|Boater Dustin Vaal of Farmington, Kentucky, and Strike-King co-angler Jordan Bowlin of Benton, Illinois.|
|Illinois’ Bowlin Earns Strike King Co-Angler Division Victory|
CALVERT CITY, Ky. (Sept. 25, 2023) – Boater Dustin Vaal of Farmington, Kentucky, caught 10 bass weighing 32 pounds, 1 ounce, to win the two-day MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) Presented by T-H Marine on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes Presented by Country Boy Brewing in Calvert City, Kentucky. The tournament, hosted by the Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau, was the fifth and final regular-season event for the Bass Fishing League Illini Division. Vaal earned $6,137 for the win, his first career BFL victory.
“This feels really good. I’ve been close a lot of times in these September tournaments, and this time around I finally kept enough on to win, so it feels great,” Vaal said.
“The lake is in a hardcore fall transition right now,” Vaal continued. “The shad are anywhere from 22-feet-deep all the way up to 2-feet. So, you can find them deep, you can find them shallow, and they’re all in the mix. We had a little bit of warm weather over the weekend that had them kind of funky. In the morning it was pretty good, but then you’d have to grind to get the remainder of your bites the rest of the day.”
Vaal said that he mainly threw moving baits but was forced to slow things down later in the day.
“It was pretty much like it used to be ledge fishing – you had to alternate through the baits to get them to bite,” Vaal said. “I caught them on topwater, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits – a wide variety of things. Once you got them fired up, you could keep catching them for a little bit, and then you’d have to move spots after you wore them out.”
The top 10 boaters finished the tournament in:
1st: Dustin Vaal, Farmington, Ky., 10 bass, 32-1, $6,137
2nd: Garrett McDowell, Windsor, Ill., 10 bass, 29-0, $2,899
3rd: Levi Kohl, Edinburg, Ill., 10 bass, 26-6, $1,712
4th: Billy Schroeder, Paducah, Ky., nine bass, 26-5, $1,199
5th: Jeff Defew, Benton, Ky., 10 bass, 25-11, $1,027
6th: Bobby McMullin, Pevely, Mo., eight bass, 23-8, $942
7th: Jerry Hall, Ledbetter, Ky., 10 bass, 21-8, $856
8th: Brennon McCord, Thompsonville, Ill., eight bass, 20-11, $1,271 (includes $500 Phoenix Bonus)
9th: David Carroll, Manitou, Ky., nine bass, 20-7, $685
10th: Keith Amerson, Selmer, Tenn., six bass, 19-15, $599
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Kevin Meunier of Lamar, Indiana, caught a bass that weighed 5 pounds, 5 ounces – the heaviest bass weighed in the boater division – and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $645.
Jordan Bowlin of Benton, Illinois, won the Strike King Co-angler Division and $2,891 Sunday after catching a two-day total of six bass weighing 20 pounds, 2 ounces.
The top 10 Strike King co-anglers were:
1st: Jordan Bowlin, Benton, Ill., six bass, 20-2, $2,891
2nd: Aaron Arning, Walnut Hill, Ill., seven bass, 18-8, $1,284
3rd: Jason Gosnell, Paris, Ill., six bass, 14-4, $858
4th: Bill Kissinger, Obion, Tenn., four bass, 10-6, $599
5th: Mike Swetland, Tamaroa, Ill., four bass, 10-3, $864
6th: Brady Kendall, Paducah, Ky., four bass, 9-2, $471
7th: Brad Thacher, Hardin, Ky., four bass, 8-13, $428
8th: Jimmy Null, Bethalto, Ill., four bass, 8-12, $385
9th: Joe Andres, Effingham, Ill., four bass, 8-11, $342
10th: Brandon Depew, Odin, Ill., three bass, 7-7, $300
Bowlin also caught the largest bass in the Strike King Co-angler Division, a fish weighing 4 pounds, 7 ounces. The catch earned him the Berkley Big Bass Co-angler award of $322.
With the regular season now complete, boater Garrett McDowell of Windsor, Illinois, won the 2023 Bass Fishing League Illini Division Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with a five-event total of 1,347 points to earn the $1,000 boater AOY award. Aaron Arning of Walnut Hill, Illinois, won the 2023 Strike King Co-Angler Illini Division AOY race with 1,310 points and earned the $500 Strike King Co-angler of the Year award.
Now, the top 45 boaters and co-anglers in the division based on point standings, along with the five winners of each qualifying event, will advance to compete in the Oct. 12-14 Bass Fishing League 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 top 45 boaters and Strike King co-anglers plus tournament winners from each Phoenix Bass Fishing League division will also earn priority entry into the MLF Toyota Series, the pathway to the MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals and ultimately the MLF Bass Pro Tour.
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. For regular Bass Fishing League updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF5’s social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.