Virginia’s Winebarger Earns First Career Win at Phoenix Bass Fishing League Event at South Holston Lake

Boater winner Clayton Winebarger of Abingdon, Virginia, and Strike-King co-angler winner Saige Evans of Abingdon, Virginia.
Saige Evans, of Abingdon, Va., Tops Strike King Co-Angler Division

BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 22, 2024) – Boater Clayton Winebarger of Abingdon, Virginia, caught a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds even Saturday to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) Presented by T-H Marine on South Holston Lake . The tournament was the second event of the season for the BFL Volunteer Division. Winebarger earned $9,235, including the lucrative $5,000 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus, for his victory.

Not surprisingly for April, the smallmouth spawn was on for the BFL event at South Holston. The spawning bite is typically a dominant pattern this time of year, and because everyone knows it, winning during the spawn can come down to who gets to the best banks first.

“I found a few banks that had some fish on them and was lucky enough to get boat No. 2,” Winebarger said. “I was lucky enough to get on a good bank really quick. I caught three good ones within the first hour.”

After that, he ran up the lake to another stretch and was able to finish out a quality limit. His best fish, however, came later.

“In practice, I had caught a 4½-pounder on a bank not far from where I started. That was on Thursday evening,” he said, “and I knew exactly where it was at. In the tournament, there was actually three boats that got on that bank right at blastoff while I was catching the other three good ones. So I couldn’t get on it. Later in the day, I ran back down to that bank and was able get on it and catch it (the same fish from practice), and that was the biggest one I had today.”

Winebarger caught his fish Texas-rigging a small green worm with either a 1/8- or 3/16-ounce weight.

Occasionally, if the fish got finicky, he changed colors – even using a pink worm. He caught his fish from about 5 to 16 feet deep.

The top 10 boaters finished the tournament:

1st:        Clayton Winebarger, Abingdon, Va., five bass, 20-0, $9,235 (includes $5,000 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus)
2nd:       Corey Neece, Bristol, Tenn., five bass, 19-9, $2,418
3rd:       Jimmy Neece Jr., Bristol, Tenn., five bass, 19-0, $1,413
4th:        Colton Chambers, Elizabethton, Tenn., five bass, 18-10, $988
5th:        Matthew Rock, Bristol, Va., five bass, 18-3, $776
5th:        Brian Barnett, Bluff City, Tenn., five bass, 18-3, $776
5th:        Derrick Snavely, Piney Flats, Tenn., five bass, 18-3, $776
8th:        Hunter McClaskey, Elizabethton, Tenn., five bass, 18-2, $635
9th:        Cody Fuller, Bluefield, W.Va., five bass, 17-12, $529
9th:        David Tolbert, Bristol, Tenn., five bass, 17-12, $529

Complete results can be found at

Randy Oliver of Johnson City, Tennessee, caught a bass that weighed 5 pounds, 1 ounce, and earned the Berkley Big Bass boater award of $590.

Saige Evans of Abingdon, Virginia, won the Strike King co-angler division and $2,064 Saturday, after bringing five bass to the scale that totaled 16 pounds, 4 ounces.

The top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished:

1st:        Saige Evans, Abingdon, Va., five bass, 16-4, $2,064
2nd:       Mac Fritts, Caryville, Tenn., five bass, 15-14, $1,032
3rd:       Keith Gunsauls, Dandridge, Tenn., five bass, 15-9, $688
4th:        Caleb Chambers, Elizabethton, Tenn., five bass, 14-15, $447
4th:        Kyle Musick, Abingdon, Va., five bass, 14-15, $447
6th:        Don Bible, Knoxville, Tenn., five bass, 14-10, $378
7th:        Matthew Faulkner, Corbin, Ky., five bass, 14-9, $714
7th:        Shane Winebarger, Abingdon, Va., five bass, 14-9, $327
9th:        Will Castle, Cleveland, Va., five bass, 14-8, $258
9th:        Brayden Ringley, Piney Flats, Tenn., five bass, 14-8, $258

Matthew Faulkner of Corbin, Kentucky, earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $287, catching a bass that weighed in at 4 pounds, 11 ounces – the largest co-angler catch of the day.

After two events, Jimmy Neece Jr. of Bristol, Tennessee, leads the Fishing Clash Volunteer Division Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 498 points, while Keith Gunsauls of Dandridge, Tennessee, leads the Fishing Clash Volunteer Division Co-Angler of the Year race with 484 points.

The next event for BFL Volunteer Division anglers will be held May 11, at Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee. To register for the event as a boater or a co-angler, visit or call (270)-252-1000.

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. 17-19 BFL Regional tournament on Clarks Hill Lake in Appling, Georgia. Boaters will fish for a top award of $60,000, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro with a 200-horsepower Mercury or Suzuki 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 or Suzuki outboard.

The 2024 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.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine include: 7Brew, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, BUBBA, E3, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, General Tire, GSM Outdoors, Lew’s, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Suzuki, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota and YETI.

For complete details and updated tournament information, visit For regular Bass Fishing League updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF5’s social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.