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Lafayette’s Hillebrandt Earns Victory at Phoenix Bass Fishing League Event at Lake of the Pines

JEFFERSON, Texas – Boater Ernie Hillebrandt of Lafayette, Louisiana, caught a five-bass limit weighing 18 pounds, 5 ounces, Saturday to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) Presented by T-H Marine on Lake of the Pines. The tournament was the fourth event of the season for the BFL Cowboy Division. Hillebrandt earned $4,082 for the first MLF victory of his career.

“This feels great,” Hillebrandt said in his post-game interview. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and this is my first win.

“I was fishing on the south end of Lake of the Pines, targeting spawning fish,” Hillebrandt continued. “My key bait was a watermelon-seed-colored Zoom Super Fluke. Most of my keepers came on that. But the big one came on a white (River2Sea) Whopper Plopper.

“The key to this victory was my history on the lake,” Hillebrandt went on to say.

The top 10 boaters finished the tournament:

1st:        Ernie Hillebrandt, Lafayette, La., five bass, 18-5, $4,082
2nd:       Tater Reynolds, Florien, La., five bass, 17-2, $2,041
3rd:       Travis Franks, Lake Charles, La., five bass, 16-7, $1,862 (includes $500 Phoenix Bonus)
4th:        Nick Abshire, Sulphur, La., five bass, 16-1, $952
5th:        Leon Jefferson, Baytown, Texas, three bass, 15-12, $1,796
6th:        Red Ballard, Sulphur, La., five bass, 15-1, $748
7th:        Arthur Johnson, Judson, Texas, five bass, 14-10, $680
8th:        Ian Leybas, McAlester, Okla., five bass, 14-6, $612
9th:        Trent Manuel, Iowa, La., five bass, 13-2, $544
10th:     Dylan Smith, Midlothian, Texas, five bass, 13-1, $476

Complete results can be found at

Jefferson caught a largemouth that weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces, and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $560.

J.J. Matzke of League City, Texas, won the Strike King co-angler division and a total of $2,041 Saturday, after bringing five bass to the scale that totaled 14 pounds, 9 ounces.

The top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished:

1st:        J.J. Matzke, League City, Texas, five bass, 14-9, $2,041
2nd:       Glen Dockery, Longview, Texas, five bass, 13-9, $1,301
3rd:       Nic Gardner, Frisco, Texas, five bass, 12-6, $683
4th:        Lawrence Tidwell, Frisco, Texas, five bass, 12-4, $476
5th:        Garrett Wilson, Willis, Texas, five bass, 11-12, $408
6th:        Troy Ladner, Bay Saint Louis, Miss., five bass, 10-10, $774
7th:        Scott LeBlanc, Lafayette, La., five bass, 10-8, $340
8th:        Steven Fisher, Nacogdoches, Texas, five bass, 10-6, $289
8th:        Dustin Berry, Dayton, Texas, five bass, 10-6, $289
10th:     Cole Allen, Taylor, Ark., four bass, 10-2, $388

Dockery earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $280, catching a bass that weighed in at 5 pounds, 1 ounce – the largest co-angler catch of the day.

After four events, Tater Reynolds of Florien, Louisiana, leads the BFL Cowboy Division Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 961 points, while J.J. Matzke of League City, Texas, leads the Strike King Co-Angler Division AOY race with 980 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. 5-7 BFL Regional tournament on Lake Eufaula in Eufaula, Oklahoma. 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, Mystik Lubricants, 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

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