By MLF Communications Staff

BYRDSTOWN, Tenn. – In the months since Major League Fishing announced the Bass Pro Tour would bring its catch-weigh-immediate release model to Dale Hollow Lake for the third event this season, anglers have anticipated an epic shootout, with some even predicting record weights. However, a chilly three-day practice period brought a trickier bite than many expected, causing some of that excitement to be replaced with trepidation.

Through one day of competition, at least, the lake is living up to its pre-practice billing.

Drew Gill of Mount Carmel, Ill. stacked 26 scorable bass weighing 77 pounds, 15 ounces onto ScoreTracker Tuesday, giving him more than 16 pounds of cushion over Jeff Sprague of Wills Point, Texas at the top of Group A. In all, 10 anglers eclipsed 40 pounds on the day.

The 40 anglers in Group A will now have an off day Wednesday while the 39 anglers competing in Group B will begin their first day of competition. Group A will resume action on Thursday.

Gill said he believes most of Dale Hollow’s bass are currently in the midst of their annual transition from the prespawn feed to spawning mode, but the majority haven’t locked onto beds yet. While the Day 1 results might not show it, that’s made it tough to find a consistent bite.

“We really hit it just about as perfect as we could have hit it between what I’d call prespawn and the spawn,” Gill said. “If we’d been here just a hair earlier or a hair later, it would have been a lot more consistent."

However, in the final hour of the three-day practice period, Gill found a more stable, and totally separate, population of bass to target.

Gill firmly believes that not every bass spawns every year. He’s chasing those fish on Dale Hollow, targeting them suspended in 20 to 30 feet of water. While they’re not necessarily relating to schools of baitfish, having shad or other forage nearby seems to help.

“I'm fishing 20 to 30 feet deep – like, the fish are that deep,” he explained. “And I’m trying to stay around the forage if I can. I’m not directly fishing bait, but I’m trying to stay around it. It makes the fish a little bit more agreeable.”

Gill, whose fishing mind belies his 21 years of age, explained that those fish are more willing to bite because they’re solely focused on feeding, not spawning. As a result, even though there might be greater numbers of bass around the banks, he’s able to catch more offshore.

“The issue on this lake is I’m fishing for the easiest-to-catch population,” Gill said. “Here, it’s not like I’m trying to get around fish. You’re around fish everywhere on this place. What I’m trying to do is get around the population that’s the easiest to catch.”

The one thing that surprised Gill Tuesday was that, after he caught mostly smallmouth in practice, 22 of his 26 scorable bass were largemouth. That proportion more or less mirrored the rest of the field, as smallmouth accounted for about 22 percent of the 406 scorable bass that hit the scales Tuesday.

However, the quality of those brown bass – which normally wouldn’t be reflected in tournament weights due to Dale Hollow’s strict slot limit that prohibits anglers from possessing smallmouth between 16 and 21 inches – made up for the lack of quantity. The highlight of Gill’s day was a 5-12 smallmouth that earned him $1,000 as the Berkley Big Bass, and the three heaviest fish caught on the day were all smallmouth.

Gill hopes to continue targeting both species.

“Today, the largemouth showed up, and they showed up in droves,” he said. “And I’m super cool with it. Largemouth here are a little bit less fickle, they’re a little bit less condition-prone – the offshore largemouth, anyways – those largemouth are a little bit more consistent than the smallmouth are. So, I'm tickled that the largemouth showed up. Because my plan was to fish for smallmouth, but if you can fish for both on a lake that has good ones, both smallmouth and largemouth, by all means, fish for both."

Gill caught his fish Tuesday using forward-facing sonar and finesse tactics. That’s no surprise; his Garmin LiveScope mastery is a major reason he’s launched himself into the national spotlight this year, racking up an Invitationals win at Sam Rayburn, a third-place finish at Toledo Bend in his Bass Pro Tour debut and three other top-11 finishes in 2024 alone.

Gill has no plans to change techniques, saying what he’s doing is going to win the event. The key over the coming days will be keeping track of the fish as they move and finding new, unpressured schools. Gill plans to take advantage of his 36-plus-pound cushion over the cut line by using the second day of qualifying to prepare for the Knockout and Championship Rounds.

“It will be really important for me to look around a lot,” he said. “But it’s not quite what I’d call true – like truly practicing for a tournament, in my opinion, is trying to like reinvent your wheel. I’m not going to be practicing a new ‘what,’ I’m just going to be fishing some new ‘wheres.’ Generally speaking, on this lake, if you’re fishing the right type of stuff, if it’s a deal and not just a spot – like, you’re going to run all over and you’re going to catch them everywhere that sets up that way.

“It’s going to be really important to me to be able to fish free on Thursday and have an opportunity the whole day to just play the conditions and see what happens. Really, it’s not as much a day of trying to collect spots as much as it is a day for me to try and understand what’s going on a little better.”

After each two-day Qualifying Round is complete, the anglers who finish first through 10th from both groups advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 20 anglers compete to finish in the Top 10 to advance to Sunday’s Championship Round. when weights will again be zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

Anglers launch at 7:30 a.m. CT each day from Sunset Marina and Resort, located at 2040 Sunset Dock Road in Monroe. Each day’s takeout is 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 ScoreTracker leaderboard and event coverage at

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

The event 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 2-pound 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.

Qualifying Group A – Day 1

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

1. Drew Gill -- 77--15 (26) -- 5--12

2. Jeff Sprague -- 61--11 (22) -- 4--00

3. Britt Myers -- 60--10 (19) -- 4--03

4. Michael Neal -- 60--07 (20) -- 4--06

5. Ott DeFoe -- 54--07 (21) -- 3--14

6. Cole Floyd -- 53--02 (16) -- 5--09

7. David Dudley -- 45--15 (17) -- 3--15

8. Adrian Avena -- 42--04 (15) -- 3--10

9. Spencer Shuffield -- 41--13 (15) -- 4--01

10. Keith Poche -- 41--02 (15) -- 4--12

11. Martin Villa -- 39--06 (16) -- 3--02

12. Terry Scroggins -- 36--03 (12) -- 4--01

13. Jesse Wiggins -- 36--03 (13) -- 3--12

14. Scott Suggs -- 35--15 (12) -- 5--02

15. Randy Howell -- 34--05 (10) -- 5--05

16. John Hunter -- 31--15 (11) -- 4--05

17. Matt Becker -- 31--11 (12) -- 3--13

18. Josh Bertrand -- 30--13 (11) -- 3--12

19. Matt Lee -- 25--13 (10) -- 3--05

20. Fletcher Shryock -- 24--13 (9) -- 4--06

21. Ron Nelson -- 24--11 (9) -- 3--10

22. Stephen Browning -- 24--09 (10) -- 3--05

23. James Elam -- 23--02 (7) -- 4--01

24. Nick Hatfield -- 22--06 (7) -- 4--00

25. Jacob Wall -- 21--04 (8) -- 4--02

26. Bobby Lane -- 18--09 (8) -- 2--13

27. John Murray -- 18--05 (7) -- 3--10

28. Colby Schrumpf -- 17--13 (7) -- 3--03

29. Skeet Reese -- 17--04 (7) -- 3--04

30. Gerald Spohrer -- 15--05 (5) -- 3--08

31. Greg Vinson -- 14--00 (5) -- 3--09

32. Takahiro Omori -- 12--13 (5) -- 4--09

33. Joshua Weaver -- 12--13 (4) -- 4--00

34. Zack Birge -- 12--05 (4) -- 3--14

35. Ryan Salzman -- 8--04 (3) -- 3--00

36. David Walker -- 6--10 (2) -- 3--14

37. Edwin Evers -- 5--02 (2) -- 2--14

38. Fred Roumbanis -- 4--12 (2) -- 2--06

39. Jacopo Gallelli -- 3--12 (1) -- 3--12

40. Gary Klein -- 3--03 (1) -- 3--03