Many, LA – Major League Fishing (MLF) will kick off the sixth season of the MLF Bass Pro Tour in Many, Louisiana, Jan. 30–Feb. 4, showcasing the top anglers in the sport of professional bass fishing at the B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole.
The six-day tournament, hosted by Toledo Bend Lake Country and the Louisiana Office of Tourism, will feature a field of 80 professional anglers, including superstars like Ott DeFoe, Jacob Wheeler, REDCREST 2023 Champion Bryan Thrift and Louisiana pros Gerald Spohrer of Gonzales, Cliff Crochet of Pierre Part and Justin Cooper of Zwolle. They’ll be competing for a purse of $659,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST 2025, the Bass Pro Tour championship.
“The Sabine Parish Tourist Commission, along with the Louisiana Office of Tourism, is excited to host the 2024 Bass Pro Tour season opener at Toledo Bend,” said Georgia Craven, Executive Director, Sabine Parish Tourist & Recreation Commission. “We’re looking forward to showcasing our outstanding fishery, as well as the great food, culture and people of Louisiana, and we are delighted to have the anglers, their families and MLF staff come and experience Toledo Bend Lake Country.”
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.
The event will mark the first time that the MLF Bass Pro Tour has visited Many, Louisiana. Although there is no prior history on the books in the MLF format, Cooper – a Bass Pro Tour rookie and local pro – said it has the potential to be a record-breaking event.
“I think the weights are going to be phenomenal,” said Cooper. “The fishing was impressive before it went off limits, and I anticipate it will be just as good once we get back out on the water. I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner has over 100 pounds per day, and I figure Championship Round may take 150 pounds to take home the trophy.”
While the event will feature typical prespawn, winter fishing, Cooper said the fishery offers excellent diversity this time of year.
“Toledo Bend is a little unique,” Cooper said. “Other fisheries may only have opportunities out deep in the winter, but that’s not necessarily the case on Toledo Bend. I think we’re going to see a few different techniques come into play. We’ll definitely see guys fishing out deep with forward-facing sonar, but the grass is really healthy on the lake. Anytime you have hydrilla and milfoil in the winter in Louisiana, grass is a big player. I could also see deep brush piles being key players as well, so there will be a variety of ways to catch a bass.
“I think a jerkbait, jig and some type of Texas-rigged bait will be key for fishing brush piles. I’m sure we’ll see a swimbait or Damiki rig being thrown with forward-facing sonar and in the grass, I’d expect to see a lipless crankbait, ChatterBait and a bladed jig being utilized as well.”
While it’s still early to predict the weather for the six-day event, Cooper said anglers will have to be on guard while running their boats across the fishery and be mindful of high winds.
“The lake is currently 4 feet low, and it’s full of timber, so guys will really need to stay in the boat lanes during this event,” Cooper said. “If you get out of the lanes, it’s best just to idle. There are some places you can run outside the boat lane, but if you aren’t familiar with the lake and haven’t been there several times, the stumps and timber may not be obvious to the naked eye. Just because you don’t see them, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
“Hopefully we won’t contend with much wind, but if it picks up during the event, it can be treacherous. It’s super windy today – I drove across the lake and it’s like a mini-ocean out there. If the wind blows out of the north or south, it can get really rough and dangerous, really quick.”
Cooper said the biggest tournament he’s fished on Toledo Bend was a Southwestern Division Toyota Series in January of 2000, where he finished fifth. The Louisiana pro finished second in points that same year, qualifying him for the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit (now known as the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals), where he eventually qualified for the 2024 Bass Pro Tour.
“It’s phenomenal that my first Bass Pro Tour event is taking place on my home lake,” Cooper said. “There’re definitely some nerves, and it’s a double-edged sword sometimes. You know a lot, but that can be a hindrance at times as well. There are so many different spots and techniques running through your mind, especially if you get behind the eight ball. So, I’m just going to have to trust myself, fish free and not fish based on history alone.”
At the end of the day, Cooper said he’s just excited and happy to be in this place, at this time.
“This is what I’ve worked so hard for, to get the opportunity to fish at the highest level of professional bass fishing,” Cooper said. “That’s been a dream and goal of mine my entire life, so to finally get that opportunity is the biggest blessing. I just want to seize the moment, and make my family, friends and sponsors proud.
“I feel like I’m going into the event with a lot of confidence, verses if we were starting off on a body of water that I’d never been to. It’s a big confidence-booster starting out, and I just plan to use that to my advantage.”
Anglers will launch at 7:30 a.m. CT each day from Cypress Bend Park, located at 3462 Cypress Bend Drive in Many. Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the park, 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 MLFNOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
On Friday, Feb. 2, Toledo Bend Lake Country will host an Education Day in conjunction with the tournament at Cypress Bend Park, where 260 eighth-grade students from local area schools will have the opportunity to learn about lake ecology, casting techniques and the Toledo Bend fishery. Bass Pro Tour pros will be onsite throughout the event providing instruction and working with students.
On Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 3-4, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF welcomes fans of all ages to visit Cypress Bend Park for the MLF Watch Party. Fans can watch the pros live on the MLFNOW! big screen, enjoy free food, enter to win hourly giveaways and cheer on their favorite pros. The first 50 kids 14 and under will receive a free rod and reel from Pure Fishing each day. The final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand at the trophy celebration on Championship Sunday to meet and greet fans, sign autographs and take selfies.
The B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole will feature anglers competing with a 2-pound minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. The MLF Fisheries Management Division determines minimum weights for each body of water 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, for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2025 championship.
The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day Qualifying Round on Tuesday and Thursday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Wednesday and Friday. After each two-day Qualifying Round is complete, the anglers that finish first through 10th from both groups advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 20 anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to Sunday’s 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 MLFNOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on the final four days of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT. MLFNOW!® will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.
Television coverage of the B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One at Toledo Bend Presented by Power-Pole Knockout Round will air as a two-hour episode starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, July 20 on Discovery, with the Championship Round premiering on July 27. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on Outdoor Channel.
Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, BUBBA, Epic Baits, Garmin, General Tire, Humminbird, Lowrance, Mercury, MillerTech, Minn Kota, Mossy Oak Fishing, NITRO, Onyx, Plano, Power-Pole, Rapala, StarBrite, Suzuki, Toyota and U.S. Air Force.
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, X, Instagram 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 17 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.