17 tournaments. 17 wins.
That’s the 2021 scorecard of the Mercury-powered professional bass anglers competing on the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour and Pro Circuit, the top two levels of MLF competition. Mercury pros won each circuit’s Angler of the Year title and championship event, too.
It was a clean sweep and a bold testament to the dependability and reliability of the Mercury Pro XS® outboard that powered every champion.
Bass Pro Tour Sweep
Mercury success was evident at MLF’s highest level, the Bass Pro Tour.
Bass Pro Tour anglers competed in seven regular-season tournaments, the REDCREST championship and a special Heavy Hitters event in 2021. In February, Mercury Pro Team member Dustin Connell, of Clanton, Alabama, won the REDCREST tournament on Alabama’s Lake Eufaula to claim the top prize of $300,000. The success continued from there.
Here’s the full list of champions:
REDCREST – Bass Pro Tour Championship – Lake Eufaula – Eufaula, Alabama – Dustin Connell
Stage 1 – Sam Rayburn Reservoir – Jasper, Texas – Ott DeFoe
Stage 2 – Lake Travis – Austin, Texas – Jacob Wheeler
Heavy Hitters – Shearon Harris Reservoir – Raleigh, North Carolina – Alton Jones Sr.
Stage 3 – Harris Chain – Leesburg, Florida – Ott DeFoe
Stage 4 – Lake Chickamauga – Dayton, Tennessee – Kevin VanDam
Stage 5 – St. Lawrence River – Massena, New York – Jacob Wheeler
Stage 6 – Lake Champlain – Plattsburgh, New York – Jacob Wheeler
Stage 7 – Lake St. Clair – Michael Neal
Jacob Wheeler edged out Ott DeFoe for the Bass Pro Tour Angler of the Year title. Wheeler and DeFoe, both hailing from Tennessee, also sit first and second in the current BassFan World Rankings and all but dominated the Bass Pro Tour in 2021.
After winning the Angler of the Year title, Wheeler reflected on his personal experience with a 250hp Pro XS outboard.
“I switched over to Mercury in the middle of last season, and that motor is bulletproof,” he said. “That peace of mind is something you can’t put a price tag on.
“This accomplishment right here, to me, is the top of the list over my career. Shout out to Mercury for all the products they produce because they’re No. 1 for a reason.”
Michelle Kilburn, senior manager of competitive angling for Mercury Marine, was pleased with the season’s outcome. A big part of “the reason” for the success is all the work done behind the scenes to support Team Mercury.
“Winning is a team effort,” Kilburn said. “Service crews, engineers, design team, production crews – all of us can all be proud of this season and the accomplishments of these anglers.”
Pro Circuit Sweep
The Pro Circuit is another professional-level bass league that falls under the MLF BIG5 umbrella. While the Bass Pro Tour operates on the catch-record-release system, all five circuits in the BIG5 use the traditional live weigh-in system. The Pro Circuit is the flagship circuit among them.
In 2021, 20 anglers from the Bass Pro Tour also competed on the Pro Circuit. The rest of the field was comprised of top anglers who qualified from other circuits and many anglers who competed on the former FLW Tour.
The winning trend started early and never wavered for Mercury-powered pros this Pro Circuit season. Champions included veteran pro Skeet Reese, of Auburn, California, and newComer Jacopo Gallelli, of Italy, who became the first European to win a tour-level bass tournament in the U.S.
Covington, Tennessee, angler Jimmy Washam ran his Pro XS outboard up and down the Mississippi River to win the TITLE – the championship event.
Here’s the full list of champions:
Stop 1 – Lake Okeechobee – Clewiston, Florida – Skeet Reese
Stop 2 – Lewis Smith Lake – Cullman, Alabama – John Cox
Stop 3 – Lake Murray – Columbia, South Carolina – Matt Becker
Stop 4 – Lake Eufaula – Eufaula, Alabama – Jason Abram
Stop 5 – Potomac River – Marbury, Maryland – Jacopo Gallelli
Stop 6 – St. Lawrence River – Massena, New York – Cody Pike
TITLE – Pro Circuit Championship – Mississippi River – La Crosse, Wisconsin – Jimmy Washam
Mercury Pro Team member Michael Neal, of Dayton, Tennessee, won the Angler of the Year title, while Georgia pro Clabion Johns, who also runs a Mercury engine, won Rookie of the Year.
Five anglers from the Pro Circuit earned invitations to the 2022 Bass Pro Tour, and all are powered by the Mercury Pro XS outboard. They include Johns, Ryan Salzman, Cole Floyd, Ron Nelson and Jeremy Lawyer.
Additional MLF Success
In addition to the Pro Circuit, the MLF BIG5 consists of the Toyota Series, Bass Fishing League, College Fishing and High School Fishing. These five levels are each important tournament series in the landscape of competitive bass angling.
The Mercury success continued in these tournament trails during 2021. Of the 18 Toyota Series tournaments in 2021, 16 were won by Mercury-powered anglers. Also, three out of the four MLF Cups, which are filmed “in the dark” and aired during the first and second quarters of the year, were won by Mercury Pro Team members.
The 2021 Toyota Series Championship will be held Oct. 26-28 on Pickwick Lake in Alabama.
The 2022 Pro Circuit will begin Jan. 27 on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas, while the Bass Pro Tour will kick off Feb. 5 on Caney Creek in Louisiana.
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