For just the second time in Bass Pro Tour history, one angler has won three events in a single season. Googan Baits pro Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, caught 20 scorable smallmouth bass weighing 82 pounds, 9 ounces Thursday to win the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour Bally Bet Stage Seven on Mille Lacs Lake Presented by Minn Kota in Onamia, Minnesota and earn the top prize of $100,000. The win was his second consecutive victory, after claiming victory at New York’s Lake Cayuga last month, and his third of the season – he also won Stage Three at Alabama’s Lewis Smith Lake.
Link to Hi-Res Photo of Stage Seven Mille Lacs Lake Winner Dustin Connell
Link to HD Video – Fish-Catch Highlights of Championship Round Day 5 on Mille Lacs Lake
Link to Photo Gallery of Dustin Connell Highlights
Link to Photo Gallery of Day 6 – All Angler Highlights
Connell’s Championship Round didn’t start off too hot. Through his first two-and-a-half hours of fishing, he was only able to muster three scorable bass for 13-6. Although one of those three was a 6-pounder, Connell knew his first period wasn’t what it needed to be to win.
“I started out this morning really slow,” Connell said. “I felt like I couldn’t find a bass. Then I had 4-foot waves rolling into my boat, so that wasn’t great. Finally, I found my zone and I settled in during the second period.”
Connell exploded in the second period, catching eight bass for 30-15, shooting him into second place, right below tournament leader, Dayton, Tennessee’s Michael Neal. That second period was made possible thanks to a waypoint Connell marked during his Knockout Round on Wednesday with time winding down in the day.
“Yesterday I had 15 minutes to idle around at the end of the Knockout Round,” Connell said. “I knew that I wasn’t on a winning deal. In the last 12 minutes of the day, I found six rocks. I marked a waypoint on one of them with three seconds left. I showed up there today and caught a 6-3 and a 5-8 off of that one rock I marked. That was the difference between winning and losing this tournament for me.”
That 6-pound, 3-ounce smallmouth pushed him past Neal for the lead, a lead Connell wouldn’t surrender for the rest of the day. It felt like a two-horse race for most of the day, that was until Sevierville, Tennessee pro David Walker began surging in Period 3.
With less than 15 minutes left in the day, Walker caught four bass for 15-6 including a 5-10. Walker shot up SCORETRACKER® so fast that it was hard for Connell to keep up with how much weight Walker actually had.
“I didn’t have time to get nervous it happened so quick,” Connell admitted. “When he got to within 4 ounces with only two minutes left, I knew he was going to win. I was convinced he was going to bring one in with five seconds left and knock me out. Lucky for me, he didn’t. But really, congrats to David on an amazing day and tournament.”
Walker was unable to catch him, giving Connell back-to-back wins to round out the 2022 season. He’s done it on Smith Lake in Alabama and Cayuga Lake in New York, but this one in Minnesota means a little bit more to Connell.
“To end the season this way at one of my favorite lakes – I love Mille Lacs,” Connell went on to say. “I love fishing in Minnesota. It’s unbelievable to win three events in a season, and I’m really glad I did it here fishing this way.”
The top 10 pros from Bally Bet Stage Seven on Mille Lacs Lake Presented by Minn Kota finished:
- Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 20 bass, 82-9, $100,000
- David Walker, Sevierville, Tenn., 23 bass, 82-5, $45,000
- Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 21 bass, 78-3, $38,000
- Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, 14 bass, 50-12, $32,000
- James Elam, Tulsa, Okla., 12 bass, 43-6, $30,000
- Mark Daniels, Jr., Tuskegee, Ala., 11 bass, 42-14, $26,000
- Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 30-5, $23,000
- Alton Jones, Sr., Lorena, Texas, six bass, 23-2, $21,000
- Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., seven bass, 22-3, $19,000
- Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J, six bass, 20-13, $16,000
Full results for the entire field can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.