SPRING CITY, Tenn. – Major League Fishing is set to return to Tennessee next week, June 4-9, for the fifth stop on the 2022 MLF Bass Pro Tour – the General Tire Stage Five on Watts Bar Lake Presented by Covercraft.
The six-day event, hosted by Rhea County Tourism and Fish Spring City, will showcase 80 of the world’s best professional anglers, including prominent bass-fishing names like Kevin VanDam, reigning REDCREST Champion Bobby Lane. Also in the field are Tennesseans Ott DeFoe and 2022 Angler of the Year (AOY) leader Jacob Wheeler, along with seven other Tennessee pros – including Spring City’s own John Murray and Wesley Strader, along with Brandon Coulter, Jason Lambert, Andy Morgan, 2021 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit AOY Michael Neal and David Walker.
This star-studded group of anglers will compete over the six-day event for a total purse of more than $800,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable points to qualify for REDCREST 2023 – the Bass Pro Tour championship.
“Spring City is very excited to host Stage Five of the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour next week and we welcome anglers, staff and fans to our community,” said Woody Evans, Mayor of Spring City. “Spring City is the home of Watts Bar Lake, and we are proud of the opportunity to show off one of our many natural treasures to the professional anglers that are participating, as well as the viewers from all across the media platforms that will be watching the tournament.”
Although the Bass Pro Tour has visited Rhea County several times, the upcoming event marks the first time the Tour has competed on Watts Bar Lake.
“Rhea County is incredibly excited to be hosting Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour once again, as they come to Spring City to compete on Watts Bar Lake,” said Jim Vincent, Interim Rhea County Executive. “With world-class anglers competing on world-class waters, we look forward to watching this tournament play out in real-time and seeing what they catch.”
The tournament will feature 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. The tournament is being filmed for broadcast later this year on Discovery Channel.
“Everything is a little slow this year, a little behind,” Strader said. “I’ve seen things happen that shouldn’t have happened – like shad spawning in 63-degree water – and other things that should have happened, but haven’t yet, so it’s been a bit of an odd year.”
Despite that, Strader said anglers can expect a typical Tennessee river tournament in June, and said he believes the majority of the fish will be caught out deep.
“I think we will see a lot of deep-diving crankbaits, dropshots, big worms, spoons, typical ledge stuff,” Strader said. “The Zoom Ol’ Monster Worm will be a player, as well as a (Zoom) Trick Worm.”
With most of the fish well past the spawn and out in deeper water, Strader said the tournament will ultimately come down to electronics and who can see the fish best.
“I think guys are going to need to have at least 15 pounds to make it into the Top 20 for each group and move on to the Knockout Round,” Strader said. “As for the Knockout Round or Championship Round, I expect we will see an angler pull in 50-60 pounds for a one-day total.”
Strader said coming to his home lake adds a little extra pressure for him, especially after having back-to-back Top 10s at the last two Bass Pro Tour events. Despite the added pressure, he’s still very excited to showcase his hometown.
“I’ve been going over my game plan and my strategy for the past week or so,” Strader said. “I’m not even on the lake yet, but I’ve come up with about 3,427 spots that I need to check and hit during practice, so my brain is in major overdrive right now.
“Fans and anglers can expect a warm welcome from the Spring City community,” Strader said. “Everyone is super pumped to have us there and it’s the talk all over town. It’s going to be a great event.”
After four events in the Bass Pro Tour regular season, reigning 2021 Bally Bet Angler of the Year (AOY) Jacob Wheeler leads the 2022 AOY race with 300 points. Alabama pro Jordan Lee sits behind Wheeler in second place with 284 points, while Tennessee’s Andy Morgan is in third with 255 points. Jesse Wiggins currently sits in fourth place with 251.5 points, with Alton Jones, Jr. rounding out the top five with 231 points.
Anglers will launch each day at 7:30 a.m. ET from the Spring City Boat Ramp, located at 417 Toestring Valley Road in Spring City, Tennessee. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the ramp, 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.
As part of the event, on Saturday, June 4, from 8 a.m. to Noon, the MLF Fisheries Management Division (FMD) in partnership with Berkley Labs will be participating in a Minn Kota Habitat Restoration Project supported by Berkley Labs at the Dayton Boat Dock, located at 175 Lakeshore Street in Dayton, Tennessee. Volunteers from the MLF-FMD and the Union Sportsman’s Alliance will build 50 MossBack fish structures and place the habitats at various locations throughout Richland Creek. Another 35 structures will be donated to the state for a separate deployment later in the year. MLF pros that will be on site for the build include Casey Ashley, Josh Bertrand, Brent Chapman, Roy Hawk and Skeet Reese, along with a handful of MLF Competition Officials.
Fans are encouraged to come out to Meet The Pros Day on Saturday, June 4, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. All 80 Bass pro Tour anglers will be onsite at the Spring City Park, located at 448 E. Jackson Ave. in Spring City, to meet fans, sign autographs, snap selfies, participate in tackle giveaways and talk fishing on Watts Bar Lake. The first 50 children ages 10 and under will receive a free Dora the Explorer rod and reel combo.
On Championship Thursday, June 9, from 4-6 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 General Tire Stage Five on Watts Bar Lake Presented by Covercraft. The FREE, family-friendly event will be fun for fishing fans of all ages. The first 50 middle school or high school anglers will receive a free Abu Garcia rod and reel combo valued at $100. The final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand to meet and greet fans, sign autographs, take selfies and participate in tackle giveaways.
The General Tire Stage Five on Watts Bar Lake Presented by Covercraft will feature anglers competing with a 1-pound, 8-ounce 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, contending for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2023 championship.
The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day Qualifying Round on Saturday and Monday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Sunday and Tuesday. After each two-day Qualifying Round is complete, the anglers that finish in second 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 eight 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.
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. ET. MLF NOW! will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.
Television coverage of the General Tire Stage Five on Watts Bar Lake Presented by Covercraft will premiere at 7 a.m. ET, Oct. 29 on Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery Channel, with additional re-airings on Outdoor Channel. Each two-hour long reality-based episode goes in-depth to break down each day of competition.
Proud sponsors of the 2022 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, A.R.E. Truck Caps, B&W Trailer Hitches, BallyBet, 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 on Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.