Milford’s Mitchell in finals of bass tournament

Kurt Mitchell of Milford finished eighth in the knockout round of the Tackle Warehouse TITLE on Friday in Wisconsin. FLWfishing.com photo

Kurt Mitchell did what he needed to do on Friday.

The Milford resident finished in the top 10 of the knockout round to advance to today’s finals of the Tackle Warehouse TITLE bass-fishing tournament.

Mitchell qualified eighth with a total weight of 58 pounds, eight ounces on the 17 fish he caught Friday in the event being held on Lake Michigan Sturgeon Bay, Wisc.

The top 10 remaining anglers will fish with zeroed weights today and $200,000 first-place prize money on the line in the first-time tournament.

Spencer Shuffield of Hot Springs, Arkansas, caught 25 smallmouth bass totaling 86 pounds, 13 ounces, to win the knockout round.
“I am so excited to get back out there,” said Shuffield. “I had a really good day today, but I found some stuff that could be really special — it has the potential for 150 to 200 pounds, tomorrow. I ran 15 miles from my starting spot this morning to a spot that I had found yesterday.

“I thought it was a sweet spot, about the size of a basketball court, but I found out today it’s like 10-times the size of that. There are thousands of smallmouth there, and they are tucked away and there hasn’t been a boat on them all week.”

Shuffield has fished a drop-shot rig exclusively throughout the week. His setup consists of a ½-ounce tungsten drop-shot weight with a No. 1 Gamakatsu Drop/Split Shot hook, rigged on a Phenix M1 7’2 Medium spinning rod with a Daiwa Ballistic LT spinning reel. He throws the rig on 15-pound test Yo-Zuri Superbraid High Vis Yellow line with an 8-pound Yo-Zuri Top Knot 100% Flurocarbon leader.

John Cox of DeBary, Florida, was the last angler in at 10th place, narrowly beating out Arkansas pro Dylan Hays. Cox caught his last fish — a 4¾-pound smallmouth — around 3 p.m. to move into the top-10, then had to sweat out the last hour of competition as anglers slowly crept up the leaderboard behind him.

“That was one of the most intense things that I have ever experienced, especially because the weights zero tomorrow and everything starts over. I was just praying to stay in the top 10,” Cox said.

Overall there were 255 bass weighing 862 pounds, 13 ounces caught by the 20 pros in Friday’s knockout round. The largest catch of the day was a chunky 5-pound, 2-ounce smallmouth.

The event is being fished using the MLF catch-weigh-immediate release format.

The tournament featured a field of 150 of the top professional anglers in the world competing at six regular-season events around the country. The top 50 anglers in the Angler of the Year standings after the six events qualified to compete in this event.