Lee Leads Final 10 into Knockout Round, Thrift Banks $30K Big Bass Award at MLF Heavy Hitters

Lee earns Knockout Round win by 7-13, Thrift boats 7-pound, 11-ounce largemouth to win $30K Knockout Round Big Bass Award, Final 10 anglers set for Thursday’s Championship Round

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (May 22, 2023) – The two anglers who dominated their respective groups during the Qualifying Round at General Tire Heavy Hitters Presented by Bass Pro Shops picked up right where they left off during Wednesday’s Knockout Round.



Abu Garcia pro Jordan Lee of Cullman, Alabama, led the way with 49 pounds, 14 ounces. Trading the top spot with him throughout the day was pro Brandon Coulter of Knoxville, Tennessee, who wound up right behind him with 42-1. California pro Brent Ehrler , the only angler to find a consistent bite during a grueling third period, finished third with 40-2, while Bryan Thrift’s 7-11 won him $30,000 as the Berkley Big Bass.

While it’s not often that the same bite in the same areas holds up throughout an entire Bass Pro Tour event, it sure looks like Thursday’s Championship Round is shaping up to be a slugfest between Coulter and Lee, both of whom have done their damage in matted hydrilla in Lake Toho with Berkley Swamp Lord frogs. The two anglers have been the most dialed in since competition began on the Kissimmee Chain, and both secured their spots in the Top 10 during the first period Wednesday before laying off their best water.

There will be no holding back during the Championship Round, when not only will $100,000 and the title belt be on the line for the tournament winner, but another $100,000 will be up for grabs for the angler who catches the biggest bass. Watch the action from 7:45 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. ET on the MLFNOW! live stream at MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV app.

No surprise, Lee started the Knockout Round in the area that produced the bulk of his 63-4 total from his first day of qualifying – still the best day any angler has put together all week. However, he found “the grass had changed, so the fishing kind of changed with it.”

That forced Lee to adjust his location a bit. He didn’t land his first scorable bass until almost an hour after lines in. But once he relocated a school, the beatdown was on.

During a two-hour window that included a 15-minute period break, Lee stacked 12 scorable bass totaling 33-4 onto SCORETRACKER®, more than enough to cement his place among the Top 10.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I didn’t really know how many fish I could catch after a couple days of fishing, but I think it went really good.”

The key for Lee was covering water quickly to find sweet spots within the vast expanse of hydrilla. He explained that most of the bass seem to be congregated within small zones, the locations of which have changed a bit during the event due to grass growth and fishing pressure.

“It’s not a lot of big, giant mats with just fish everywhere,” he said. “It’s more like you find them, and they’re schooled up in one spot, and that’s where I’m catching them.”

Around 11 a.m., realizing his spot in the Championship Round was secure, Lee eased off the gas and shifted his focus to finding new hotspots and trying to catch the biggest bass of the day. He said he succeeded in the former and nearly in the latter, boating a 7-3 lunker midway through the third period.

Lee also saved a few areas that he’s discovered during the event for the Championship Round. His plan is to run from spot to spot until he finds one with a population that he thinks can earn him a second Heavy Hitters belt and a third BPT win on the Kissimmee Chain.

“I bounced around a lot,” he said, “and that’s what I’m going to do tomorrow is bounce around and try to find the area that’s most productive.”

One variable Lee and the rest of the Championship Round field will have to contend with is a boosted variable minimum weight. In a wrinkle unique to Heavy Hitters, bass will have to weigh at least 3 pounds to count toward anglers’ totals. As a result, Lee thinks the winning strategy will center less around finding numbers of fish and more on generating a handful of the right bites. Landing those bigger bites – far from a given when fishing a frog among thick mats – will also be pivotal.

“I still think you’re going to have to catch six or seven, at least – maybe a few more – to get the win, and some big ones, some of those 6- and 7-pounders,” Lee said. “You’ve always got to have your best day on the last day to win.”

The top 10 pros from the Knockout Round that advance to Thursday’s Championship Round on the Kissimmee Chain are:

1st:        Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala., 16 bass, 49-14
2nd:       Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn., 13 bass, 42-1
3rd:       Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 13 bass, 40-13
4th:        Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., seven bass, 25-4
5th:        Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., five bass, 21-15
6th:        Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, five bass, 20-13
7th:        Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas, seven bass, 20-10
8th:        Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, seven bass, 20-9
9th:        Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., four bass, 16-6
10th:     Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., four bass, 13-2

Eliminated from competition after the Knockout Round on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes are:

11th:     Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., four bass, 12-12
12th:     Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, five bass, 12-9
13th:     Ryan Salzman, Huntsville, Ala., five bass, 12-7
14th:     Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., four bass, 12-4
15th:     Mark Rose, Wynne, Ark., three bass, 11-4
16th:     Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, two bass, 4-6

Full results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Overall, there were 104 bass weighing 337 pounds, 1 ounce caught by the 16 pros on Wednesday, which included three 7-pounders, two 6-pounders and two 5-pounders caught from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.

Berkley Big Bass Bonus Award Winners:

                Group A Day 1: Ryan Salzman, Huntsville, Ala. (9-3), $10,000
                Group B Day 1: Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala. (7-14), $10,000
                Group A Day 2: Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn. & Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif. (7-10), $10,000
                Group B Day 2: Mark Rose, Wynne, Ark. (7-9), $10,000
                Knockout Round: Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C. (7-11), $30,000
                Championship Round: TBD, $100,000

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 competed 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 was complete, the top eight anglers from both groups advanced to Wednesday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round weights were zeroed, and the remaining 16 anglers competed 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.

The final 10 anglers will launch Thursday at 7:30 a.m. ET from Big Toho Marina located at 69 Lakeview Drive in Kissimmee. The 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.

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 on Championship Thursday 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.

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