Gill Grabs Early Lead at MLF Stage 3 at Dale Hollow Lake

Illinois pro weighs in 77 pounds, 15 ounces to lead after Day 1 for Group A – Group B begins competition Wednesday

BYRDSTOWN, Tenn. (April 9, 2024) – In the months since Major League Fishing announced the Bass Pro Tour would bring its catch-weigh-immediate release model to Dale Hollow Lake for PowerStop Brakes Stage Three Presented by Mercury, anglers have anticipated an epic shootout, with some even predicting record weights. However, a chilly three-day practice period brought a trickier bite than many expected, causing some of that excitement to be replaced with trepidation.

Through one day of competition, at least, the lake is living up to its pre-practice billing.

Pro Drew Gill of Mount Carmel, Illinois, stacked 26 scorable bass weighing 77 pounds, 15 ounces onto SCORETRACKER® Tuesday, giving him more than 16 pounds of cushion over pro Jeff Sprague of Wills Point, Texas at the top of Group A. In all, 10 anglers eclipsed 40 pounds on the day.

The six-day tournament, hosted by the Byrdstown-Pickett County Chamber of Commerce & Bill Dance Signature Lakes, showcases 79 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing for a purse of $659,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST 2025, the Bass Pro Tour championship.

The 40 anglers in Group A will now have an off day from competition Wednesday, while the 39 anglers competing in Group B will begin their first day of competition. Group A will resume competition on Thursday.

Gill said he believes most of Dale Hollow’s bass are currently in the midst of their annual transition from the prespawn feed to spawning mode, but the majority haven’t locked onto beds yet. While the Day 1 results might not show it, that’s made it tough to find a consistent bite.

“We really hit it just about as perfect as we could have hit it between what I’d call prespawn and the spawn,” Gill said. “If we’d been here just a hair earlier or a hair later, it would have been a lot more consistent."

However, in the final hour of the three-day practice period, Gill found a more stable, and totally separate, population of bass to target.

Gill firmly believes that not every bass spawns every year. He’s chasing those fish on Dale Hollow, targeting them suspended in 20 to 30 feet of water. While they’re not necessarily relating to schools of baitfish, having shad or other forage nearby seems to help.

“I'm fishing 20 to 30 feet deep – like, the fish are that deep,” he explained. “And I’m trying to stay around the forage if I can. I’m not directly fishing bait, but I’m trying to stay around it. It makes the fish a little bit more agreeable.”

Gill, whose fishing mind belies his 21 years of age, explained that those fish are more willing to bite because they’re solely focused on feeding, not spawning. As a result, even though there might be greater numbers of bass around the banks, he’s able to catch more offshore.

“The issue on this lake is I’m fishing for the easiest-to-catch population,” Gill said. “Here, it’s not like I’m trying to get around fish. You’re around fish everywhere on this place. What I’m trying to do is get around the population that’s the easiest to catch.”

The one thing that surprised Gill Tuesday was that, after he caught mostly smallmouth in practice, 22 of his 26 scorable bass were largemouth. That proportion more or less mirrored the rest of the field, as smallmouth accounted for about 22% of the 406 scorable bass that hit the scales Tuesday.

However, the quality of those brown bass – which normally wouldn’t be reflected in tournament weights due to Dale Hollow’s strict slot limit that prohibits anglers from possessing smallmouth between 16 and 21 inches – made up for the lack of quantity. The highlight of Gill’s day was a 5-12 smallmouth that earned him $1,000 as the Berkley Big Bass, and the three heaviest fish caught on the day were all smallmouth.

Gill hopes to continue targeting both species.

“Today, the largemouth showed up, and they showed up in droves,” he said. “And I’m super cool with it. Largemouth here are a little bit less fickle, they’re a little bit less condition prone – the offshore largemouth, anyways – those largemouth are a little bit more consistent than the smallmouth are. So, I'm tickled that the largemouth showed up. Because my plan was to fish for smallmouth, but if you can fish for both on a lake that has good ones, both smallmouth and largemouth, by all means, fish for both."

Gill caught his fish Tuesday using forward-facing sonar and finesse tactics. That’s no surprise; his Garmin LiveScope mastery is a major reason he’s launched himself into the national spotlight this year, racking up a Tackle Warehouse Invitationals win at Sam Rayburn, a third-place finish at Toledo Bend in his Bass Pro Tour debut and three other top-11 finishes in 2024 alone.

Gill has no plans to change techniques, saying what he’s doing is going to win the event. The key over the coming days will be keeping track of the fish as they move and finding new, unpressured schools. Gill plans to take advantage of his 36-plus-pound cushion over the cut line by using the second day of qualifying to prepare for the Knockout and Championship Rounds.

“It will be really important for me to look around a lot,” he said. “But it’s not quite what I’d call true – like truly practicing for a tournament, in my opinion, is trying to like reinvent your wheel. I’m not going to be practicing a new ‘what,’ I’m just going to be fishing some new ‘wheres.’ Generally speaking, on this lake, if you’re fishing the right type of stuff, if it’s a deal and not just a spot – like, you’re going to run all over and you’re going to catch them everywhere that sets up that way.

“It’s going to be really important to me to be able to fish free on Thursday and have an opportunity the whole day to just play the conditions and see what happens. Really, it’s not as much a day of trying to collect spots as much as it is a day for me to try and understand what’s going on a little better.”

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

1st:          Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., 26 bass, 77-15
2nd:        Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, 22 bass, 61-11
3rd:        Britt Myers, Lake Wylie, S.C., 19 bass, 60-10
4th:         Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 20 bass, 60-7
5th:         Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., 21 bass, 54-7
6th:         Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, 16 bass, 53-2
7th:         David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., 17 bass, 45-15
8th:         Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 15 bass, 42-4
9th:         Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., 15 bass, 41-13
10th:      Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., 15 bass, 41-2
11th:      Martin Villa, Charlottesville, Va., 16 bass, 39-6
12th:      Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla., 12 bass, 36-3
13th:      Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., 13 bass, 36-3
14th:      Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark., 12 bass, 35-15
15th:      Randy Howell, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 34-5
16th:      John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky., 11 bass, 31-15
17th:      Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 12 bass, 31-11
18th:      Josh Bertrand, Queen Creek, Ariz., 11 bass, 30-13
19th:      Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala., 10 bass, 25-13
20th:      Fletcher Shryock, Guntersville, Ala., nine bass, 24-13

A complete list of results can be found at

Gill also earned Tuesday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award after a 5-pound, 12-ounce smallmouth bit his jig in Period 2. 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 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day Qualifying Round on Tuesday and Thursday – the 39 anglers in Group B on Wednesday and Friday. After each two-day Qualifying Round is complete, the anglers that finish first through 10th from both groups advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 20 anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to Sunday’s 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 launch at 7:30 a.m. CT each day from Sunset Marina and Resort, located at 2040 Sunset Dock Road in Monroe. 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 SCORETRACKER® leaderboard and event coverage at

The MLFNOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on the final four days of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT. MLFNOW!®  will be live streamed on  and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

On Saturday and Sunday, April 13-14, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF welcomes fans of all ages to visit Sunset Marina and Resort for the MLF Watch Party and Kids Fishing Derby. Fans can 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 each day. Additional fishing gear will be provided onsite for the fishing derby or kids can bring their own. The final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand at the trophy celebration on Championship Sunday to meet and greet fans, sign autographs and take selfies.

The PowerStop Brakes Stage Three at Dale Hollow Lake Presented by Mercury 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. The tournament features anglers competing with a 2-pound minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. The MLF Fisheries Management Division determines minimum weights for each body of water that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.

The Bass Pro Tour features a field of 79 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2025 championship.

The 79 anglers taking on Dale Hollow this week aren’t just battling for a first-place trophy and $100,000 payday. Valuable points in the Fishing Clash Angler of the Year race are also up for grabs. The winner of the season-long competition will take home an additional $100,000 check.

Fishing Clash, an interactive 3D fishing simulation game that’s played by more than 80 million people worldwide, is the official AOY sponsor of the Bass Pro Tour, Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, Toyota Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League. You can download Fishing Clash for free in the App Store and on Google Play or log on to for more information.

Television coverage of the PowerStop Brakes Stage Three at Dale Hollow Lake Presented by Mercury Knockout Round will air as a two-hour episode starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Oct. 5 on Discovery, with the Championship Round premiering on Oct. 6. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on Outdoor Channel.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, BUBBA, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, Garmin, General Tire, Humminbird, Lowrance, Mercury, MillerTech, Minn Kota, Mossy Oak Fishing, NITRO, Onyx, Plano, Power-Pole, Rapala, StarBrite, Suzuki, Toyota and U.S. Air Force.

For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour, visit For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, X,  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, Discovery Channel, Outdoor Channel, CBS Sports Network, 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 17 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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