BRISTOL, Tenn. – Boater Ryan Davidson of Branchland, West Virginia, caught a five-bass limit weighing 19 pounds, 15 ounces, Saturday to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) Presented by T-H Marine on South Holston Lake. The tournament was the third event of the season for the BFL Volunteer Division. Davidson earned $14,300, including the lucrative $7,000 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus, for his victory.
“There was a shad spawn going on first thing in the morning,” said Davidson. “I caught probably 13 pounds of smallmouth in the first 30 minutes. It was overcast and drizzling rain, and that extended the shad spawn until about 9:30, and I culled up to around 15 pounds.”
Davidson said after the shad spawn bite ended he targeted largemouth around shallow wood cover with a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver. The lake level had recently risen, and Davidson said he believes late spawners took advantage of the water level and moved up to spawn. Davis said he caught 30 keepers during the course of the day, and his final weigh bag consisted of three largemouth and two smallmouth bass.
“At 10 o’clock I had around 18½ pounds,” Davidson said. “I had a 2½-pounder in my bag at that time. I figured if I could get rid of that fish, I could give myself a good shot to win.”
The Volunteer Division event was the first time Davidson had fished South Holston Lake, but he said he had a good idea of what to expect going into the competition.
“I’m real familiar with highland reservoirs,” Davidson said. “I cut my teeth at Dale Hollow and Lake Cumberland. I understand what the fish do and when they do it. With the water rising, I think it helped to have a fresh set of eyes with no past experience here. I had no preconceived notions of what to do and I fished the conditions.”
The top 10 boaters finished the tournament:
1st: Ryan Davidson, Branchland, W. Va., five bass, 19-15, $14,300 (includes $7,000 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus)
2nd: Clark Warren, Mason, Jefferson City, Tenn., five bass, 15-10, $2,305
3rd: Greg McDavid, Blountville, Tenn., five bass, 15-9, $1,536
4th: Donavan Carson, Bluff City, Tenn., five bass, 15-4, $1,076
5th: Jimmy Neece Jr., Bristol, Tenn., five bass, 14-14, $922
6th: Jacob Woods, Loudon, Tenn., five bass, 14-7, $845
7th: Corey Neece, Bristol, Tenn., five bass, 14-6, $729
7th: Trent Adkins, East Bernstadt, Ky., five bass, 14-6, $729
9th: Tyler Altizer, Abingdon, Va., five bass, 14-4, $615
10th: Cody Seeber, Powell, Tenn., five bass, 14-2, $511
10th: Blaine Miller, Rosedale, Va., five bass, 14-2, $511
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Davidson also caught a bass that weighed 6 pounds, 8 ounces, and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $670.
Derek Ray of Swords Creek, Virginia, won the Strike King co-angler division and a total of $2,552 Saturday, after bringing five bass to the scale that totaled 14 pounds, 7 ounces.
The top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished:
1st: Derek Ray, Swords Creek, Va., five bass, 14-7, $2,552
2nd: James Warren, Flat Lick, Ky., five bass, 14-4, $1,116
3rd: Konnor Sweet, Abingdon, Va., five bass, 13-1, $743
4th: Brad Barton, Middlesboro, Ky., five bass, 12-14, $721
5th: Dewayne Drummonds, Gray, Ky., five bass, 12-6, $446
6th: Joe Wasson, Campbellsville, Ky., five bass, 12-5, $409
7th: Garick Robinson, Greenback, Tenn., five bass, 12-4, $372
8th: David Rhea, Meadowview, Va., four bass, 11-11, $335
9th: Bryan Morton, Knoxville, Tenn., four bass, 10-15, $298
10th: Ricky Crider, Dwale, Ky., five bass, 10-6, $410
Ray also earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $320, catching a bass that weighed in at 4 pounds, 5 ounces – the largest co-angler catch of the day.
After three events, Ryan Davidson of Branchland, West Virginia, leads the BFL Volunteer Division Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 700 points, while Ricky Crider of Dwale, Kentucky, leads the Strike King Co-Angler Division AOY race with 715 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.