LAVONIA, S.C. – Boater Spencer Sato of Gainesville, Georgia, caught a five-bass limit weighing 19 pounds, 11 ounces, Saturday to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) Presented by T-H Marine on Lake Hartwell . The tournament, hosted by the City of Lavonia, was the second event of the year for the BFL Savannah River Division. Sato earned $12,119, including the lucrative $7,000 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus, for his victory.
In only his fifth time on Lake Hartwell, the 25-year-old Sato said he focused his efforts on main-lake features early, and managed to eke out a small limit by 9:30. Online research by Sato had provided him with a couple of other promising areas, so he relocated down the lake and found two groups of quality fish. He landed another couple of 4½-pounders, then decided to let the spot rest.
Sato said he caught 15 to 20 keepers during the course of the day by targeting structure, secondary points and bends in ditches in 20 to 45 feet of water with a finesse swimbait on a 3/8-ounce head. After he let his quality fish area rest for an hour and a half, he returned and caught another 4-pounder and a 3½-pounder and had his final weigh bag.
“I knew at that point I might have a top-five finish,” Sato said. “With the weather warming, I thought it would trigger the big largemouth to bite, and people caught big ones here and there, but nobody managed to put together a stringer of big ones.
“I know a lot of guys go a long time without ever winning a BFL event, so to knock one out pretty early in my fishing career is definitely a big accomplishment for me,” Sato added. “I’m very thankful and grateful for it.”
The top 10 boaters finished the tournament:
1st: Spencer Sato, Gainesville, Ga., five bass, 19-11, $12,119 (includes $7,000 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus)
2nd: Paul Marks, Cumming, Ga., five bass, 19-1, $2,059
3rd: Chase Stewart, Ware Shoals, S.C., five bass, 18-9, $1,374
4th: Brent Willey, Anderson, S.C., five bass, 18-2, $892
4th: Greg Glouse, Liberty, S.C., five bass, 18-2, $1,362
6th: Jayme Rampey, Liberty, S.C., five bass, 17-11, $755
7th: Bradley Day, Anderson, S.C., five bass, 17-9, $686
8th: Tallis Morrison, Royston, Ga., five bass, 17-8, $618
9th: Adam Rice, Belton, S.C., five bass, 17-1, $549
10th: Emil Wagner, Marietta, Ga., five bass, 16-12, $780
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Matthew Justice of Fair Play, South Carolina, caught a bass that weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces, and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $565.
Timothy Jones of Honea Path, South Carolina, won the Strike King co-angler division and a total of $2,059 Saturday, after bringing five bass to the scale that totaled 18 pounds, 12 ounces.
The top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished:
1st: Timothy Jones, Honea Path, S.C., five bass, 18-12, $2,059
2nd: Todd Huntley, Inman, S.C., five bass, 16-5, $1,030
3rd: James Akins, Cumming, Ga., five bass, 15-0, $687
4th: Damon Phillips, Anderson, S.C., five bass, 14-5, $480
5th: Mark Yarborough, Salem, S.C., five bass, 13-9, $412
6th: Brandon Hendrix, Anderson, S.C., five bass, 13-6, $378
7th: Michael Miller, Greenville, S.C., five bass, 12-14, $343
8th: Darren Jeter, Candler, N.C., five bass, 12-13, $292
8th: Joseph Tucci, Salem, S.C., five bass, 12-13, $574
10th: Thomas Pennell III, Boiling Springs, S.C., five bass, 12-12, $240
Tucci earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $282, catching a bass that weighed in at 5 pounds, 6 ounces – the largest co-angler catch of the day.
After two events, Paul Marks of Cumming, Georgia, leads the BFL Savannah River Division Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 494 points, while Todd Huntley of Inman, South Carolina, leads the Strike King Co-Angler Division AOY race with 494 points.
The top 45 boaters and co-anglers in the region based on point standings, along with the five tournament winners of each qualifying event, will qualify for the Oct. 12-14 BFL Regional tournament on Lake Eufaula in Eufaula, Alabama. Boaters will fish for a top award of $60,000, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard and $10,000, while co-anglers will compete for a top award of $50,000, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard.
The 2023 Phoenix BFL Presented by T-H Marine is a 24-division circuit devoted to weekend anglers, with 128 events throughout the season, five qualifying tournaments in each division. The top 45 boaters and Strike King co-anglers from each division, along with the five qualifying event winners, will advance to one of six BFL Regional tournaments where they are competing to finish in the top six, which then qualifies them for one of the longest-running championships in all of competitive bass fishing – the BFL All-American. The 2023 All-American event will take place May 31-June 2, on Lake Hartwell in Seneca, South Carolina. The event is hosted by Visit Oconee SC.
Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine include: 4WP, 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, E3, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, General Tire, Grundéns, Gill, Lew’s, Lowrance, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota, Wiley X and YETI.
For complete details and updated tournament information, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.