Coulter Paces Group A on Day 1 of Major League Fishing’s Hitters on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (May 18, 2023) – While the bite on the first day of General Tire Heavy Hitters Presented by Bass Pro Shops was feast or famine for much of the 15-angler field, Florida’s Kissimmee Chain of Lakes served up everything a bass angler could ask for. Kissimmee produced quality bites on a diverse mix of techniques and surrendered a 9-pound Florida stud for the first Heavy Hitters big-bass bonus of the event.



Knoxville, Tennessee pro Brandon Coulter led the group after catching 12 bass for 39 pounds, 3 ounces, a near 7-pound lead over Brent Ehrler of Redlands, California, who weighed 10 scorable bass totaling 32-1 to end the day in second place.

With tight weights, every angler still has a legitimate chance to advance to the Knockout Round, where the stakes are raised and the big bass payout increases to $30,000.


Huntsville, Alabama pro Ryan Salzman, who finished the day in third place, caught the heaviest bass of the day Saturday right at the end of Period 1 – a largemouth that weighed in at 9 pounds, 3 ounces. The fish came on Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer with a Houdini-colored Z-Man RaZor Shadz trailer. For the lunker, Salzman will take home a $10,000 Big Bass Bonus. Big Bass Bonuses are awarded each day throughout the competition, with payouts of $10,000, $30,000 and $100,000 being awarded for the single biggest fish in the Qualifying, Knockout and Championship rounds.

The 15 anglers in Group A will now have the day off Sunday, while the 15 anglers in Group B will begin their Day 1 Qualifying Round. Group A will complete their two-day Qualifying Round of competition on Monday.

After a slow start to the day, where he failed to catch a scoreable bass for the first two hours, Coulter caught fire for the rest of the day. He estimates catching well over 60 bass, with a dozen reaching this round's 2-pound variable minimum weight. Coulter is also right on the mark for his goal weight and shouldn't have to catch many more fish to advance when his group returns to the water on Monday.

"It was a heck of a day, and I barely missed my goal – I was hoping for 40 pounds and came up a little short," he said. "The first period, I didn't have anything going until right before the period ended. What a day it turned into after that, once I figured out the bite."

Coulter surmised that switching from a punching pattern to a frog was the key.

“I didn’t even have a bite on a frog in practice and was catching them in the hydrilla punching,” he said. “Toward the end of practice, I noticed I was getting bites as soon as the bait came through the mat, which told me they were higher in the water column, so I threw a few frogs in the boat.”

Since his mat-punching pattern was so strong in practice, he stuck with it until switching to a bone Berkley Swamp Lord frog at the end of the first period.

“My first bite was a 4-15 and she choked it,” Coulter said. “We started counting and it was 62 bass on that same frog, which was brand new out of the package earlier in the day. A lot of the fish were around 1-12, and I don’t care who you are; that’s still fun to catch a bunch of fish that size in the slop.”

Coulter fished his frog on a 7-foot, 5-inch extra-heavy Fenwick World Class rod with an 8.3:1 Abu Garcia Zenon X reel and 65-pound Berkley X5 braided line. Another key was reading the grass and finding the right areas.

“It’s the same thing I do on Guntersville and Chickamauga, and when you find the right grass mix, it becomes much easier,” he said. “It was an absolutely perfect day for frog fishing since many people haven’t gotten on the bite yet. It’s like when the fish first get out on the ledges and haven’t been harassed yet.”

Coulter is thrilled with his catch, but looking ahead knows that things will change when he returns to Kissimmee on Friday.

“The conditions are going to be different, and I know I’m going to do some different stuff,” he said. “I’ll treat Monday as a practice day to expand and try my best to catch the biggest bass of the day.”

The standings for the 15 pros from Qualifying Group A after Day 1 on the Kissimmee Chain are:

1st:        Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn., 12 bass, 39-3
2nd:       Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 10 bass, 32-1
3rd:       Ryan Salzman, Huntsville, Ala., six bass, 29-15
4th:        Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., seven bass, 22-1
5th:        Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., six bass, 21-10
6th:        Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., four bass, 18-11
7th:        Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, four bass, 10-8
8th:        Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., three bass, 10-4
9th:        Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark., four bass, 9-15
10th:     Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., four bass, 9-13
11th:     David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., three bass, 8-13
12th:     Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., two bass, 8-9
13th:     Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, three bass, 8-5
14th:     Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., two bass, 7-1
15th:     Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., one bass, 2-9

Full results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Overall, there were 71 bass weighing 239 pounds, 6 ounces caught by the 15 pros on Saturday, which included one 9-pounder, one 7-pounder and four 6-pounders caught from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.

The General Tire Heavy Hitters at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Presented by Bass Pro Shops features the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, in which anglers catch as much weight as they can each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. A bass must meet the 2-pound minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable in the Qualifying and Knockout Rounds, but for the final day Championship Round a bass must weigh at least 3 pounds to be deemed scorable.

The 15 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day qualifying round on Saturday and Monday – the 15 anglers in Group B on Sunday and Tuesday. After each two-day qualifying round is complete, the top eight anglers from both groups advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round weights are zeroed, and the remaining 16 anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to the Championship Round. In Thursday’s final-day Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

In addition to the tournament, Big Bass Bonuses are awarded in each round of competition with payouts of $10,000, $30,000 and $100,000 awarded to the single biggest fish in the Group A and B Qualifying, Knockout and Championship rounds.

Anglers will launch each day at 7:30 a.m. ET from Big Toho Marina located at 69 Lakeview Drive in Kissimmee. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the park, 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 MLFNOW! live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

On Day 2 of the event, Sunday, May 19, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF will welcome fans of all ages to visit Big Toho Marina located at 69 Lakeview Drive in Kissimmee, to watch the pros live on the MLFNOW! big screen, enjoy free food, enter to win hourly giveaways and cheer on their favorite pros. The first 50 kids 14 and under will receive a free rod and reel from Pure Fishing. Heavy Hitters competitors will cross the stage at 4:30 p.m. following lines out and will be available to meet and greet fans, sign autographs and take selfies.

To qualify for General Tire Heavy Hitters, the weight of an angler’s single-largest bass from each event of the seven 2023 Bass Pro Tour events was recorded. The 30 anglers with the heaviest total from those seven bass qualified to compete in this event.

The MLFNOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee 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. MLFNOW!®  will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com, the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app, and Rumble.

Television coverage of the General Tire Heavy Hitters 2024 Presented by Bass Pro Shops will be showcased across six two-hour episodes, premiering at 7 a.m. ET, Aug. 10 and running each Saturday through Sept. 14 on Discovery. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on the Outdoor Channel.

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