CULLMAN, Ala. – The 80 anglers on the Bass Pro Tour have been fishing competitively long enough to know that you can’t win every tournament you fish. That was the case for Major League Fishing pro Michael Neal in the Stage Five MLF event on Smith Lake. Still, the Rhea County pro is far from hanging his head after his third Top-10 finish of the year.
Happy with Top 10
Neal finished the final day Sunday in third place behind champion Dean Rojas and second-place Brent Chapman. Neal was able to boat 21 bass for 34 pounds, 15 ounces on the day. When all was said and done, a third-place finish, a check in the bank and valuable Redcrest qualification points is a great prize for him.
“I’m happy with where I wound up this week,” Neal explained. “Just to make the Top 10 is all you can really ask for. If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that I would have three Top-10 finishes through five stages I would have taken it. To do that against these other 79 guys I have to go up against every stage, it’s a special accomplishment for sure.”
Using MLF Experience to His Advantage
Neal came into the Bass Pro Tour as one of a group of anglers that had previous MLF experience. He says the time he spent fishing the MLF Selects helped prepare him for this new era of competitive bass fishing.
“I feel like fishing the MLF Selects the last couple of years helped me get an understanding of this format,” Neal detailed. “I set high expectations for myself this season because of that. My goal from the start of the season was to qualify for at least three of the four cups. I feel like I’m on track for what I wanted to accomplish this season, but you always have room for improvement.”
Not Psyched Out by SCORETRACKER®
One main component of MLF competition that can make or break an angler is SCORETRACKER®. The technology has a unique reputation depending on which angler you ask. For some, it’s a useful tool that can help them determine a strategy for the day. For others, it adds stress to an already stressful experience. Neal has been impressed with himself and how he’s been able to not let SCORETRACKER® get the best of him.
“I’ve been really good at not letting SCORETRACKER® get in my head,” Neal complimented himself. “I’ve pretty much just done my own thing at each event and been able to keep my own pace. I try not to get in a hurry when I get behind, I just try to fish the way I know how to fish and keep a level head.”
All About the Points
The Challenge and Heritage Cup fields will include Michael Neal, and thanks to the 78 points he earned this week he already has a great chance to clinch that third cup qualification. The cups are a great goal, but the ultimate prize still lies ahead of Neal.
He entered Stage Five in 19th place in the Redcrest point standings and will now climb up to the Top 15. Only the Top 30 point-earners from all eight stages combined will earn the invite to the inaugural Redcrest Championship, a goal Neal is more than ready to accomplish.
“There’s only going to be one ‘first Redcrest’,” Neal explained. “To be able to qualify for that and to have a chance to go win it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Less than half of us will get that opportunity and I would be thrilled to be one of the guys who gets to do it.”
The MLF Bass Pro Tour continues with the Berkley Stage Six Presented by TrueTimber from Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri. The event will begin on Friday, May 17 and will run through Wednesday, May 22.