Boater Chris Epting of Chapin, South Carolina, caught a five-bass limit weighing 25 pounds, 10 ounces, Saturday to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) Presented by T-H Marine on Lake Murray . The tournament, hosted by the Capital City Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism Board, was the first event of 2023 for the BFL South Carolina Division. Epting earned $8,500 for his victory, including the lucrative $2,500 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus.
“I won here in 2021, but it was a lot colder and a lot wetter,” said Epting. “But fishing conditions were similar this time as to they were then.”
Epting lives on the lake and said he began fishing windy points and rocks using spinnerbaits, Lunker Lure Jigs and Buckeye Lures Jigs in the mid-lake section of Murray, but his first spot held three other boats. He managed to catch one keeper there before relocating.
“I told my co-angler that I had some spots that were kind of hidey-holes, so I said, ‘Let’s go down there and check those and see what happens,’” Epting said. “And bam-bam-bam, I had a limit.”
Epting said he started culling fish, adding one over 6 pounds and then one over 5 pounds. Epting said he braved rough wind and ran down the lake, but quickly returned to mid-lake and caught another large bass that weighed more than 7 pounds. He had a 2¾-pound bass in the livewell he tried to cull but never managed to replace.
“I was really nervous because I knew what it had been taking to win here,” Epting said. “My team partner and I weighed one of the biggest bags I’d ever heard of here not too long ago, and it went more than 29½ pounds. So, I wasn’t sure I had enough to win this time.”
The top 10 boaters finished the tournament:
1st: Chris Epting, Chapin, S.C., five bass, 25-10, $8,500 (includes $2,500 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus)
2nd: Daniel Jordan, Hartsville, S.C., five bass, 23-13, $3,000
3rd: Chuck Howard, Elloree, S.C., five bass, 23-9, $2,000
4th: Spencer Black, Hickory, N.C., five bass, 22-7, $1,400
5th: Adam Waters, Denver, N.C., five bass, 22-2, $1,200
6th: Grayson Cook, Canton, N.C., five bass, 21-7, $1,100
7th: Brandon Jeffcoat, Columbia, S.C., five bass, 21-1, $1,000
8th: Wendell Causey, Jr., Irmo, S.C., five bass, 20-13, $900
9th: Cody Hoyle, Rutherfordton, N.C., five bass, 20-6, $750
9th: Mark Collins, Inman, S.C., five bass, 20-6, $750
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Noah Nicholson of Union Mills, North Carolina, caught a largemouth bass that weighed 8 pounds, 4 ounces, and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $1,000.
Wesley Trotter of Monroe, North Carolina, won the Strike King co-angler division and $2,991 Saturday, after bringing five bass to the scale that totaled 21 pounds, 11 ounces.
The top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished:
1st: Wesley Trotter, Monroe, N.C., five bass, 21-11, $2,991
2nd: Eddie Hall, Inman, S.C., five bass, 21-8, $1,495
3rd: Trent Killian, Bostic, N.C., five bass, 16-6, $1,198
4th: Jacob Yaden, Evans, Ga., four bass, 15-11, $898
5th: Stephen Sprouse, Pauline, S.C., five bass, 15-10, $598
6th: Bill Beard, Prosperity, S.C., five bass, 14-14, $548
7th: James Warncke, Camden, S.C., five bass, 14-13, $498
8th: Kodell Keels, Columbia, S.C., five bass, 14-5, $449
9th: Justin Tingen, Moore, S.C., five bass, 13-1, $399
10th: David Bright, Mooresville, N.C., five bass, 12-15, $331
10th: Brandon Kelley, Evans, Ga., two bass, 12-15, $331
Samuel Jones of Fuquay Varina, North Carolina, earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $495, catching a bass that weighed in at 8 pounds, 5 ounces – the largest co-angler catch of the day.
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. 19-21 BFL Regional tournament on Lake Norman in Huntersville, North Carolina. 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: 4WP, 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, 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.