APPLING, Ga.– The second Major League Fishing (MLF) Tackle Warehouse Invitational event of the season is set to take place in Appling, Georgia, next week, Feb. 28- March 2, with the MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 2 at Clarks Hill Lake. The MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals feature a roster of 150 anglers competing at each event for a top prize of up to $115,000 and an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2024 – the Bass Pro Tour championship – for the chance to win up to $300,000.
Hosted by the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Thomson-McDuffie County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the tournament marks the second of six Tackle Warehouse Invitational events in 2023, offering competitors a total season purse of more than $3.9 million. The field also competes for valuable points to win the coveted Invitational Angler of the Year (AOY) title. The top eight pros in the Tackle Warehouse Invitational AOY standings at the end of the season will receive an invitation to compete on the Bass Pro Tour.
Clarks Hill Lake has played host to numerous MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) events over the years, but this event marks the first time the fishery has hosted a professional-level MLF event. While the professional history on Clarks Hill is limited, the BFL stats are pretty telling – it took more than 20 pounds to win two of the last five events, and the biggest winning weight over the years came back in 1997, when Majors Hamby walloped 24-14 at the end of April.
“We are excited to welcome some of the best anglers in the world to Wildwood Park as part of the Tackle Warehouse Invitational,” said John Luton, Director of Community Services for the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Wildwood Park and Clarks Hill Lake are consistently voted the top fishing and camping sites in Columbia County, and we are happy to be able to show them off on a national level.”
One thing is for sure – this event is scheduled at a prime time for big weight. February and March have produced consistent weights on Clarks Hill over the years. So, while the potential to catch a really big bag is there during the spawn, we’re likely to see really good fishing for the Invitational.
“The lake is really big – it’s pretty much a home lake for me. I grew up fishing club tournaments there, and it’s so big there’s a whole half of the lake I know nothing about,” said Belton, South Carolina, pro Brian Latimer. “The whole Georgia arm, I’ve fished about twice.
“The lake is very diverse, it used to have grass in it, it’s not there anymore,” Latimer said. “Everything is going to play in this tournament. It has the potential to be a forward-facing sonar tournament because the fish get in the ditches. There’s a strong offshore bite there, so the potential of it being a LiveScope tournament is extremely high. Also, depending on the weather, it could be snowing, or it could be 70 and the fish moving up to spawn.
“There’s always the potential to catch them shallow, because there are so many water clarities,” Latimer continued. “You’re going to have extremely clear water, you can go in the creeks and it’ll be muddy, you can get in between in a nice pretty strain. There’s timber, there’s docks, it’s just got a lot of different options. Everybody is going to spread out and probably have something that’ll fit what they like.”
Latimer said to look for a winning weight around 60 pounds and that he expects a strong prespawn tournament.
“They move up a little quicker on Clarks Hill than they do on other lakes,” Latimer went on to say. “It’s a little flatter, so it warms up quicker. You get that initial push pretty fast. I can’t imagine it not being a good tournament.”
Anglers will take off at 7 a.m. ET, Tuesday through Thursday, from Wildwood Park, located at 6212 Holloway Road in Appling. Weigh-ins will also be held at the park beginning at 3 p.m. each day. Fans are welcome to attend the event or follow the live on-the-water action all three days of competition online on MLF NOW! beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
In MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitational competition, the full field of 150 anglers compete in the two-day opening round on Tuesday and Wednesday in a traditional five-fish, weigh-in format. Only the top 50 pros based on their two-day cumulative weight will advance to the final round on Championship Thursday, where they will compete for the grand prize of up to $115,000. The winner of the MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 2 at Clarks Hill Lake will be determined by the heaviest three-day cumulative weight and will receive an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2024.
The MLF NOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee, Marty Stone and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on all four days of competition. MLF NOW!® will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.
The MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 1 at Clarks Hill Lake will also feature a two-hour television broadcast that will premiere on the CBS Sports Network on Saturday, Oct. 7.
Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals include: 4WP, 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, E3, Favorite Fishing, Fox Rent a Car, General Tire, Grundéns, Lew’s, Lowrance, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix Boats, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Wiley X and YETI.
For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals on the MLF5 social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.