Salzman Paces Field at Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Shops REDCREST 2024

Huntsville, Alabama pro catches 20 bass weighing 65-14 to lead top 20 anglers into Saturday’s Knockout Round

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (March 15, 2024) – Since the start of practice, the buzzword at Bass Pro Shops REDCREST 2024 Powered by OPTIMA Lithium has been “change.” That remained the case on the second day of qualifying, with Thursday’s sunny skies giving way to morning thunderstorms and subsequent overcast conditions.

The ever-evolving spring bite on Lay Lake shifted as a result, and so did the name atop SCORETRACKER®. Huntsville, Alabama pro Ryan Salzman climbed to the top spot with a two-day total of 65 pounds, 14 ounces. Fishing at the upper end of the playing field below Logan Martin Dam, Salzman boated 10 scorable bass Friday for the second day in a row, adding 30-3 to his tab for a 65-14 Qualifying Round total.

Salzman leads a tightly bunched and dangerous group of anglers at the top of the standings. Coosa River local and 2021 REDCREST champion Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, finished the round in second place with 63-4. Within four pounds of him are former Bass Pro Tour winners Michael Neal of Dayton, Tennessee, and Jesse Wiggins of Addison, Alabama, as well as local favorite Dalton Head of Moody, Alabama, the Abu Garcia College Fishing representative from the University of Montevallo who happens to call Lay his home lake.

Considering the logjam at the top of the leaderboard and the fact that weights will zero when the Top 20 anglers take the water for Saturday's Knockout Round, the race for the championship trophy and $300,000 first-place paycheck remains wide open. Just about every technique still has a chance to account for the win, too, as the suspended spotted bass pattern that dominated Day 1 appeared to cool and shallow power fishing in pockets, bedding bass and heavy current all produced big days.

Salzman first branched out from pond fishing as a college student at North Alabama on the shores of Pickwick Lake. The only vessel he had access to was a jon boat with no electronics and a 25-horsepower outboard, so he quickly found that the easiest way to catch bass on the Tennessee River impoundment was by braving its turbulent tailraces.

He’s has been enamored with fishing heavy, manmade current ever since. Now a guide on the Tennessee River, Salzman focuses many of his outings on various tailraces.

While Salzman said the area he’s patrolling on Lay is smaller and shallower than most of the tailraces he fishes at home, that knowledge has served him well so far at REDCREST.

“The main difference is this one is shallower,” he explained. “Our (Tennessee River) dams are so massive, there’s sections that set up just like this. So, we just have more options. This dam is just a lot smaller.”

While the current tends to position fish predictably, Salzman said the front that rolled through the area Friday morning impacted his bite. He caught just three bass in his first four hours on the water. He closed strong, though, catching more than half his weight (17-9 on five fish) in the final period.

Salzman kept coy about the nuances of his approach, but he said the key to his strong afternoon was getting into the perfect spot. He shared the area with two other anglers during most of the Qualifying Round, and one beat him to his primary location Friday morning. That’s why he wasn’t afraid to keep catching fish long after he’d locked up a place in the Knockout Round – by qualifying in the top spot, he’ll be the first boat to launch Saturday.

“Yesterday, we had someone who had zero run up there in the middle of the day, and he kind of got on one of my main places and sacked it pretty good,” Salzman said. “Then he was on it all morning, and then he finally got off of it, and I was able to get on it at the end of the day, and I caught some of my bigger fish. That was really the big goal was to win the round so that I could have a good boat number.”

Fishing his first REDCREST, Salzman said he’s not nervous entering the weekend – for good reason. He has a strong track record when championships are on the line. In both his two previous appearances in championship events, the 2019 Forrest Wood Cup and 2021 Tackle Warehouse TITLE, Salzman finished among the Top 10. He thinks being able to take risks and not worry about points suits his style.

“I feel like I feel no pressure, because you don’t have to worry about just going and getting a few bites,” Salzman said. “You can just go all-in on whatever you’re doing.”

Salzman isn’t quite all-in on fishing the tailrace. He recognizes that a change in generation at Logan Martin dam could occur at any time and make the area far less productive, if not unfishable, so he has a few backup patterns in mind. But he’d much rather stick to his comfort zone in the current.

“Pending a drastic change, I will be up there,” he said. “But I did figure out some patterns down the lake that I felt good about. I didn’t know that I could catch the weight that I caught up there, but I feel like I can catch fish other places. I’d like to be up there, but you just never know. With the current, every day is different up there, and you’ve just got to keep an open mind.”

The top 20 pros that made the cut and will advance in competition on Lay Lake are:

1st:        Ryan Salzman, Huntsville, Ala., 20 bass, 65-14
2nd:       Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 25 bass, 63-4
3rd:       Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 25 bass, 61-13
4th:        Dalton Head, Moody, Ala., 23 bass, 61-11
5th:        Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., 25 bass, 59-10
6th:        Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, 23 bass, 58-14
7th:        Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 23 bass, 56-12
8th:        Nick Hatfield, Greeneville, Tenn., 20 bass, 54-1
9th:        Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., 20 bass, 52-11
10th:     Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss., 16 bass, 50-12
11th:     Ron Nelson, Berrien Springs, Mich., 18 bass, 48-2
12th:     Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., 15 bass, 46-12
13th:     Emil Wagner, Marietta, Ga., 17 bass, 46-11
14th:     Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, 18 bass, 45-13
15th:     John Cox, DeBary, Fla., 17 bass, 44-12
16th:     Greg Vinson, Wetumpka, Ala., 15 bass, 41-13
17th:     Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 15 bass, 41-8
18th:     Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., 15 bass, 40-7
19th:     Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, 16 bass, 40-1
20th:     Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., 14 bass, 39-1

Finishing in 21st through 50th place are:

21st:      Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 14 bass, 38-13
22nd:    Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, 14 bass, 37-9
23rd:     Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., 13 bass, 37-5
24th:     Jeremy Lawyer, Sarcoxie, Mo., 14 bass, 37-1
25th:     Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas, 13 bass, 36-13
26th:     Matthew Stefan, Junction City, Wis., 13 bass, 34-13
27th:     Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala., 11 bass, 34-7
28th:     David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., 12 bass, 32-4
29th:     Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., 12 bass, 31-15
30th:     Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 11 bass, 31-9
31st:      Bradley Roy, Lancaster, Ky., 13 bass, 31-9
32nd:    Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 13 bass, 30-5
33rd:     Alton Jones, Lorena, Texas, 11 bass, 26-4
34th:     Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., nine bass, 24-6
35th:     Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., eight bass, 22-12
36th:     Joshua Weaver, Macon, Ga., seven bass, 21-11
37th:     Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., eight bass, 21-3
38th:     Mark Rose, Wynne, Ark., nine bass, 21-2
39th:     John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky., eight bass, 20-14
40th:     Cody Meyer, Star, Idaho, seven bass, 20-2
41st:      Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, six bass, 19-11
42nd:    Mark Daniels, Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., seven bass, 19-8
43rd:     Dylan Hays, Hot Springs, Ark., six bass, 16-8
44th:     Josh Butler, Hayden, Ala., five bass, 14-4
45th:     Kelly Jordon, Flint, Texas, six bass, 13-14
46th:     Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala., four bass, 13-13
47th:     Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., four bass, 11-5
48th:     Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., four bass, 9-2
49th:     Chad Mrazek, Montgomery, Texas, three bass, 7-12
50th:     Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., one bass, 3-2

Overall, there were 284 scorable bass weighing 773 pounds, 5 ounces caught by the 50 pros Friday.

Lane earned the $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award on Friday with a 7-pound, 1-ounce spotted bass that he caught on a soft plastic jig-head minnow in Period 1. 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. Lane’s 7-pound, 1-ouncer is the biggest bass weighed in the competition thus far.

All 50 Anglers competed on Days 1 (Thursday) and 2 (Friday) of the event. After two days of competition, the field is now cut to just the top 20 based on two-day total cumulative weight. Weights are zeroed, and the top 20 anglers compete on Day 3 (Saturday). Only the top 10 anglers advance to the fourth and final day of competition. Weights are zeroed again for the final-day championship round, and the winner is determined by the heaviest one-day total cumulative weight, with the victor earning the top prize of $300,000 and the REDCREST 2024 trophy.

The General Tire Take Off Ceremony will begin each morning at 6:15 a.m. each day of competition at Beeswax Landing, located at 245 Beeswax Park Road in Columbiana, Alabama. Anglers will depart at 7 a.m. each day and return after competition ends at 3:30 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLF NOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at

In conjunction with the event, the FREE, family-friendly REDCREST Outdoor Sports Expo will also take place throughout the weekend, March 15-17 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex, located at 2100 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. N., in Birmingham. Fishing and outdoor enthusiasts will have the opportunity to visit numerous booths and vendors, showcasing the latest and greatest in fishing, boating and the outdoors. The biggest names in the outdoor industry will be on hand, including the professional anglers that compete on the Bass Pro Tour and legends of the sport.

Children are welcome to visit and play in the MLF Kids Zone, plus meet Skye & Marshall from PAW Patrol. Throughout the day there will be giveaways and prizes, including signed MLF angler jerseys, rods and reels, gift cards, and more. On Sunday one lucky attendee will walk away with a brand new 2024 Toyota Tacoma truck. Fans must be present to win the Tacoma grand prize. For more information on the MLF Outdoor Sports Expo, visit

The 2023 Bass Pro Tour featured a field of 80 of the top professional anglers in the world competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country. The top 40 anglers in the Angler of the Year (AOY) standings after the seven events qualified to compete in REDCREST 2024 Powered by OPTIMA Lithium.

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 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT. MLFNOW!® will be live streamed on and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Television coverage of REDCREST 2024 Powered by OPTIMA Lithium will be showcased across two, two-hour episodes, premiering at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, July 6 and July 13 on Discovery Channel. Starting in July 2024, MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery Channel, 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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