Tennessee pro Advances Directly to Friday’s Championship Round, 19 Anglers Advance to Thursday’s Knockout Round

JASPER, Texas (March 23, 2021) – Pro Ott DeFoe of Blaine, Tennessee, caught 14 bass Tuesday totaling 34 pounds, 4 ounces to vault to the top of the leaderboard and win the two-day Qualifying Group A round at the Toro Stage One at Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Power-Pole . DeFoe’s two-day total of 25 bass weighing 59 pounds, 11 ounces earned him the win by a 9½-pound margin and now advances him directly into the Championship Round of competition, set for Friday. The six-day tournament is being live-streamed online and filmed for television broadcast on the Discovery Channel and the Outdoor Channel later this year.

Alabama’s Dustin Connell, the reigning REDCREST Champion, caught a two-day total of 16 bass weighing 50-3 to finish the round in second place, while day one leader Spencer Shuffield of Hot Springs, Arkansas, boated a two-day total of 13 bass weighing 41-10 to end the round in third place.

The top 20 anglers from Group A will now enjoy an off day, while the 40 anglers in Qualifying Group B will complete their two-day Qualifying Round of competition on Wednesday. The Knockout Round, featuring 38 anglers competing to finish in the top eight, will take place on Thursday. Friday’s Championship Round will feature DeFoe, Wednesday’s Group B winner, and the top eight anglers from the Knockout Round competing in a final-day shootout for the top prize of $100,000.

“It’s such a huge relief to win and not have to come back out here to compete in the Knockout Round,” DeFoe said. “And now, I don’t have to beat my fish up again and the way I’ve been fishing that is a huge, huge plus. I can let those fish rest and don’t have to try to catch them two days in a row. I only have to come back out when it really matters, so I’m very excited about that.”

DeFoe got off to a fast start, catching eight scorable bass in Period 1, but his day slowed immensely in the final two periods with just two scorable bass in Period 2 and a three-fish flurry right around 3:30 p.m. in the final period. He said that he caught his fish on five different moving baits.

“What worked for me on Sunday morning worked again for me this morning, and that got me off to a really solid start,” DeFoe said. “The midday deal was a lot harder for me today. I spent a lot of the final period looking and I finally hit a place that was good and caught the three scorable fish really quick in the final period. I might have figured a little something out, and that could be a difference maker for me in the end.”

DeFoe plans to return to the same areas during Friday’s Championship Round and said he hopes it will have enough to earn him his second Texas victory on the Bass Pro Tour in two seasons.

“I’m all in on where I’m at,” DeFoe went on to say. “I’m incredibly excited to get back out there – equally as excited as I was last year for the final day on Lake Athens.”

Other than DeFoe’s 34-pound day, Spring City, Tennessee’s Wesley Strader had the second-highest weight on the day, catching six bass totaling 28 pounds, 15 ounces – including a 8-9 and a 6-1. Strader’s two-day total of 10 bass for 39-5 landed him in fifth place.

“We had a really fun day today,” the Tennessee pro said. “Hopefully things keep improving and we can expand a little bit on what we had going this morning. I’m looking forward to spending tomorrow regrouping and getting retied and everything ready to go for the Knockout Round.”

Although DeFoe’s 9½-pound margin of victory didn’t really lend much dramatics at the top of the leaderboard, the race to finish above the Toro Cut Line inside the top 20 proved very intense. Pro Brett Hite of Phoenix, Arizona, boated a 3-pound, 3-ouncer, with less than 10 minutes remaining in Period 3 to move into the Cut Line and knock out Texan Alton Jones, who finished in 21st place.

“Wow, that was intense. That, right there, is what Major League Fishing is all about – fish hard right to the end and never give up,” Hite said. “I had a rough day, and I worked my butt off. I had a real tough morning, but made the decision to make a long run at the end of the second period into the third period and it ended up being the right call. That’s one of the biggest things out here – you have to go with your gut and trust that you are making the right decision. Today, it paid off, and I’m really looking forward to getting back out here on Thursday.”

The top 20 pros from Qualifying Group A that now advance to Thursday’s Knockout Round on Sam Rayburn Reservoir are:

1st:        Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., 25 bass, 59-11 (ADVANCES DIRECTLY TO CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND)
2nd:       Dustin Connell. Clanton, Ala., 16 bass, 50-3
3rd:       Spencer Shuffield, Hot Springs, Ark., 13 bass, 41-10
4th:        Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn., 10 bass, 39-5
5th:        Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 12 bass, 34-2
6th:        Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., 10 bass, 31-12
7th:        Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 13 bass, 30-15
8th:        Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., nine bass, 30-9
9th:        Ish Monroe, Oakdale, Calif., nine bass, 30-7
10th:     Cliff Crochet, Pierre Part, La., 10 bass, 30-1
11th:     Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., 12 bass, 29-4
12th:     Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss., six bass, 28-0
13th:     Dean Rojas, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 11 bass, 27-9
14th:     Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C., 10 bass, 26-10
15th:     Luke Clausen, Spokane, Wash., nine bass, 26-2
16th:     Fletcher Shryock, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 25-15
17th:     Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., six bass, 25-10
18th:     Jason Lambert, Michie, Tenn., eight bass, 25-1
19th:     Brett Hite, Phoenix, Ariz., eight bass, 23-0
20th:     Fred Roumbanis, Russellville, Ark., eight bass, 22-0

Full results for the field can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Overall, there were 149 bass weighing 434 pounds, 13 ounces caught by 38 pros Tuesday, which included two 8-pounders, two 7-pounders, two 6-pounders and six 5-pounders caught from Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

Pace won Tuesday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award, weighing in an 8-pound, 11-ounce largemouth which bit a jerkbait in Period 1. Berkley will award $1,000 to the angler that weighs the biggest bass each day, and a $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the largest bass of the tournament.

The MLF Bass Pro Tour Toro Stage One at Sam Rayburn Reservoir Presented by Power-Pole is hosted by the Jasper County Development District and the Jasper/Lake Sam Rayburn Chamber of Commerce.

The 40 Anglers in Group A competed 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 anglers that finish in 2nd through 20th place from both groups advance to Thursday’s Knockout Round, while the the winner of each group advances directly to Friday’s Championship Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed and the remaining 38 anglers compete to finish in the top 8 to advance to the Championship Round. In the final day Championship Round, weights are zeroed and the highest one-day total wins. Full breakdown of the format can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Attendance is limited to competing anglers, essential staff and media covering the event only. Fans are encouraged to follow the event online through the MLF NOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com

The 2021 Bass Pro Tour features a field of 76 of the top professional anglers in the world – joined at each event by 4 pros that qualify from the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit – competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, competing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2022 championship.

The MLF NOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action each day of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MLF NOW!®  will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com. and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Television coverage of the Bass Pro Tour Toro Stage One at Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Power-Pole will be showcased across two two-hour episodes, premiering at 7 a.m. ET, Aug. 28 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on the Discovery Channel, with additional re-airings on the Outdoor Channel and the Sportsman Channel. Each two-hour long reality-based episode goes in-depth to break down each day of competition.

For complete details and updated information on the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at FacebookTwitter,  Instagram, and  YouTube.

About Major League Fishing
Founded in 2011, Major League Fishing (MLF) brings the high-intensity sport of competitive bass fishing into America’s living rooms on Outdoor Channel, Discovery, CBS, CBS Sports Network, World Fishing Network, Sportsman Channel, and on-demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). According to Nielsen ratings, Major League Fishing remains the number one series on Outdoor Channel for five years and MLF premiered as the number one outdoor show in their time slot on Discovery in 2019.

In 2019 MLF acquired FLW, which expands their portfolio to include the world’s largest grassroots-fishing organization, including the strongest five-biggest-fish format professional bass fishing tour, the MLF Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit presented by Bad Boy Mowers, as well as the MLF Toyota Series, MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine, MLF Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI, and MLF U.S. Army High School Fishing presented by Favorite Fishing.