GADSDEN, Ala. – Boater Mark McCaig of Oxford, Alabama, caught a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 3 ounces, Saturday to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) Presented by T-H Marine on Neely Henry Lake Presented by Southern Petroleum Services. The tournament, hosted by the City of Gadsden, was the fourth event of the season for the BFL Bama Presented by Mystik Lubricants Division. McCaig earned $12,155, including the lucrative $7,000 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus, for his victory.
“I fish Neely Henry 10 to 12 times a year in different tournaments,” said the 52-year-old McCaig. “I know the lake pretty well and only fished in practice one morning to see what things looked like.
“I started the tournament out in the grass and caught one that I weighed in,” McCaig added. “I realized the fish weren’t off the river anymore, so I started flipping a jig on the riverbanks and caught a 4½-pounder. So, I started running that.”
For the rest of his limit that he weighed, McCaig said he caught two on a square-bill crankbait and one on a jig aimed at a piece of brush. He caught five 3-pounders or better during the tournament. McCaig said his fish came spread out during the event, with his first coming at 8:30 and his last two on his last two stops.
“I saved a place down by the dam where I had caught some before, and I told my co-angler I was going to save some time to fish one little place that was a bit of a run toward the dam,” McCaig said. “I felt like there could be something there. One spot was a dock, and one was a laydown tree. I caught a 3½-pounder out of the tree, idled across to where there was a dock with a brushpile in front of it, threw a big crankbait up there and caught a 4-pounder. I ran back up to the ramp and got there with 10 or 15 minutes to go.”
Even though he had a good idea of the weight he had to weigh in, McCaig said he wasn’t confident in his chance for a win.
“It took 20 pounds in a local tournament last weekend to win here,” McCaig said. “But that’s a buddy trail, and the lake is just getting tougher and tougher this time of year. I knew that everything I had was between 3½ to 4 pounds.”
McCaig has racked up numerous tournament wins over the years, including four BFLs and one Toyota Series victory.
“My wife and I kind of have a thing,” McCaig said. “Years ago, when I started fishing, I couldn’t afford Red Lobster. We hadn’t been married long, but any time I won a tournament we ate at Red Lobster. So that’s kind of become a tradition.”
McCaig said the victory celebration dinner tradition has been going on for 33 years of marriage.
The top 10 boaters finished the tournament:
1st: Mark McCaig, Oxford, Ala., five bass, 17-3, $12,155 (includes $7,000 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus)
2nd: Andrew Johnson, Glencoe, Ala., five bass, 16-2, $2,078
3rd: Wes Logan, Springville, Ala., five bass, 15-0, $1,383
4th: Hunter Hayes, Gadsden, Ala., five bass, 13-6, $900
4th: Gabe Aldridge, Demopolis, Ala., five bass, 13-6, $900
6th: Jack White, Vance, Ala., five bass, 12-10, $762
7th: Roger Shilling, Athens, Ala., five bass, 12-6, $693
8th: Jared Kawalec, Waterloo, Ala., five bass, 12-5, $623
9th: Matthew Knight, Gadsden, Ala., five bass, 12-1, $519
9th: Daniel Buswell, Jr., Fayetteville, Ga., five bass, 12-1, $519
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Roger Peebles of Atmore, Alabama, caught a bass that weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces, and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $570.
Chad Macks of Robertsdale, Alabama, 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, 2 ounces.
The top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished:
1st: Chad Macks, Robertsdale, Ala., five bass, 14-2, $2,041
2nd: Michael McLaurin, Chickamauga, Ga., five bass, 12-1, $1,021
3rd: Gunter Williams, Linden, Ala., five bass, 11-5, $683
4th: Todd Mowery, Madison, Ala., five bass, 10-6, $676
5th: Larry Franks, Jr., Wilsonville, Ala., five bass, 9-11, $408
6th: Josh McCrimmon, Nashville, Ga., five bass, 9-10, $574
7th: Chad Bailey, Trinity, Ala., three bass, 9-2, $620
8th: Jonathon Cone, Riverside, Ala., four bass, 8-10, $306
9th: Daniel Birmingham, Reform, Ala., five bass, 8-6, $241
9th: James Lehman, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., five bass, 8-6, $241
9th: Blake Dodson, Montevallo, Ala., five bass, 8-6, $241
Chad Bailey of Trinity, Alabama, earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $280, catching a bass that weighed in at 6 pounds, 9 ounces – the largest co-angler catch of the day.
After four events, Michael Smith of Andalusia, Alabama, leads the BFL Bama Presented by Mystik Lubricants Division Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 938 points, while Chad Macks of Robertsdale, Alabama, leads the Strike King Co-Angler Division AOY race with 955 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 Dale Hollow Lake in Byrdstown, Tennessee. 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: 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 MajorLeagueFishing.com.