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Marks rolls to victory at BFL All-American

Marks rolls to victory at BFL All-American

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Tallying 38 pounds, 6 ounces over three days, Paul Marks Jr. dominated the BFL All-American on Lake Cherokee. Topping 12 pounds for the third day in a row with a Day 3 limit that weighed 12-5, Marks won by more than 4 pounds over runner-up Matt O’Connell and earned $120,000 for his efforts. Additionally, he qualified for the Toyota Series Championship this fall on Wheeler Lake and REDCREST 2025 on Lake Guntersville.

While he’s only 23, Marks’ star has burned bright for several years. This marks his fifth win with MLF since 2019, which includes stats from high school, and could serve as the launchpad for yet another prolific tournament fishing career.

Weighing all smallmouth, Marks was able to stay steady when basically nobody else could. For whatever reason, Cherokee was brutally tough on the field this week.

“I was fishing points that pointed into the current or the wind,” he said. “I caught some really nice ones the first day of practice – I think I had 15 or 16 pounds. The rest of practice, I just drove around and looked for the same stuff. I ran stuff I knew the first day of the tournament and did all right. The second day, I ran almost all new water – places I’d marked.”

Not fishing super deep, Marks used a lot of the lake and seemed to understand the fish well.

“I was focusing around 15 foot, maybe deeper, maybe shallower,” he said. “I was using Lowrance SideScan, the 3-in-1 transducer, to pretty much just mark rocks. It was all sizes; some of them were the size of trucks, some of them were the size of a basketball, they just had to be in the right spot. Legit spots that I thought I might actually fish, I probably marked 150. A lot of them were a little too deep – I think (the fish) are still shallower, it’s been coolish the last few weeks.”

Fishing over the rocks with finesse gear, Marks used a 3.8-inch Zoom Z-Swim on a 3/8- or 1/4-ounce Greenfish Tackle Bad Little Shad Swimbait Head. He threw it on a 7-foot, medium-light Shimano Poison Ultima rod with a Shimano Vanquish 3000 reel, 10-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid and a 12-pound Seaguar Tatsu leader.

Marks presented his bait about 2 or 3 feet above the rocks and let the fish come to it.

“They’ll come get it,” he said. “The water isn’t real clear, but the smallmouth can see or maybe feel it coming – they’ll haul ass to get it from a long ways. I’d say 80 percent of the time, I didn’t see them. I’d throw out there and they’d come eat it. That’s why I think I did a little better, too – I wasn’t just looking for fish. There are so many fish out there; I was ignoring all the fish I saw and throwing at structure.”

Here are the final totals for the Top 10:

1. Paul Marks Jr. – 38-6 (15) – $120,000 (includes $20,000 Phoenix Bonus)
2. Matt O’Connell – 34-1 (15) – $20,800
3. Dillon Falardeau – 33-3 (15) – $15,000
4. Buddy Benson – 31-9 (15) – $21,000 (includes $7,000 Phoenix Bonus)
5. Lucas Murphy – 31-8 (14) – $18,000 (includes $5,000 Phoenix Bonus)
6. Brett Carnright – 30-15 (15) – $14,000 (includes $2,000 Phoenix Bonus)
7. Jason Barnes – 30-5 (13) – $12,000 (includes $1,000 Phoenix Bonus)
8. Mike Feldermann – 28-5 (13) – $10,000
9. Ian Leybas – 26-2 (12) – $9,000
10. Pete Saele – 20-8 (9) – $8,000

For complete results, click here.

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