JVD Leads Day 1 At MLF Bass Pro Tour Stage Three Group A

Kalamazoo, Michigan’s Jonathon VanDam Catches 21-14 To Take Early Lead for Group A COLUMBIA, S.C. (April 2, 2023) – Favorable conditions greeted the 40 anglers competing in Group A Sunday at Lake Murray on Day 1 at the Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury. As predicted, a variety of tactics and baits were in play as all of the top five anglers on caught the majority of their bass in different ways, and nine of the top-10 finishers of the day had at least one 4-pound kicker bass in their limit.

After a dominant first period, Favorite Fishing pro Jonathon VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, grabbed the early lead with a lipless crankbait, and then held it throughout the day. VanDam boated 15 scorable largemouth, with his best five weighing 21 pounds, 14 ounces – good for a 1-pound, 10-ounce advantage over second-place angler Marty Robinson of Lyman, South Carolina. Robinson had struggled early, ending the second period in 39th place before going on a third-period rally to vault into second place with 20-4.

Link to Hi-Res Photo of Qualifying Group A Leader Jonathon VanDam
Link to HD Video – Fish-Catch Highlights of Group A Qualifying Round Day 1 on Lake Murray
Link to Photo Gallery of Group A’s Day 1 Qualifying Round Afternoon Highlights

The six-day event, hosted by Capital City/Lake Murray Country, 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.

Weights are stacked up in the remainder of the top five, as just 1-pound separates second place from fifth. Second-year pro Cole Floyd of Leesburg, Ohio, ended the day in third place with five bass totaling 20-3, while rookie Mitch Crane, a practicing dentist from Columbus, Mississippi, ended the day in fourth with five bass weighing 19-4. Toro pro Dakota Ebare of Brookeland, Texas , continued his red-hot pace with a solid start to the round, catching five bass weighing 19-4 to finish the day in fifth place.

The 40 anglers in Group A will now have an off day from competition on Monday, while the 40 anglers competing in Group B will begin their first day of competition. Group A will resume competition on Tuesday.

“Well, we’re off to a good start,” VanDam said. “We did what we needed to do today, and we really rode that first period. I caught a lot of fish, today. That first spot that I stopped on, they were really firing.”

VanDam caught 21 pounds in Period 1, upgrading slightly throughout the day. He did most of his damage with a lipless crankbait – a sexy shad-colored Strike King Red Eye Shad, according to MLFNOW! analyst Marty Stone.

“I had a chance to have a really big bag – I lost a great big one,” VanDam continued. “But I did catch a 6½ pounder there, so we’re sitting right where we want to be.”

After his first period flurry, VanDam spent much of the remainder of his day scouting new water and practicing for the remainder of the week.

“We did a lot of practicing today, and I was able to run around and do some looking,” VanDam went on to say. “I found three or four other places that have a lot of fish on them, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the week and hopefully we can keep this up.”

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

1st: Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., five bass, 21-14
2nd: Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., five bass, 20-4
3rd: Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, five bass, 20-3
4th: Mitch Crane, Columbus, Miss., five bass, 19-13
5th: Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, five bass, 19-4
6th: Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., five bass, 18-7
7th: Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., five bass, 18-5
8th: Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., five bass, 18-2
9th: Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala., five bass, 18-0
10th: Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas, five bass, 17-15
11th: Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., five bass, 17-13
12th: Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., five bass, 17-13
13th: Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., five bass, 17-12
14th: David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., five bass, 17-4
15th: Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn., five bass, 17-2
16th: Gary Klein, Mingus, Texas, five bass, 16-14
17th: Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., five bass, 16-3
18th: Tommy Biffle, Wagoner, Okla., five bass, 16-2
19th: Brett Hite, Phoenix, Ariz., five bass, 15-15
20th: Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., five bass, 15-13

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

Lyman, South Carolina’s Marty Robinson earned the first $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award of the event with a 6-pound, 12-ounce largemouth bass that bit his wacky-rigged worm in Period 3. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and a $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.

The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day qualifying round on Sunday and Tuesday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Monday and Wednesday. After each two-day qualifying round is complete, the top 20 anglers from each group advance to Thursday’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. In Friday’s 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 each day at 7:30 a.m. ET each day from Dreher Island State Park, located at 3677 State Park Road in Prosperity. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the launch locations, beginning at 4 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 Friday, April 7, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF will welcome fans of all ages to visit Dreher Island State Park and celebrate the top 10 and crown the Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Champion at the Watch Party and 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 Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury will feature pros competing using the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, with each angler’s five (5) heaviest bass per day tallied as their day’s weight. Anglers strive to catch their heaviest five fish each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the live scoring SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. 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 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET. MLF NOW!® will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Television coverage of the Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury will air as two, two-hour episodes starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 7 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, 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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