Tennessee’s Michael Neal Leads First Day at MLF Bass Pro Tour Stage Seven at Lake St. Clair

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. (Sept. 10, 2021) – Pro “The Real Deal” Michael Neal of Dayton, Tennessee, caught 36 bass totaling 120 pounds, 13 ounces, to grab the early lead for Group A on Day 1 of the CarParts.com Stage Seven at Lake St. Clair Presented by Covercraft Friday in St. Clair Shores, Michigan.

The six-day event, hosted by Macomb County, St. Clair Shores and the Detroit Sports Commission, showcases the 80 top professional bass-fishing anglers on the planet competing for a purse of $805,000, including a top cash prize of $100,000 to the winner. The tournament is livestreamed each day at MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MOTV app and also being filmed for broadcast later this fall on the Discovery Channel.

Neal will bring a 18-pound, 9-ounce, lead into Sunday’s second day of competition for Group A. In second place on the SCORETRACKER® leaderboard is the red-hot Academy Sports + Outdoors pro Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, who caught 39 bass totaling 102-4. B&W Trailer Hitches pro Russ Lane of Prattville, Alabama, sits in third place – 1-ounce behind Wheeler – with 33 bass weighing 102-3. Kalamazoo’s Kevin VanDam caught 13 bass weighing 36-12 and sits in 18th place.

The 40 anglers in Group A will now have the day off on Saturday, while the 39 anglers competing in Group B will begin their first day of competition. Group A will resume competition on Sunday.

“It was a heck of a day. It’ll be interesting to see if I can get back our here on Sunday or not,” Neal said, pondering the weather forecast. “If I can’t, I’m going to have to try to come up with a different plan to try to win the round.”

Neal spent pretty much his entire day fishing the same general area – a spot that he described as a big grass flat with a few irregularities – using multiple different baits and techniques. In Period 1, Neal relied on a drop-shot rig and boated six bass. In Period 2, he mixed a jerkbait into his repertoire and along with the drop-shot added another 10 scorable bass. In Period 3, Neal caught fire with a medium-diving crankbait and another 20 scorable bass in the period.

“Whenever it is calm enough to fish, I’m all in on the area that I fished today,” Neal added. “There are tons of fish there, but I don’t know how long they’ll stay, or if the wind will move them or what. We’ll have to see what happens. Regardless, today has been a really fun day.”

Straight off of his two back-to-back Bass Pro Tour victories, second-place pro Jacob Wheeler maintained his historic pace and had another great day on the water Friday.

“It was another incredible day,” Wheeler said. “I stayed on them all day long. It was great to have another 100-pound day, but we’ve still got a lot of work left ahead of us. It’s a solid start, though. And I’ve got a chance to win the round, and that’s really all that you can ask for after Day 1.”

The top 20 pros in Group A after Day 1 on Lake St. Clair are:

1st: Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 36 bass, 120-13
2nd: Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 39 bass, 102-4
3rd: Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala., 33 bass, 102-3
4th: Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 28 bass, 98-6
5th: Gary Klein, Mingus, Texas., 28 bass, 80-6
6th: Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., 22 bass, 66-8
7th: Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., 21 bass, 63-1
8th: Brett Hite, Phoenix, Ariz., 15 bass, 48-9
9th: Ish Monroe, Oakdale, Calif., 16 bass, 48-3
10th: Luke Clausen, Spokane, Wash., 16 bass, 45-11
11th: Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 14 bass, 41-14
12th: Jeff Sprague, Point, Texas, 15 bass, 40-7
13th: Fletcher Shryock, Guntersville, Ala., 15 bass, 40-1
14th: John Murray, Spring City, Tenn., 15 bass, 39-11
15th: Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan, 16 bass, 38-14
16th: Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss., 12 bass, 38-10
17th: Matthew Stefan, Junction City, Wis., 12 bass, 37-13
18th: Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 13 bass, 36-12
19th: Shinichi Fukae, Osaka, Japan, 13 bass, 36-10
20th: Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., 13 bass, 36-5

A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Overall, there were 530 bass weighing 1,558 pounds, 10 ounces caught by 39 pros on Friday.

Ish Monroe won the Berkley Big Bass Award and earned $1,000 Friday for weighing a 5-pound, 13-ounce largemouth bass on a frog during Period 3. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and a $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.

The 40 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day qualifying round on Lake St. Clair on Friday and Sunday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Saturday and Monday. After each two-day qualifying round is complete, the anglers that finish in 2nd through 20th place from both groups advance to Tuesday’s Knockout Round, while the winner of each group advances directly to Wednesday’s Championship Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed and the remaining 38 anglers compete to finish in the top 8 to advance to the Championship Round. In the final day Championship Round, weights are zeroed and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

Anglers will take off from the 9-Mile Ramp, located in St. Clair Shores, at 8 a.m. ET each day of competition. With strong winds being forecast for Saturday, Bass Pro Tour Tournament Director Aaron Beshears has decided to allow tournament competitors to trailer their boats. Anglers must remain at the 9-Mile Boat Ramp until 8 a.m. and then will be allowed to depart to the desired launch ramp of their choosing.

The General Tire Takeout ceremonies will also be held at the Launch Ramp, beginning at 5 p.m. each day. Fans are welcome to attend all takeoff and takeout ceremonies and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLF NOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

As part of the event fans will also be treated to the Bass, Brews & BBQ Festival at Blossom Heath Park in St. Clair Shores, from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The festival is a chance for fishing fans to meet their favorite Bass Pro Tour anglers, enjoy food and beverages from local food truck and St. Clair Shores Micro Breweries, watch the on-the-water action at the MLF watch party, shop at numerous MLF sponsor and local vendor booths, and enjoy live concerts from local musicians each day. For more information on the Bass, Brews & BBQ Festival hosted by Macomb County, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The CarParts.com Stage Seven at Lake St. Clair Presented by Covercraft features anglers competing with a 2-pound minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. Minimum weights are determined individually for each competition waters that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.

The Bass Pro Tour features a field of 76 of the top professional anglers in the world – joined at each event by 4 pros that qualify from the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit – competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, competing for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2022 championship.

The MLF NOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action on all six days of competition from 8:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET. MLF NOW!® will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

Television coverage of the CarParts.com Stage Seven at Lake St. Clair Presented by Covercraft will premiere at 7 a.m. ET, Nov. 13 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on the Discovery Channel, with additional re-airings on the Outdoor Channel and the Sportsman Channel. Each two-hour long reality-based episode goes in-depth to break down each day of competition.

For complete details and updated information on the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

About Major League Fishing
Major League Fishing (MLF) is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, producing more than 250 events annually at some of the most prestigious fisheries in the world, while broadcasting to America’s living rooms on CBS, the Discovery Channel, the Outdoor Channel, CBS Sports Network, the World Fishing Network, the Sportsman Channel and on-demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with offices in Benton, Kentucky, the MLF roster of bass anglers includes the world’s top pros and more than 30,000 competitors in all 50 states and 13 countries. In 2019 MLF expanded its portfolio of catch, weigh and immediate release events to include the sport’s strongest five-biggest-fish format tournament circuits. Since its founding in 2011, MLF has advanced the sport of competitive fishing through its premier television broadcasts and livestreams, and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for bass through research, education, fisheries enhancement and fish care.

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