By MLF Communications Staff

CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. – For most of his first three days on the water at the Santee Cooper Lakes, Cole Floyd of Leesburg, Ohio , lurked just behind the leaders – safe from the cut line but never really threatening to take the top spot on ScoreTracker. He qualified for Saturday’s Knockout Round by finishing ninth in Group A, then hovered in the middle of the Top 10 throughout Saturday’s action.

Until the final few hours, that is.

During an explosive Period 3 that saw Santee Cooper’s big bass start snapping for just about everyone in the field, Floyd boated eight bass weighing a combined 28 pounds, 6 ounces. That brought his total on the day to 46-9, vaulted him into the top spot on the leaderboard and sent a clear message to the rest of the field that he’s not to be overlooked during Sunday’s Championship Round.

Seeking his first win as a touring pro, Floyd will have his work cut out for him. Looming within the Top 5 were Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Alabama, who stacked up an epic 42-6 on just six bass; Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, the six-time Bass Pro Tour champion; and James Watson of Lampe, Missouri, who caught a pair of 8-plus-pounders Saturday.

The final 10 anglers are now set, and competition resumes Sunday morning with the Championship Round. Weights are zeroed and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

Floyd, who hasn’t had a camera in his boat all week, doesn’t mind operating outside the spotlight. He said he relishes the underdog role.

In fact, he wasn’t necessarily trying to finish the Knockout Round in first place. He spent much of Saturday running new water, and he just happened to hit a productive area in Lake Marion during the final couple hours. He added to his total as he sampled the bass population living there.

“Every time I got off pad with my boat, it seemed like I could get a bite,” Floyd said. “Everything was just kind of going my way.”

Like much of the field, Floyd has caught his fish winding a bladed jig – in his case, a Strike King Thunder Cricket – around cypress trees, “trying to cover as much water as I can.” He believes the key to his hot afternoon was the west wind, which picked up speed as the day progressed and pushed water into his section.

“The wind just seemed to blow in all that mud, that dirty water from the other side of the lake, and it just helped my area a lot more,” Floyd explained. “Stained it up and got it more active.”

Floyd is optimistic that the area he found has plenty of bass to carry him through the Championship Round. However, the forecast – sunny skies, cooler temperatures and a light breeze out of the north – has him concerned that he might have to switch techniques.

“Obviously, I had a good day today,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a good area to possibly win it, but I feel like the weather is going to hurt me more than anything. I think it’s going to be calmer tomorrow, and it’ll just make the bite tougher.”

Floyd, who will compete in his second career BPT Championship Round, is no stranger to tournament success. He won multiple events at the college level, plus took home three straight Angler of the Year titles in the LBL Division of the BFLs from 2017-2019.

A BPT victory, however, would represent a whole new frontier. Floyd called the prospect of landing his first national win “life-changing.”

“It would be a dream come true," he said. “I’ve worked my ass off – I’m not super old – my whole life just to have this opportunity, so it would be something very special, that’s for sure.”

Lucas and Watson tied for Saturday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award, as each weighed in a largemouth totaling 8-15. 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 final 10 anglers will launch at 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday from the John C. Land III Landing, located at 4404 Greenall Road in Summerton. Sunday’s takout and championship celebration will be held at the park beginning at 4 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch and takeout events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLFNOW! livestream and ScoreTracker coverage at .

The MLFNOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on the final day of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET. MLFNOW! is livestreamed on and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

The tournament features the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, in which anglers catch as much weight as they can each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the ScoreTracker leaderboard. Anglers are competing with a 1-pound, 8-ounc1=8e minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. The MLF Fisheries Management Division determines minimum weights for each body of water that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.

Knockout Round

(Figure at far right indicates weight of angler's heaviest fish for the round)

1. Cole Floyd -- 46-09 (14) -- 7-06

2. Justin Lucas -- 42-06 (6) -- 8-15

3. Dylan Hays -- 39-14 (10) -- 8-11

4. Jacob Wheeler -- 34-01 (11) -- 5-15

5. James Watson -- 32-03 (7) -- 8-15

6. Dean Rojas -- 30-08 (12) -- 4-01

7. Dave Lefebre -- 29-00 (9) -- 4-10

8. Matt Becker -- 28-04 (10) -- 4-08

9. Casey Ashley -- 28-00 (10) -- 5-09

10. Jesse Wiggins -- 26-14 (10) -- 4-03

The following anglers did not make the cut and will not advance to the Championship Round

11. David Dudley -- 25-08 (6) -- 6-08

12. Alton Jones Jr. -- 25-01 (6) -- 6-12

13. Gerald Spohrer -- 22-00 (9) -- 4-14

14. Nick LeBrun -- 21-13 (6) -- 5-01

15. Dustin Connell -- 14-14 (3) -- 5-09

16. Ron Nelson -- 13-01 (4) -- 6-05

17. Zack Birge -- 12-06 (3) -- 6-14

18. Brent Ehrler -- 11-04 (5) -- 2-15

19. Bobby Lane -- 6-10 (4) -- 1-13

20. Marshall Robinson -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00