Avena Surges to Group A Qualifying Round Win at MLF  Stage Two
New Jersey Pro Fires Up During Period 3 on Douglas Lake to Win Qualifying Round After Day 2 for Group A – Group B Resumes Competition Tuesday

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. (March 20, 2023) – After ending the second period in 14th place, with only three fish, Berkley pro Adrian Avena of Vineland, New Jersey went on a third period flurry to win the Group A Qualifying Round Monday at the Major League Fishing (MLF) U.S. Air Force Stage Two Presented by Power-Pole on Douglas Lake. The New Jersey pro finished the day with a five-bass limit weighing 16 pounds, 2 ounces, for a two-day total of 30-13, earning him the Qualifying Round win by a 2-pound, 5-ounce margin over second place angler Favorite Fishing pro Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, who finished with a two-day total of 10 scorable bass weighing 28-8.

Link to Hi-Res Photo of Qualifying Group A Winner Adrian Avena
Link to HD Video – Fish-Catch Highlights of Group A Qualifying Round Day 2 on Douglas Lake
Link to Photo Gallery of Group A’s Day 2 Qualifying Round Afternoon Highlights

Abu Garcia pro Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Alabama ended the day in third place with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 27-7, while Pike Road, Alabama pro Keith Poche finished the round in fourth place with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 27-2. Rounding out the top five was Bass Pro Tour rookie Nick LeBrun of Bossier City, Louisiana, with a two-day total of 10 bass totaling 26-15.

Frigid morning temperatures in the teens and a strong afternoon warm-up also made for a lot of third period movement around the Toro Cutline, with pro Fred “Boom Boom” Roumbanis dancing back and forth across the cutline throughout the day to slide into the 20th spot by the end of the third period and pro Dakota Ebare moving from 26th place to finish the day in 15th. Georgia pro Jared Lintner made big moves in the final period as well, jumping from 30th place into the 12th spot, but General Tire pro Edwin Evers made the biggest jump, moving from 25th to end the day with a fifth place finish.

Avena began the morning in second place, but had dropped to 20th by the end of Period 1 after not catching a single fish.

“When we’re talking about springtime fishing, it’s always going to warm up in the afternoons, so the first day of competition I was able to catch a few key fish late in the day and today was no different,” said Avena. “I was having a bunch of fish follow my bait throughout the morning, but they just weren’t committing to it. When the water is that cold early in the day, they’re just sluggish and not willing to bite.”

Avena said he spent both days of competition focusing on isolated wood – targeting lay downs, pine trees, logs in the water – pretty much anything isolated, especially on shallow flats. He said he caught the majority of his fish on a Berkley Stunna Jerkbait, one on the brand-new Berkley Cull Shad and the other two on a KGB Chad Shad Glide Bait.

“As mid-day began, the bite started to pick up,” said Avena. “I caught a couple in the second period and seven in that third period and was able to finish out my limit and cull several times. That last hour was just magical and I caught some really nice fish.”

The top 20 advancing anglers from Group A will now have an off day from competition Tuesday, while the 40 anglers competing in Qualifying Group B will complete their two-day Qualifying Round. The top 20 anglers from each group advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 40 anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to the Championship Round on Thursday. In the final day Championship Round, weight carries over from the Knockout Round and the angler with the heaviest two-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

The top 20 pros from Group A that now advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round on Cherokee Lake are:

1st: Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 10 bass, 30-13
2nd: Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 10 bass, 28-8
3rd: Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 27-7
4th: Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., 10 bass, 27-2
5th: Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., 10 bass, 26-15
6th: Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 10 bass, 26-13
7th: Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., 10 bass, 26-4
8th: Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 26-1
9th: Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 10 bass, 24-15
10th: Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss., 10 bass, 24-10
11th: Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., 10 bass, 24-7
12th: Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., nine bass, 23-13
13th: Bradley Roy, Lancaster, Ky., 10 bass, 23-13
14th: Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., nine bass, 23-11
15th: Jacob Wall, New Hope, Ala., 10 bass, 23-9
16th: Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 10 bass, 23-9
17th: Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., 10 bass, 23-5
18th: Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, 10 bass, 22-13
19th: Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 10 bass, 22-8
20th: Fred Roumbanis, Russellville, Ark., 10 bass, 22-7
A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Hays earned Monday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award with a stocky largemouth weighing 6 pounds, 13 ounces that he caught in Period 2 on a jerkbait. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and another $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.

The six-day event, hosted by the Jefferson County Department of Tourism Sports Commission, showcases 80 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing for a purse of more than $805,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters All-Star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship.

The 40 Anglers in Group A competed in their two-day qualifying round on Saturday and Monday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Sunday and Tuesday. After each two-day qualifying round is complete, the top 20 anglers from each group advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 40 anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to Thursday’s Championship Round. In the final day Championship Round, weight carries over from the Knockout Round and the angler with the heaviest two-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

Anglers will launch Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. ET from Dandridge Ramp, located at 100 Public Drive in Dandridge and Wednesday and Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET from the TVA Boat Launch on Renfro Road in Jefferson City. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the respective launch locations above, beginning at 5 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch and takeout events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLF NOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

On Championship Thursday, March 23, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., MLF will welcome fans of all ages to come in to celebrate the top 10 and crown the Stage 2 Champion at the Trophy Presentation. The final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand at the trophy celebration to meet and greet fans, sign autographs and take selfies. The celebration will take place at the TVA Boat Launch on Renfro Road in Jefferson City, Tennessee.

The U.S. Air Force Stage Two on Cherokee and Douglas Lakes Presented by Power-Pole features anglers competing with a 1-pound, 6-ounce minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable on Douglas Lake and a 1-pound, 12-ounce minimum weight for scorable bass on Cherokee Lake. Minimum weights are determined individually for each competition waters that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.

The 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour features a field of 80 of the top professional anglers in the world competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, fishing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship, held March 13-17, 2024, on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Alabama.

The MLF NOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on all six days of competition from 8:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET. MLF NOW!® will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Television coverage of the U.S. Air Force Stage Two on Cherokee and Douglas Lakes Presented by Power-Pole will air as two, two-hour episodes starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, September 16 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on the Discovery Channel, with re-airings on the Outdoor Channel.

Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, Ark Fishing, ATG + Wrangler, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bally Bet, Bass Cat Boats, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, Daiwa, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Ferguson, Fox Rent A Car, General Tire, Grundéns, Humminbird, Lowrance, Minn Kota, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Power-Pole, Rapala, Star tron, T-H Marine, TORO, Toyota, U.S. Air Force, Yellowstone Bourbon, Yo-Zuri and Zoom Baits.

For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, 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 and on-demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). Headquartered 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. 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.

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