Elkhart, Indiana Angler Leads by 1-Pound, 5-Ounce Margin After Opening Day of Competition for up to $235,000
BRANSON, Mo. (Nov. 2, 2023) – After several frigid days of practice on Table Rock Lake, over 400 anglers welcomed a bit of a warming trend Thursday to begin the three-day competition for a top cash award of up to $235,000 at the 2023 Toyota Series Championship at Table Rock Lake Presented by Simms in Branson, Missouri.
The long-running bass-fishing championship, hosted by ExploreBranson.com, features the nation’s best Toyota Series pros and international anglers, and is the culmination of the 2023 Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats season.
Pro Mike Raber of Elkhart, Indiana, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 12 ounces to take the early lead after Day 1 of the three-day event. Raber holds a 1-pound, 5-ounce lead over pro Emil Wagner of Marietta, Georgia, who caught five bass weighing 16 pounds, 7 ounces, good for second place. Wagner was followed closely by local pro Brad Jelinek of Lincoln, Missouri, who weighed a five-bass limit totaling 15-12 to finish the day in third place.
After a vicious cold front swept through the Ozark region earlier in the week, warmer temperatures on Thursday seemed to be shaking things up on the Missouri fishery.
“I didn’t expect this outcome at all when I started out this morning,” said Raber. “I caught a couple fish today that were a caliber I never saw in practice, so I think the conditions are starting to change out there. Hopefully that’s going to continue throughout the tournament.
“The warmer weather today really got the fish more mobile,” Raber continued. “I caught about 10 keepers today, nothing too crazy, and not a ton of fish. I think they are pretty pressured, and bites are at a premium right now.”
With hundreds of anglers spread out across Table Rock Lake trying to figure out the bite in the changing conditions, Day 1 began with a wide array of game plans throughout the field.
“I started my morning on one pattern and caught a big one doing that, then transitioned a little throughout the day,” said Raber. “I covered a lot of water – a couple places were firing, and a whole lot of places weren’t. The fishing’s not easy out there – it was brutal – and I think anyone in the field would tell you that right now.”
Raber said the championship event is the first time he’s visited Table Rock Lake, or even fished anywhere near the region, but despite that, the Indiana pro was definitely a force to be reckoned with on Thursday.
“I fished the four days of practice here, but I’ve never fished a lake that looks like this, or even seen a highland reservoir until this week,” said Raber. “It took some getting used to, especially the first couple days of practice – it was like being on the moon. Where I’m from, largemouth fishing is grass, and there’s none of that here – there’s not even moss on the rocks. I’m a smallmouth guy too though, so that helped. But it’s definitely a different type of fishery for me.”
Raber said he caught a mixed bag of fish throughout the day, including spotted, smallmouth and largemouth bass.
“I caught mostly spotted bass, but my big ones were largemouth,” said Raber. “I don’t really have areas for each species, they just kind of caught me by surprise today – especially the places where I found smallmouth. There weren’t smallmouth in those spots earlier in the week.
“This is my very first season fishing the Toyota Series, so I just feel extremely blessed to be here, and doubly blessed for the day today,” Raber continued. “God has given me more than I deserve, so we’ll see what happens. Pulling off a win would obviously mean the world to me, but win, lose or draw, we’re going to go out there and try to do things the right way and see what we can get done.”
The top 20 pros after Day One on Table Rock Lake are:
1st: Mike Raber of Elkhart, Ind., five bass, 17-12
2nd: Emil Wagner of Marietta, Ga., five bass, 16-7
3rd: Brad Jelinek of Lincoln, Mo., five bass, 15-12
4th: Alec Morrison of Peru, N.Y., five bass, 15-4
5th: Evan Kung of Pickering, Ontario, five bass, 15-2
6th: Ken Thompson of Roaring Springs, Pa., five bass, 15-0
7th: Colby Miller of Elmer, La., five bass, 14-11
8th: Kyle Cortiana of Broken Arrow, Okla., five bass, 14-9
9th: Jacob Keenom of Wellston, Okla., five bass, 14-9
10th: Jeremy Gordon of Rutledge, Tenn., five bass, 14-6
11th: Charlie Weyer of Branson West, Mo., five bass, 14-5
12th: Jacob Welch of Jefferson City, Mo., four bass, 14-3
13th: Derik Hudson of Concord, Va., five bass, 14-0
14th: Erik Luzak of Fenelon Falls, Ontario, five bass, 13-15
14th: Ish Monroe of Oakdale, Calif., five bass, 13-15
16th: Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, five bass, 13-14
17th: Travis Harriman of Huntsville, Ark., five bass, 13-13
17th: Brian LaClair of Denton, Md., five bass, 13-13
17th: Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 13-13
17th: Andrew Ready of Auburndale, Fla., five bass, 13-13
For a full list of results visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 745 bass weighing 1767 pounds caught by 196 pros Thursday. The catch included 97 five-bass limits.
Will Lancett of Jacksonville, Arkansas, leads the Strike King co-angler division with four bass weighing 11 pounds, 12 ounces, followed by Al Hopkins of Pendleton, Indiana, who weighed five bass totaling 10-3 to end the day in second place. Co-anglers are competing for a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard.
The top 20 Strike King co-anglers after Day One on Table Rock Lake are:
1st: Will Lancett of Jacksonville, Ark., four bass, 11-12
2nd: Al Hopkins of Pendleton, Ind., five bass, 10-3
3rd: Brett Robbins of Solvang, Calif., five bass, 10-2
4th: Larry Taylor of Seaford, Del., five bass, 9-8
5th: Paul Gelles of Pingree, Idaho, four bass, 8-14
6th: Morgan White of Jasper, Texas, four bass, 8-12
7th: Chad Garton of Des Moines, Iowa, four bass, 7-11
7th: Bruce Harris of Oakdale, Calif., three bass, 7-11
9th: Alex Berry of Pomona Harare, Zimbabwe, four bass, 7-10
10th: Andrew Harper of Shelbyville, Ill., three bass, 7-6
11th: Cole Semler of Dalbo, Minn., three bass, 7-4
12th: Kirk Marshall of Discovery Bay, Calif., three bass, 7-1
12th: Nycholas Swanson of Cedar Falls, Iowa, two bass, 7-1
12th: Todd Woods of Long Beach, Calif., three bass, 7-1
15th: Leigh Lutz of Concord, Calif., three bass, 6-8
16th: Mason Chapman of Lenexa, Kan., three bass, 6-5
16th: Chase Johnson of Quincy, Ill., three bass, 6-5
18th: Sakae Ushio of Tonawanda, N.Y., three bass, 6-0
19th: Akira Okuyama of Forest Hills, N.Y., three bass, 5-11
19th: Chad Roorda of Palm Desert, Calif., three bass, 5-11
19th: Toon Van Ham of Merksplas, Belgium, three bass, 5-11
Anglers will take off daily at 7:30 a.m. CT from Table Rock State Park Marina, located at 380 State Park Marina Road, in Branson. Weigh-ins will also be held at the marina and will begin at 3:30 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend the daily takeoffs and weigh-ins and also follow the action online through the “MLF Live” weigh-in broadcasts and daily coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com. The 2023 Toyota Series Championship Presented by Simms will premiere on CBS Sports in 2024.
The full field of anglers compete on Days 1 and 2 of the event, with the top 10 pros and top 10 Strike King co-anglers based on cumulative weight from the first two days continuing to the third and final day. The 2023 Toyota Series champions will be determined by the heaviest three-day total weight.
Pros and co-anglers can qualify for multiple contingency awards based on final standings in the championship, including the lucrative $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus for pros. The winning Strike King co-angler will earn a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard motor.
The 2023 Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats consisted of six divisions – Central, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and Western – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International division and the Wild Card. The highest finishing pro from each division at the championship will claim a $10,000 bonus. The bonus will go to the second-highest finishing pro in the division represented by the overall champion.
The 2023 Toyota Series Championship field features the top 25 pros, top 25 Strike King co-anglers and tournament winners from each of the six divisions; the top 25 pros and 25 co-anglers from the Wild Card division plus tournament winners; the highest finishing boater and co-angler from each of the six Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine Regionals and the TBF at the All-American; the top three teams from the College Fishing National Championship; High School Fishing National Champions; TBF National Champions; and MLF International anglers from Canada, Central Europe, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Namibia, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Zimbabwe.
For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular Toyota Series updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the MLF5 social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.