By MLF Communications Staff
Major League Fishing (MLF) will kick off the 2021 Pro Circuit season this week at Lake Okeechobee. In its 26th season, the circuit formerly known as the FLW Tour will feature 163 professionals competing across six regular-season events, each with a top award of up to $135,000. The field will also compete for points to qualify for the 2021 TITLE (the Pro Circuit Championship) and the opportunity to compete for up to $235,000.
This first event of the 2021 season – hosted by the Hendry County Tourism Development Council and Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort – offers competitors a total purse of more than $900,000 and will mark the 22nd time the Pro Circuit has visited the southern Florida fishery. Competition gets under way Thursday and will conclude Sunday.
The Pro Circuit last stopped at Lake Okeechobee in 2018, where Florida pro Tim Frederick grabbed the first major win of his career. Frederick targeted spawning fish around the Spoil Islands, pitching a Texas-rigged Strike King Perfect Plastics Ocho to sack up 85-04 over four days of competition.
Clewiston’s hometown pro Brandon McMillan compiled a whopping 106-10 over four days of competition in 2011 and still holds the record for heaviest winning weight in a Pro Circuit event on Lake Okeechobee. The biggest bass ever weighed in Pro Circuit competition at the lake were both 11-pound bruisers – one weighed in by former pro Bobby Curtis (2005) and one by pro Shin Fukae (2011).
“I’m excited to kick off the 2021 season this year, especially at an event close to home,” said pro Laramy Strickland of Bushnell, Fla.. “This is my favorite time of year to fish, so I’m definitely looking forward to getting the ball rolling for this event and riding that momentum into the next.
“I’ve only fished three major tournaments on Lake Okeechobee and they were Toyota Series events and BFLs. This will be my first year to fish there with the Pro Circuit. I’m pretty familiar with this lake, although it does change year to year. With the cold front we are having right now, it should be setting up for a pretty good tournament next week.”
Strickland said he believes multiple different Florida baits and tactics will work this week on "the Big O."
“Anglers should be able to cast and flip and do whatever they want to do, really,” he continued. “It’s just a matter of finding a wave of fish that’s pooled up on the lake. I expect some big limits, with it taking somewhere around 75 to 80 pounds to win this tournament.”
Strickland said his excitement for this first event pales in comparison to his anticipation for the season as a whole.
“I think the 2021 Pro Circuit schedule is really good this year. We pretty much follow the spawn early on, then we'll get to compete on some pretty fun lakes with multiple opportunities to catch them shallow or deep later in the season.”
Pro Circuit anglers will be joined this season by 20 MLF Bass Pro Tour anglers, including Florida pros Bobby Lane and John Cox, as well as Wesley Strader, Justin Lucas and Cody Meyer.
Anglers will take off at 7:30 a.m. ET Thursday through Sunday from Roland and Mary Ann Martin’s Marina and Resort, located at 920 E. Del Monte Ave. in Clewiston. Weigh-ins will also be held at the marina daily at 3 p.m. Attendance is limited to competing anglers, family, essential staff and media covering the event. Fans are encouraged to follow the action online through the MLF NOW! live stream and coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com .
In Pro Circuit competition, the full field of 163 anglers compete in the two-day opening round on Thursday and Friday. The top 50 pros based on their two-day cumulative weight advance to Saturday. Only the top 10 pros continue competition on Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from the four days of competition.
The event will feature live on-the-water coverage and a two-hour action-packed television show that will premiere on the Outdoor Channel on July 11 from 7 to 9 a.m. ET and re-air on the Sportsman Channel this fall. Weigh-ins will be streamed daily and fans can catch live on-the-water action all day Saturday and Sunday on MLF NOW! beginning at 8 a.m. ET at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
The 2021 season culminates with the TITLE, where the top 48 pros in the points standings plus,2020 TITLE champion Rusty Salewske of Alpine, Calif., and 2020 Angler of the Year Ron Nelson of Berrien Springs, Mich., will compete for as much as $235,000. The 2021 TITLE will be on the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis. on Aug. 17-22, and is hosted by Explore La Crosse.