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Anglers Win Twice at Toledo Bend

PARK FALLS, Wis.– A field of 362 Pro-Division and Co-Angler Division anglers slugged it out last weekend at the 2023 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series Event at Toledo Bend, the first Division 2 Opens event of the 2023 season. YouTuber, Ben Milliken, crushed the competition in the Pro Division, weighing 77 pounds, 14 ounces – the third-largest total in a three-day Open in B.A.S.S. history. Milliken collected a first-place cash prize of more than $52,000. The win also secured him a berth in the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota when it’s held next March on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.

St. Croix pro, Trey McKinney, was the only other angler to weight 20+ pound bags each day at Toledo Bend, finishing second with 67-5. The 18-year-old Carbondale, Illinois resident won $25,274 for finishing second, and added $500 as the highest-finishing registered pro fishing St. Croix rods thanks to the St. Croix Rewards program.

The majority of McKinney’s fish came shallow on a shad-colored Denny Brauer Baby Structure jig and a 5XD, both from Strike King. McKinney fished the crankbaits on a St. Croix Legend Glass 7’11” heavy power, moderate action rod (LGC711HM) and the jig on a 7’4” heavy power, fast action Legend Xtreme (XFC74HF). Bright conditions and hot temperatures forced him to deeper water on Day 3. “This was unbelievable,” McKinney told B.A.S.S. “I’ll never forget this tournament as long as I live.”

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After two events in the 2023 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens season, McKinney sits 5th in Opens EQ Points with 381, 15 behind leader Ben Milliken. The top nine anglers at the end of the season will earn a spot in the 2024 Bassmaster Elite Series.

On the Co-Angler side, Kerry Terrebonne of Ponchatoula, Louisiana, took first place at Toledo Bend with 21-9, taking home over $16,000 in winnings. Stephen Wolownik, of Bloomingdale, Michigan, was the highest-placing Co-Angler fishing St. Croix rods. He finished in 7th place with 18-1, earning $1,761 plus $250 in St. Croix Rewards.

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Wolownik, a nuclear power plant operator, says he’s been curious about fishing a Bassmaster Open event for a while now. “I just thought it would be a lot of fun to fish an Open, and a good opportunity to fish behind some really good anglers,” he says. “I chose Toledo Bend this year, got to fish with Stephen Browning, and had a great time. Doing so well was just the icing on the cake.”

Wolownik was fishing a hydrilla flat with a chatterbait the morning of day 1. “I was using a St. Croix Victory 73MHF that I’d bought a couple weeks before the tournament, and my first fish on the rod turned out to be a four pounder,” he says. “Later, we moved into the shallow grass and I switched to a wacky worm on an Avid 70MHF spinning rod. I caught another four pounder and then a two-and-a-half. The second day with Stephen Browning, we were fishing the cypress trees all day and I caught about 15 bass on the wacky worm. The three best combined for about seven pounds and I finished the tournament with 18-1.”

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Wolownik says he’d encourage anyone who loves bass fishing to consider entering an Open. “It’s just such a great experience,” he says. “You’ll learn a lot getting to fish with these pros, and be sure to have a St. Croix rod in your hands. If you finish well enough you might earn some extra money with St. Croix Rewards!”

The next 2023 St. Croix Bassmaster Open event is a Division 3 event, May 3-5, at Buggs Island Reservoir in Clarksville, Virginia. Learn more and follow all the action on the 2023 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series at bassmaster.com.

About St. Croix Rod

Headquartered in Park Falls, Wisconsin, St. Croix has been proudly producing the “Best Rods on Earth” for nearly 75 years. Combining state-of-the-art manufacturing processes with skilled craftsmanship, St. Croix is the only major producer to still build rods entirely from design through manufacturing. The company remains family-owned and operates duplicate manufacturing facilities in Park Falls and Fresnillo, Mexico. With popular trademarked series such as Legend®, Legend Xtreme®, Victory Avid®, Premier®, RIFT, Imperial®, Triumph® and Mojo, St. Croix is revered by all types of anglers from around the world.

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