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Florida Pro Jessie Mizell Leads Wire-To-Wire And Wins Season-Opening Toyota Series At Lake Okeechobee

Clewiston, FL – This week, pro Jessie Mizell of Myakka City, Florida, was absolutely untouchable on his home pond. 

Weighing 24 pounds each of the first two days and finishing off with 23 pounds, 13 ounces, Mizell totaled 72-9 to beat out Brody Campbell by nearly 3 pounds and win the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Southern Division opener on Lake Okeechobee.

Now with six MLF wins to his credit on Lake Okeechobee, Mizell has won over $90,000 in less than 12 months, as he also won last year’s Toyota Series event on the Big O. For this one, Mizell takes home another trophy for a rapidly growing collection, plus $44,000 and qualification to the Toyota Series Championship. 

Mizell started each tournament morning on the north side of Okeechobee, easing into a staging bay and going to work. His bite shut down before noon each day of the event, though, as anglers coming and going muddied up the water. When Mizell arrived Saturday, he had a small audience of Bassmaster Open pros starting practice, and he put on a show. 

“I got there first thing, it was a good thing I was boat No. 1, and there were already a couple boats – BASS guys, in there,” he said. “But they just sat there and watched – I got my first, second, third, my biggest one. After that, there were boats going in and out, and they stirred it up. I didn’t get a bite after 11 o’clock, it got muddy and (the fish) shut down. But I was lucky enough to get my limit, and get those couple key fish. They were eating a frog like crazy – just absolutely destroying it.”

All week, Mizell was anticipating the warming water, watching it climb out of the 60s and into the low 70s. 

“I knew it was going to happen this morning,” he said. “I wanted to see 74 degrees, that’s the magic number for me. Everybody has their magic number. When I got there, it was right at 74 and started warming up, and that’s when I got my bites. Everything was on a frog, that new Gambler Popping Frog. I normally use my bread and butter (frog), but Val Osinski at Gambler Baits gave me some frogs yesterday, and it’s the same thing, so I broke it in.” 

While Campbell and others targeted fish that were spawning or prespawn, Mizell believes he was mostly catching postspawn bass that were easing out of a spawning bay and stopping on isolated pieces of cover on the way out. To catch them, he used a vibrating jig and a worm a little, but mostly relied on a prop bait and a frog. 

Mizell’s biggest fish of the event ate a Rapala X-Rap Prop on Day 1, but the frog was his standby. Using either a doctored up SPRO or a Gambler Popping Frog in yellow belly, Mizell threw them on a 7-foot, 6-inch, heavy/fast 13 Fishing Muse Black  with an 8.3:1-gear ratio  13 Fishing Concept A2 reel and 65-pound Sufix 832 braid. 

“They stage in these heads – little buggy whip heads, or cattail heads,” Mizell said. “They’re about as big as a coffee table. I would hit the edges first, and then hit the center, or go through the head, and work it through. Today, my biggest one, I threw into the head, and it exploded and totally missed the frog. I went back with a Senko, and it did not commit. But, I know how these fish work. when they’re postspawn. They’re worn out from laying eggs, so they use all their energy to bite once. You have to come back to them. So, I went around, gave her five minutes, and then came back and Power-Poled down. I threw, pop, pop, pop, and I didn’t even get to pop it again – she just absolutely caved it in.” 

Fishing his frog quickly, with a pop, pop, pop, stop retrieve, Mizell was focused on the key spots within his area. 
“Every time I throw, I want to think there’s a fish on that key spot,” he said. “If I was just fishing a pad field, I’d be just randomly throwing, not throwing at a target. I love to fish isolated stuff, I love pointing at stuff, because I feel like a fish is there. I would Power-Pole down, hit every isolated clump, then go forward, Power-Pole down again, and hit every isolated clump.” 

A fishing guide and mobile mechanic, Mizell didn’t practice much for the event. He took a guide trip out on Tuesday, and then rode around the lake on Wednesday without making a cast. It turned out, that was all he needed to earn the win. 

“That was my gameplan, I did not want to spin out – I knew they were coming and going,” he said. “I didn’t stress about this event, I just wanted to go fishing and do what I do. I knew the fish were in there, because a couple months ago I caught 34 pounds on the outside – they were staging. When it’s your time to shine, it’s your time to shine.”

The top 10 pros on Lake Okeechobee finished:

1st:        Jessie Mizell, Myakka City, Fla., 15 bass, 72-9, $44,000
2nd:       Brody Campbell, Oxford, Ohio, 15 bass, 69-10, $18,500
3rd:       Brandon Tallhamer, Parkersburg, W. Va., 15 bass, 66-1, $12,750
4th:        Benny Townend, Lake Worth Beach, Fla., 15 bass, 65-2, $10,750
5th:        Steve Lopez, Oconomowoc, Wis., 15 bass, 58-0, $9,750
6th:        Rafe Sexton, Okeechobee, Fla., 15 bass, 57-0, $8,375
7th:        Christian Greico, Tampa, Fla., 15 bass, 56-4, $7,800
8th:        Robert Camp, Port St. John, Fla., 15 bass, 54-6, $6,300
9th:        Bo Collins, Robbinsville, N.C., 13 bass, 53-2, $5,300
10th:     Michael Venditto, Boca Raton, Fla., 15 bass, 52-13, $4,200

Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Pro Kyle Wieczorek of Nokomis, Florida, earned the Day 1 $500 Berkley Big Bass Award on Thursday with an 8-pound, 15-ounce brute, while Friday’s Day 2 $500 Berkley Big Bass Award went to pro Christian Greico of Tampa, Florida, who weighed in a nice 8-pound, 11-ounce largemouth.

Casey Gonzalez of Lake Wales, Florida, won the Strike King Co-angler Division Saturday with a three-day total of 13 bass weighing 53 pounds, 1 ounce. Gonzalez took home the top co-angler prize package worth $33,500, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard motor.

The top 10 Strike King co-anglers on Lake Okeechobee finished:

1st:        Casey Gonzalez, Lake Wales, Fla., 13 bass, 53-1, Phoenix 518 Pro boat w/115-hp Mercury outboard
2nd:       Brady Lunsmann, Citrus Springs, Fla., 13 bass, 50-6, $5,375
3rd:       Stephen Draghi, Sparrowbush, N.Y., 15 bass, 49-5, $4,300
4th:        David Honsted, Ocala, Fla., 14 bass, 47-11, $3,800
5th:        Cooper Jett, Norton Shores, Mich., 15 bass, 45-1, $3,150
6th:        David Archibald, Somerset, Mass., 15 bass, 43-8, $2,800
7th:        Michael Duarte, Baltimore, Md., 13 bass, 42-8, $2,150
8th:        Alex Dempsey, Orangeburg, S.C., 15 bass, 41-10, $1,825
9th:        Keith Honeycutt, Temple, Texas, 15 bass, 41-5, $1,530
10th:     Fernando Rosa, Margate, Fla., 15 bass, 41-0, $1,290

David Honsted of Ocala, Florida, earned Thursday’s $150 Berkley Big Bass co-angler award with an 8-pound, 14-ounce largemouth, while Friday’s Day 2 $150 co-angler award went to Marc Snyder of St. Johns, Michigan,  who weighed in a bass that totaled 7 pounds, 15 ounces.

The Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at Lake Okeechobee was hosted by the Hendry County Tourism Development Council. It was the first of three regular-season tournaments for the Toyota Series Southern Division. The next event for the Toyota Series Southern Division will be the Toyota Series at the Harris Chain of Lakes, March 19-21, in Leesburg, Florida. For a complete schedule of events, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The 2024 Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats consists of six divisions – Central, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and the Western Division Presented by Tackle Warehouse – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International and Wild Card divisions. Anglers who fish in any of the six divisions or the Wild Card division and finish in the top 25 will qualify for the no-entry-fee Toyota Series Championship for a shot at winning up to $235,000 and a qualification to REDCREST 2025. The winning Strike King co-angler at the championship earns a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard. The 2024 Toyota Series Championship will be held Nov. 7-9 on Wheeler Lake in Huntsville, Alabama, and is hosted by the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Madison County Commission, and the Huntsville Sports Commission.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Toyota Series include: 7Brew, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, BUBBA, E3, Epic Baits, FX Custom Rods, General Tire, Lew’s, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Suzuki, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota and YETI.

For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular Toyota Series updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the MLF5 social media outlets at FacebookInstagram 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, Discovery Channel, Outdoor Channel, CBS Sports Network, World Fishing Network and on demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). Headquartered 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. 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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