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North Carolina’s Huskins Claims Victory With Slow, Methodical Approach at Phoenix Bass Fishing League Event at Smith Mountain Lake

HUDDLESTON, Va. – Boater Cole Huskins of Gastonia, North Carolina, caught a five-bass limit weighing 22 pounds, 14 ounces, Saturday to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) Presented by T-H Marine on Smith Mountain Lake. The tournament was the second event of the season for the BFL Shenandoah Division. Huskins earned $4,915 for his victory.

“Friday in practice I had a 6-pounder bite, and I swam her off,” said Huskins. “I didn’t let her get the hook. So, for the tournament, I ran to her first thing and caught her on a shaky-head rig. And that was how my day just started rolling.

“I caught the fish that weighed 6 pounds, then ones that went 3- and a 2¾-pounds in the first 25 minutes of the tournament,” Huskins added. “I think I had 17 pounds before 8:30, and that just put me in a calm mindset the rest of the day. I knew I was around the creek that had the big fish, and I just kept making the right decisions and kept my head down and fished.”

Huskins said the bass he encountered would not react to moving baits, but they could not resist a shaky-head rig, a small worm or a wacky-rigged worm. He estimates he caught between 45 and 50 bass during the tournament, including two smallmouth that weighed more than 3 pounds but wouldn’t help his overall weight.

“The fish I was catching weren’t locked on the bed,” Huskins said. “The female was just guarding the bed. So, I would catch the buck, then the female would think he wasn’t doing his job, I guess, and I would catch the female next.

“It was just an incredible day,” Huskins added. “When I got to around 19 pounds, I thought maybe a win could happen. Then I culled up to 21 pounds. And then I caught a 4 ½-pounder on a wacky worm near a walkway and culled a 3-pounder. That was my winning fish.”

The top 10 boaters finished the tournament:

1st:        Cole Huskins, Gastonia, N.C., five bass, 22-14, $4,915
2nd:       Junior Roberts, Alexandria, Va., five bass, 22-5, $2,458
3rd:       Shane Mills, Union Hall, Va., five bass, 21-9, $1,640
4th:        Phil Witmer, Huddleston, Va., five bass, 21-8, $1,147
5th:        Cullen Hoover, Chesterfield, Va., five bass, 20-11, $983
6th:        Chris Baldwin, Lexington, N.C., five bass, 20-4, $1,571
7th:        Luke Nichols, Union Hall, Va., five bass, 20-2, $819
8th:        Myles Paugh, Aurora, W.V., five bass, 19-15, $737
9th:        Zach Peaslee, Draper, Va., five bass, 19-13, $655
10th:     Joe Wilkerson, Vienna, Va., five bass, 19-12, $1,073 (includes $500 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus)

Complete results can be found at

Blake Miles of Prince George, Virginia, caught a bass that weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces, and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $750.

Dylan Gray of Goode, Virginia, won the Strike King co-angler division and a total of $2,453 Saturday, after bringing five bass to the scale that totaled 18 pounds, 1 ounce.

The top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished:

1st:        Dylan Gray, Goode, Va., five bass, 18-1, $2,453
2nd:       Chris Jackson, Jeffersonton, Va., five bass, 17-6, $1,226
3rd:       Todd Hurst, Copper Hill, Va., five bass, 17-2, $1,186
4th:        Brandon Miskell, Vienna, Va., five bass, 15-1, $572
5th:        Jesse Ketchum, Columbia, Md., five bass, 14-6, $491
6th:        Dwayne Downey, Covington, Va., five bass, 13-8, $450
7th:        Eric Nelson, Gainesville, Va., five bass, 13-6, $409
8th:        Scott Howard, Bedford, Va., five bass, 13-1, $368
9th:        Michael Garrett, Buena Vista, Va., five bass, 12-14, $327
10th:     Mekye Barnes, Raleigh, N.C., five bass, 12-7, $286

Todd Hurst of Copper Hill, Virginia, earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $370, catching a bass that weighed in at 6 pounds, 10 ounces – the largest co-angler catch of the day.

After two events, Zachary Stoupa of Prince George, Virginia, leads the BFL Shenandoah Division Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 479 points, while David Deciucis of Chester, Virginia, leads the Strike King Co-Angler Division AOY race with 483 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. 19-21 BFL Regional tournament on Lake Norman in Huntersville, North Carolina. 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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