Sabbagha Gets ‘Surprise’ Win at Phoenix Bass Fishing League Event on Santee Cooper

Robbins Claims Strike King Co-Angler Division Victory

SUMMERTON, S.C. (March 6, 2023) – Boater Joey Sabbagha of Prosperity, South Carolina, caught a five-bass limit weighing 23 pounds, 3 ounces, Saturday to win the MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) Presented by T-H Marine on Santee Cooper . The tournament, hosted by the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce, was the second event for the BFL South Carolina Division. Sabbagha earned $6,000 for his victory.

“During practice I found some fish in the lower lake that were staging in some shallow depressions on some flats,” said Sabbagha, who notched his second BFL win. “So, I ran that pattern of five depressions I found that had fish laying in them. I just rotated through them with a Berkley spinnerbait.”

Sabbagha said he targeted flats in 3½ feet of water, where the subtle depressions lay in four feet of water. The method provided Sabbagha with his weigh fish within his first two stops on tournament day. He said he caught nine keepers during the day, but wasn’t able to improve his weight. That early weight, however, turned out to be enough for the win.

“I expected it to take 26 to 28 pounds to win,” Sabbagha said. “But we had a storm come through the night before the tournament and it muddied up some of the water, and I think that affected the fish.

“To get the win on my favorite lake is pretty awesome,” added Sabbagha. “I’m very surprised and happy with it.”

The top 10 boaters finished the tournament:

1st:        Joey Sabbagha, Prosperity, S.C., five bass, 23-3, $6,000
2nd:       Mark Hutson, Moncks Corner, S.C., five bass, 21-1, $3,000
3rd:       Robert Clarke III, Pineville, S.C., five bass, 20-10, $2,000
4th:        Jack Belt, Fountain Inn, S.C., five bass, 19-12, $1,400
5th:        Chuck Howard, Elloree, S.C., five bass, 19-10, $2,200
6th:        Greg Rikard, Leesville, S.C., five bass, 18-12, $2,570 (includes $500 Phoenix MLF Contingency Bonus)
7th:        Bryan Cook, Vance, S.C., five bass, 17-15, $1,000
8th:        Matt Wieteha, Miami, Fla., five bass, 17-14, $900
9th:        Corey Hymer, Bridgeton, N.J., five bass, 17-5, $800
10th:     Freddie Gibbs, Darlington, S.C., five bass, 17-3, $700

Complete results can be found at

Chuck Howard of Elloree, South Carolina, caught a bass that weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces, and earned the Berkley Big Bass Boater award of $1,000.

Jerry Robbins of Asheboro, North Carolina, won the Strike King co-angler division and a total of $3,000 Saturday, after bringing five bass to the scale that totaled 17 pounds, 12 ounces.

The top 10 Strike King co-anglers finished:

1st:        Jerry Robbins, Asheboro, N.C., five bass, 17-12, $3,000
2nd:       Samuel Jones, Fuquay Varina, N.C., four bass, 13-5, $1,500
3rd:       Bobby Henderson, Charlotte, N.C., five bass, 13-2, $1,400
4th:        Alan Bennett, Greenwood, S.C., five bass, 12-10, $700
5th:        Scott Bowers, Woodbridge, Va., four bass, 12-7, $600
6th:        Jeff Bissen, Lugoff, S.C., four bass, 12-2, $550
7th:        Dustin Powell, Lake City, S.C., three bass, 11-12, $500
8th:        Justin Antley, Ladson, S.C., four bass, 11-3, $450
9th:        Tyler Hensley, Bostic, N.C., four bass, 10-14, $400
10th:     Wesley Mullins, Guyton, Ga., four bass, 10-1, $350

Joe Case of Easley, South Carolina, earned the Berkley Big Bass co-angler award of $500, catching a bass that weighed in at 8 pounds, 2 ounces – the largest co-angler catch of the day.

After two events, Chuck Howard of Elloree, South Carolina, leads the BFL South Carolina Division Boater Angler of the Year (AOY) race with 494 points, while Bobby Henderson of Charlotte, North Carolina, leads the Strike King Co-Angler Division AOY race with 484 points.

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