ONAMIA, Minn. (Sept. 13, 2022) – Pro Alton Jones, Sr., of Lorena, Texas, caught 12 scorable smallmouth bass weighing 47 pounds, 15 ounces to cruise to an easy Qualifying Round win for Group B at the MLF Bass Pro Tour Bally Bet Stage Seven on Mille Lacs Lake Presented by Minn Kota in Onamia, Minnesota. Jones’ two-day total of 37 scorable bass weighing 140 pounds, 12 ounces, earned him the Qualifying Round victory by a 35-pound, 15-ounce margin over second-place finisher, pro Cliff Pace of Petal, Mississippi.
The reigning Bass Pro Tour Bally Bet Angler of the Year (AOY), Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, clinched his second-consecutive Bass Pro Tour AOY title Tuesday, after finishing the Qualifying Round in 6th place. Wheeler now becomes the first pro in Bass Pro Tour history to earn multiple AOY titles, and for his accomplishment the 32-year-old Tennessee pro earned a $100,000 payday from Bally Bet.
“It has been an incredible year,” Wheeler said. “Typically, you can sort of look back and reflect on the season and you can remember those times you’ve stumbled, and this year I’ve just been blessed. I haven’t won a tournament, but I’ve been able to remain very consistent. Every year, it always seems like there is one hiccup, but fortunately there wasn’t this season, and I am so excited to hoist this trophy for the second year in a row.”
Pace caught a two-day total of 27 bass weighing 104 pounds, 13 ounces to end the round in second place, while Googan Baits pro Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, finished the round in third place with a two-day total of 27 bass weighing 100-8. Tulsa, Oklahoma’s James Elam ended the round in fourth place with a two-day total of 28 bass for 100-6. Rounding out the top five was Kalamazoo, Michigan’s Kevin VanDam , who caught 26 bass for 94-1 to advance in fifth place.
The remaining 38 anglers – 19 from each group – now advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round, where weights are zeroed, and the anglers compete to finish in the top eight to advance to the Championship Round on Thursday. The Championship Round will feature Group A winner Mark Daniels, Jr., Group B winner Alton Jones, Sr., and the top eight finishers from the Knockout Round competing in a final-day shootout for the top prize of $100,000.
“I’m so thankful to be going straight to the Championship Round,” an excited Jones said in his post-game interview. “That was my goal coming into this event, and I worked really hard during practice and in pre-fishing before the cutoff. I had all my eggs in one basket, which was a little bit risky, but I’ve spent my practice and even time during this event idling, graphing and targeting isolated boulders.
“I’m from the South, and one of my favorite things to do is use my Garmin LiveScope to find isolated brush piles, but here in the North the brush piles are boulders,” Jones continued. “I’m just trying to find and fish as many different boulders as I can.”
With his lead never really at all in jeopardy throughout the day, Jones said he was able to do a little more scouting during the third period, Tuesday.
“Fortunately, during the last period today I was able to do some more idling and graphing and I think I marked another seven or eight more boulders,” Jones went on to say. “I’ve probably got another 15 to 20 that I have not fished yet that should be out of the wind, so I’m really excited to get back out there and do what I can to win this thing.”
The top 20 pros in Qualifying Group B that now advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round on Mille Lacs Lake are:
1st: Alton Jones, Lorena, Texas, 37 bass, 140-12 – ADVANCES TO CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND
2nd: Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss., 27 bass, 104-13
3rd: Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 27 bass, 100-8
4th: James Elam, Tulsa, Okla., 28 bass, 100-6
5th: Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 26 bass, 94-1
6th: Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 26 bass, 91-6
7th: Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas, 26 bass, 88-13
8th: Shin Fukae, Osaka, Japan, 28 bass, 87-5
9th: Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., 22 bass, 80-7
10th: Ryan Salzman, Huntsville, Ala., 23 bass, 79-3
11th: Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., 22 bass, 79-1
12th: Jeremy Lawyer, Sarcoxie, Mo., 22 bass, 74-2
13th: Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn., 22 bass, 73-8
14th: Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., 22 bass, 72-7
15th: Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., 25 bass, 70-1
16th: Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 19 bass, 66-4
17th: Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 19 bass, 65-6
18th: Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., 18 bass, 60-13
19th: Randy Howell, Guntersville, Ala., 15 bass, 58-2
20th: Jason Lambert, Michie, Tenn., 18 bass, 57-6
A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 322 scorable bass weighing 1,110 pounds, 6 ounces caught by the 40 pros Tuesday.
Pro Cliff Pace won the $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award Tuesday with a smallmouth weighing 5 pounds, 13 ounces. Pace caught the fish in the first period, throwing a drop-shot rig. 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.
The six-day tournament, hosted by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, showcases 80 of the best professional anglers in the world competing for a purse of more than $805,000, including a top payout of $100,000 to the winner. The tournament is livestreamed each day at MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MOTV app, and also filmed for television broadcast later this fall on the Discovery Channel.
The 40 Anglers in Group A competed in their two-day qualifying round on Saturday and Monday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Sunday and Tuesday. Now that each two-day qualifying round is complete, the anglers that finished in 2nd through 20th place from both groups advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round, while the winner of each group advances directly to Thursday’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 the top prize of $100,000.
Anglers will launch each day at 7:30 a.m. CT from Eddy’s Resort, located at 41334 Shakopee Lake Road in Onamia. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the Resort, 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 MLF NOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
On Championship Thursday, Sept. 15, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF will host a Celebration Event for fans of all ages, inviting fans to come out and celebrate with the professional anglers from the Bass Pro Tour as they crown the champion of the Bally Bet Stage Seven on Mille Lacs Lake Presented by Minn Kota. The first 50 youth anglers 10 and under in attendance will receive a free Pure Fishing Shakespeare Kid’s Rod and Reel combo. The final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand at the trophy celebration to meet and greet fans, sign autographs, and take selfies.
The Bally Bet Stage Seven on Mille Lacs Lake Presented by Minn Kota features anglers competing with a 2-pound minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. Minimum weights are determined individually for each competition waters 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 80 of the top professional anglers in the world competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, competing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST IV, the Bass Pro Tour championship, which will be held next March on Lake Norman in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The MLF NOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action on all six days of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT. MLF NOW!® will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.
Television coverage of the Bally Bet Stage Seven on Mille Lacs Lake Presented by Minn Kota will premiere as a two-hour episode at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Nov. 19 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on the Discovery Channel, with additional re-airings on the Outdoor Channel. Each two-hour long reality-based episode goes in-depth to break down each day of tournament competition.
Proud sponsors of the 2022 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, A.R.E. Truck Caps, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bally Bet, Bass Cat, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Covercraft, Favorite Fishing, Garmin, General Tire, Googan Baits, Grundéns, Guaranteed Rate, Humminbird, Lowrance, Luminox, Mercury, Minn Kota, Mossy Oak, Nitro Performance Boats, Onyx, Plano, Power-Pole, Power Stop, Rapala, Starbrite, Toro, Toyota, Wrangler, Yellowstone Bourbon and Zoom.
For complete details and updated information, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, 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, the Discovery Channel, the Outdoor Channel, CBS Sports Network, the World Fishing Network, and on-demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with offices 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 13 countries. In 2019, MLF expanded its portfolio of catch, weigh, and immediately release events to include the sport’s strongest five-biggest-fish format tournament circuits. 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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