Buddy Benson Wins Phoenix Bass Fishing League Wild Card Tournament on Pickwick Lake

Elliott Tops Strike King Co-Angler Division

FLORENCE, Ala. (Nov. 13, 2023) Boater Buddy Benson of Dahlonega, Georgia, brought a two-day total of nine bass to the scale weighing 34 pounds, 3 ounces to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Wild Card on Pickwick Lake. For his victory, Benson earned $12,610, including the lucrative $7,000 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus. Benson also earned one of the final berths into the 2024 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American Championship.

The Wild Card tournament is a last chance shot at the All-American for Bass Fishing League (BFL) anglers that didn’t qualify for a Regional Tournament.

“I had never been to Pickwick this time of year,” Benson said. “I’d fished there a couple of times during the summer, but that’s it. My confidence wasn’t very good going into the tournament. I tried all practice to make it work and never caught a limit. Every time I did get a bite, though, it was a big one. So I knew during the tournament if I could make it, they would be the right ones.”

Benson said he focused on bass gathering on a hard spot, next to the river channel on the south end of the lake toward the dam. Every fish he caught during the event came off of that spot, on a Damiki rig.

“There were a bunch of fish on the spot, but they were super stubborn,” Benson said. “I wasn’t getting many bites, but when I did get them, they were big smallmouth – most were 4-plus pounders.”

Benson’s lack of confidence faded as the 4-pound smallmouth kept coming to his bait.

“I had just caught my fifth fish, and I was pumped because I had finally caught a limit,” Benson said. “Then I saw another one on my graph, and I fired over there and caught another 4-pound smallmouth. When I put it in the net, I told my co-angler I might have just won the tournament.

“This feels awesome,” Benson added. “I’ve been close to winning a couple of times, and it’s great to finally get the win. It feels really good to prove myself away from my home area.”

The top six boaters that qualified for 2024 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American were:

1st: Buddy Benson, Dahlonega, Ga., nine bass, 34-3, $12,610 (includes $7,000 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus)
2nd: Jackie Flack, Cullman, Ala., 10 bass, 33-13, $2,305
3rd: Brian Wilson, Nancy, Ky., nine bass, 31-12, $2,506
4th: Jake Lee, Powell, Tenn., 10 bass, 30-15, $1,076
5th: Bo Quinnie, Duncanville, Ala., seven bass, 26-10, $922
6th: Scott Towry, Lawrenceburg, Tenn., eight bass, 26-4, $845

Rounding out the top 10 boaters were:

7th: Gil Summerlin, Guntersville, Ala., six bass, 22-14, $768
8th: Perry Dawson, Rockwood, Tenn., eight bass, 22-7, $911
9th: Angel Rosario, Kalamazoo, Mich., eight bass, 22-2, $615
10th: Darren Ashley, Calhoun Falls, S.C., eight bass, 22-1, $738

Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Boater Brian Wilson of Nancy, Kentucky, weighed the heaviest bass of the tournament Saturday – an 8-pound, 1-ounce bass – that won the day’s Boater Big Bass Award of $670.

Benson took home an extra $7,000 as the highest finishing Phoenix MLF Contingency bonus member. Boaters are eligible to win up to an extra $7,000 per event in each Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine tournament if all requirements are met. More information on the Phoenix MLF contingency program can be found at PhoenixBassBoats.com.

Larry Elliott of Enoree, South Carolina, weighed in a two-day total of eight bass weighing 14 pounds, 15 ounces to win the co-angler division at the Wild Card and $2,113 Saturday, and advance to the 2024 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American.

The top six co-anglers that qualified for the 2024 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American were:

1st: Larry Elliott, Enoree, S.C., eight bass, 14-15, $2,113
2nd: Dennis Blakely, Norwalk, Ohio, four bass, 12-12, $981
3rd: Bill Hockaday, Nashville, Ark., four bass, 10-13, $855
4th: Bart Burford, Loose Creek, Mo., three bass, 10-6, $458
5th: Melvin Veasey, North Little Rock, Ark., two bass, 10-0, $525
6th: Justin McGaha, Knoxville, Tenn., four bass, 9-7, $560

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers were:

7th: John Morales, Plainfield, Ill., four bass, 9-0, $327
8th: Jason Halverson, Belvidere, Ill., two bass, 8-14, $294
9th: Eian Odle, Willow Springs, Mo., three bass, 8-10, $262
10th: J.P. Sims, Port St. Lucie, Fla., three bass, 8-4, $229

Melvin Veasey of North Little Rock, Arkansas, and Russell Vandiver of Greenfield, Indiana, each weighed in a bass totaling 5 pounds, 5 ounces, Saturday to split the day’s Co-Angler Big Bass Award of $264.

The Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Wild Card tournament on Pickwick Lake was hosted by Florence-Lauderdale Tourism.

The 2023 Phoenix BFL Presented by T-H Marine was 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, advanced to one of six BFL Regional tournaments, or the Wild Card, where they competed to finish in the top six, to qualify them for one of the longest-running championships in all of competitive bass fishing – the BFL All-American. The 2024 BFL All-American will take place May 29-31, at Cherokee Lake in Jefferson County, Tennessee, hosted by Visit Jefferson County, TN.

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.