The 2022 MLF Heavy Hitters competition heads to the Lone Star State for a big money event.
The third annual Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour General Tire Heavy Hitters event will occur on Lake Palestine in Texas beginning on April 9th. The event is a unique no-entry-fee tournament with huge cash payouts and an emphasis on large bass.
Qualifying for this event was based on last season, with the anglers' biggest fish of each regular-season tournament counting towards their season-long total. The 32 anglers with the highest totals were awarded a spot in this specialty tournament.
Lake Palestine is a fitting bass fishing venue, with Texas-sized largemouth and the variable minimum weight will be 2 pounds to begin the tournament, and then upped to 3 pounds in the final round. Heavy Hitters is all about targeting the biggest bass in the lake and will surely change the strategies for anglers fishing this week.
Big Money on the Line
Heavy Hitters is essentially two tournaments in one, with a top prize of $100,000 going to the event's overall winner who collects the most weight on the final day. There are also significant cash prizes for the biggest bass on each tournament day. Anglers will still count any bass over the variable minimum, but large bass will be at a premium.
Like other Bass Pro Tour events, anglers will be divided into groups, with 16 anglers in Group A and 16 in Group B. Half of the anglers in each group will advance. The winner of each group will go straight to the Championship Round.
The biggest bass in each group during the Qualifying Rounds will earn the angler a $25,000 bonus. The next step is the Knockout Round and will feature 14 anglers (2nd through 8th place in each group) and the big bass of that day will win $50,000. The eight highest finishing anglers in the group will join both group winners to finalize the Top 10 in the Championship Round which will award the $100,000 top prize for the winner and an additional $100,000 for the biggest bass of the day.
Last season, Alton Jones took the top honors on North Carolina's Shearon Harris Reservoir and Jeff Sprague took home big money for the largest bass on the final day. Neither of those two qualified for this year's event, so new blood will take those prizes at Heavy Hitters in 2022.
The 32 anglers that will be competing in the General Tire Heavy Hitters 2022 All-Star Event on Lake Palestine are:
Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn.
James Elam, Tulsa, Okla.
Alton Jones, Jr., Waco, Texas
Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla.
Matt Lee, Cullman, Ala.
Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala.
Ish Monroe, Oakdale, Calif.
Takahiro Omori, Tokyo, Japan
Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif.
Bradley Roy, Lancaster, Ky.
Fletcher Shryock, Guntersville, Ala.
Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn.
Randall Tharp, Port Saint Joe, Fla.
Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C.
James Watson, Lampe, Mo.
Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn.
Josh Bertrand, Queen Creek, Ariz.
Tommy Biffle, Wagoner, Okla.
Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla.
Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark.
Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala.
Cliff Crochet, Pierre Part, La.
Mark Davis, Mount Ida, Ark.
Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif.
Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla.
Jeff Kriet, Ardmore, Okla.
Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala.
Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala.
Britt Myers, Lake Wylie, S.C.
Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn.
Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss.
Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La.
Lake Palestine Preview
The Heavy Hitters lake is a popular site for Texas tournament anglers. Still, it lacks the national prestige and popularity of other Lone Star State fisheries like Lake Fork or Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
Lake Palestine was formed in 1962 and completed with the construction of the Blackburn Crossing Dam on the Neches River. It's approximately 18 miles long and covers over 23,000 surface acres, which will allow this small group of anglers ample space to fish.
While Major League Fishing has never hosted an event on Lake Palestine, it was set to host last year's REDCREST before the historic ice storm shifted the event to Alabama. Some anglers took the chance to preview the lake before that tournament was set to take place and liked what they saw, including Fletcher Shryrock, who is competing in Heavy Hitters this year.
He said the lake is full of stumps and big bass. "It's full of wood, and I idled around most of the time because it's not easy to move from spot to spot," he said. "You can't just pick up and move somewhere very easily. I don't think we will see big numbers of fish caught, but plenty of 6-, 7-, and 8-pound fish are there with the potential for even bigger bass."
MLF Director of Event Research and Program Analyst Marty Stone had an equally-positive prediction about Palestine.
"This lake has been on the 'quiet' upswing for probably the last 5 to 7 years," said Stone on MajorLeagueFishing.com. "This is a 'kiss and don't tell anyone' lake in Texas. The local anglers know how good it is, it just hasn't had big enough boat ramps and hotel infrastructure to support a national trail. But it will be perfect for this General Tire Heavy Hitters event and I know we're getting ready to see some tanks.
"I know of at least one 13-pounder that has come out of there this year," Stone continued. "I think it will take a 9-plus-pounder every day to win the big fish awards, and I think we will see several in the 10-plus range. If we were here a month earlier, I would predict Randy Howell's record for the largest fish ever caught in Bass Pro Tour competition would likely be broken."
Anglers to Watch
All of the anglers fishing this week have a knack for catching giant bass, but some anglers stand out as favorites.
One of those is Shryrock, who is becoming known for catching the biggest bass of the day across the season on different fisheries. He's also known for flipping and pitching, and that style should line up well for Lake Palestine with all its abundant cover.
Others to watch are Jordan Lee, the inaugural Heavy Hitters tournament winner in 2020, Texas angler Alton Jones, Jr., and North Carolina's Bryan Thrift, who has finished in the Top 10 in both previous editions of this tournament. Jacob Wheeler deserves attention, too.
Heavy Hitters, now in its third year, has quickly become a favorite of Major League Fishing fans and the anglers themselves. It offers a chance to focus on big fish without worrying about points as it's a stand-alone event and the payouts allow everyone to take home big money with a single cast.
You can tune into the MLF NOW! live stream and follow the SCORETRACKER coverage online throughout the tournament.
READ MORE: MAJOR LEAGUE FISHING 2022 BASS PRO TOUR MIDSEASON REPORT