Sunrise Beach's Harlin wins Major League Fishing event on Lake of the Ozarks

Charity Muehlenweg, Major League Fishing
Sunrise Beach's Michael Harlin brought in 15 bass combining to weight 62 pounds and an ounce to win the Major League Fishing event on Saturday.

Missouri boater Michael Harlin of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, brought five bass to the scale Saturday weighing 20 pounds, 6 ounces to win the Toyota Series presented by A.R.E. at Lake of the Ozarks Presented by Fenwick. Harlin weighed in 15 bass over three days of competition totaling 62 pounds, 1 ounce, besting second-place angler Andy Newcomb of Camdenton, Missouri , by more than 15 pounds. For his victory, Harlin earned the top payout of $37,802 in the first tournament of the 2021 Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. Plains Division.

Each day was a little different in how the bite unfolded for Harlin, but he caught them all three days doing the same thing – throwing an umbrella rig while watching his forward-facing sonar.

“Today, I stuck with the same plan,” Harlin said. “I was fortunate to sit right down on them this morning when they were biting, or it would have been a lot tougher. I caught my two biggest fish right away and had most of my weight by 9 o’clock.”

All week, he targeted what he considers the mid-depth range and cycled through multiple spots.

“I keyed on the 6- to 20-foot range,” said Harlin. “All of the places were between the toll bridge and the dam. I started the tournament with around 15 spots I found in practice and had narrowed it down to eight or 10 by today. I also found some new stuff yesterday and that’s where I started today.”

Keying on brush and rock to find fish, Harlin thinks locating staging areas was of more importance. Timing was another critical factor.

“It was mainly brush but also some rock and pea gravel,” said Harlin. “It didn’t seem to matter what it was they were holding to. The first day I caught them all day and the second day, it was late in the day. Today, it was an early bite. I think you just had to hit it right when they were in that feeding window.

Harlin’s umbrella-rig was a YUM YUMbrella Flash Mob Jr. with 1/8-ounce Crock-O-Gator jigheads rigged with 3.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimbaits . That setup was his go-to all week.

“I fished the French pearl color and pro blue red pearl and would alternate if it got sunny or cloudy,” he said. “I also caught some fish today on a Megabass Vision 110 in stain reaction OB.”

Forward-facing sonar was vital for Harlin, both for locating fish and getting them to bite.

“I watched just about every fish I caught this week eat the bait,” he says. “It takes a lot of practice with it, but you can learn to interact with the fish. It helps you get them to bite when they aren’t really biting that good or just following it. It gives you a clue to change your retrieve a little if they are not committing to it.”

The top 10 pros on Lake of the Ozarks finished:

1st:       Michael Harlin of Sunrise Beach, Mo., 15 bass, 62-1, $37,802

2nd:      Andy Newcomb of Camdenton, Mo., 15 bass, 46-12, $15,595

3rd:       Jack Uxa of Osage Beach, Mo., 15 bass, 46-6, $11,299

4th:       Brock Reinkemeyer of Warsaw, Mo., 15 bass, 45-9, $9,416

5th:       Eric Olliverson of Lampe, Mo., 12 bass, 45-8, $8,475

6th:       Kirk Smith of Edmonton, Okla., 15 bass, 43-6, $7,533

7th:       Brad Jelinek of Lincoln, Mo., 15 bass, 42-12, $6,591

8th:       Stephen Whitesell of Grove, Okla., 15 bass, 42-6, $5,650

9th:       Shonn Goodwin of Moore, Okla., 14 bass, 40-2, $4,708

10th:     Russ Lane of Prattville, Ala., eight bass, 29-9, $3,766

A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Harlin won Thursday’s Berkley Big Bass Award after bringing a 6-pound, 6-ounce largemouth to the scale. Friday’s Berkley Big Bass Award went to Brien Vaughn of Hollister, Missouri, with a 6-pound, 7-ounce largemouth. Each angler won a bonus of $137.

Newcomb took home an extra $1,000 as the highest finishing Phoenix MLF BIG5 Bonus member. Boaters are eligible to win up to an extra $35,000 per event in each Toyota Series tournament if all requirements are met. More information on the Phoenix MLF BIG5 Bonus contingency program can be found at PhoenixBassBoats.com .

Casey Goode of La Crosse, Wisconsin, won the Strike King Co-angler Division Saturday with a three-day total of 11 bass weighing 31 pounds, 2 ounces. Goode took home the top prize package of a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard motor.

The top 10 Strike King co-anglers on Lake of the Ozarks finished:

1st:       Casey Goode of La Crosse, Wis., 11 bass, 31-2, Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat w/115-hp outboard

2nd:      Dan Bowman of Osage Beach, Mo., 13 bass, 31-1, $4,734

3rd:       Landon Rogers of Republic, Mo., nine bass, 19-10, $3,787

4th:       Jeff Moss of Oronogo, Mo., eight bass, 18-0, $3,314

5th:       Jason Sandidge of Centerton, Ark., eight bass, 17-12, $2,840

6th:       Ernie Wooten of New London, Mo., seven bass, 17-0, $2,367

7th:       James Peterson of North Little Rock, Ark., six bass, 14-0, $1,894

8th:       Ken Coats of Claremore, Okla., six bass, 13-1, $1,657

9th:       John Ebbe of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., five bass, 12-14, $1,420

10th:     Roger Morphew of Mena, Ark., five bass, 12-9, $1,184

The Toyota Series at Lake of the Ozarks was presented by Fenwick and was hosted by the Tri-County Lodging Association. It was the first of three regular-season tournaments in 2021 for Plains Division anglers. The next event for Toyota Series anglers will take place on March 16-18 – the Toyota Series at the Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, Florida. For a complete schedule, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com .

The 2021 Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. consists of six divisions – Central, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and Western – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International division. Anglers who fish all three qualifiers in any of the eight divisions and finish in the top 25 will qualify for the no-entry-fee Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. Championship for a shot at winning $235,000 cash, including a $35,000 Phoenix MLF BIG5 Bonus for qualified anglers. The winning Strike King co-angler at the championship earns a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard.

The 2021 Toyota Series Championship Presented by A.R.E. will be held Oct. 28-30 on Pickwick Lake in Counce, Tennessee, and is hosted by the Hardin County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Toyota Series presented by A.R.E. on the MLF BIG5’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and  YouTube.