follow the action online through the MLF NOW! live stream and coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Along with the launch and weigh-in, fans and community members are invited to a Fishing and Outdoor Expo Saturday and Sunday, August 21-22 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT at Veterans Freedom Park, where fans can meet the pros and check out the latest in fishing and outdoor gear. The expo includes live music, great food, vendor booths from participating sponsors, activities for kids, giveaways and more.
The first 100 kids (10 and under) will receive a free rod and reel at the Expo on Saturday and Sunday and fans can register for a Jackson Kayak Coosa FD giveaway once per day, onsite every day throughout the tournament. The winner will be drawn after the final weigh-in on August 22. PAW Patrol’s Skye and Marshall will also be at the event with MLF pro Charlie Evans and will be available for photos. Appearance times may vary. Visit MajorLeagueFishing.com for updates and more details.
In addition to the launch, weigh-ins and Expo, youth 14 and under are also invited to attend a free Kid’s Fishing Derby on Sunday, Aug. 22, from noon to 2 p.m. at Copeland Park. Participants can bring their own fishing gear or use provided gear on a first come, first serve basis. Worms will be provided by DMF Bait Company. Participants can register online at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
The 2021 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Presented by Bad Boy Mowers featured a field of 163 of the top professional anglers in the world competing at six regular-season events around the country. The top 50 anglers in the Angler of the Year (AOY) standings after the six events qualified to compete in the Tackle Warehouse TITLE Presented by Mercury, the Pro Circuit Championship, Presented by Bad Boy Mowers.
Television coverage of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit TITLE Presented by Mercury event will be showcased across six two-hour episodes, premiering at 7 a.m. ET, Oct. 10 on the Outdoor Channel. Episodes premiere Sunday mornings on the Outdoor Channel, with additional re-airings on the Outdoor Channel and the Sportsman Channel. Each two-hour long episode goes in-depth to break down each day of competition. Episodes will run through Nov. 14.
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 Facebook , Twitter, Instagram and YouTube .
About MLF BIG5
MLF BIG5 is part of MLF, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization. It provides anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to compete for millions in prize money across five tournament circuits featuring a five-biggest-fish format. Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with offices in Benton, Kentucky, MLF and its partners conduct more than 290 bass-fishing tournaments annually around the world, including the United States, Canada, China, Italy, South Korea, Mexico, Namibia, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Zimbabwe.
MLF tournaments are broadcast on Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, World Fishing Network, MyOutdoorTV, Discovery and CBS Sports while MLF Bass Fishing magazine delivers cutting-edge tips from top pros to the world’s most avid bass anglers.