Savannah River Division boater takes home All-American Championship title and top payout of $120,000

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. (May 31, 2024) – Tallying 38 pounds, 6 ounces over three days, Paul Marks Jr. of Cumming, Georgia, dominated the 41st annual Major League Fishing (MLF) Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) All-American Presented by T-H Marine on Lake Cherokee. Topping 12 pounds for the third day in a row with a Day 3 limit that weighed 12-5, Marks won by more than 4 pounds over runner up Matt O’Connell of Brooks, Georgia, and earned $120,000 for his efforts, including the lucrative $20,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus. Additionally, he qualified for the Toyota Series Championship this fall on Wheeler Lake and REDCREST 2025 on Lake Guntersville.

Link to Hi-Res Photo of 2024 All-American Champion Paul Marks Jr. of Cumming, Georgia
Link to HD Video – Fish-Catch Highlights of Championship Friday on Cherokee Lake
Link to Photo Gallery of Championship Friday On-The-Water Highlights on Cherokee Lake

While he’s only 23, Marks’ star has burned bright for several years. This marks his fifth win with MLF since 2019, which includes stats from high school, and could serve as the launchpad for yet another prolific tournament fishing career.

On the water, Marks is an assassin, laser focused on the task at hand and deadly with the tools of the modern angler. His father, Paul Marks Sr., has fished at a high level as well and seen his son’s potential take shape over the years.

“He’s been fishing most all his life, going in the boat with me before he could get around good – crawling around in the boat,” said Marks Sr. “He’s always had a passion for it, always.”

Starting his son in team tournaments at home on Lake Lanier, Marks Sr. thinks early success helped turn Marks Jr. into the budding superstar that he is.

“I competed, and a lot of my friends did – when your kid grows up around that excitement, I think they tend to take a liking to it,” the elder Marks said. “He kind of fell into it. In high school, he made nationals as a freshman. He just got more and more of a passion for it. He’s been very fortunate, from when he started in high school to fishing local tournaments with me and being on the winning side of it. That puts more gas in your motor.

“People like to fish, but to go to this level, you have to have a passion for it, a little more depth involved,” Marks Sr. continued. “He does just like to fish, but he likes to win. He’s not much on talking, but he’s very focused when it comes to fishing.”

As focused as Marks is, he let loose a little bit on stage. When Chris Jones called the final weight, a smile peeked out after a flurry of fist pumps, the young angler recognizing that he did something special.

“I don’t know what the feeling is that I have right now from winning,” Marks Jr. said. “I think my heart might explode. It’s not really set in yet – I don’t think I’ll sleep for a couple weeks.”

Weighing all smallmouth, Marks was able to stay steady when basically nobody else could. For whatever reason, Cherokee was brutally tough on the field this week.

“I was fishing points that pointed into the current or the wind,” he said. “I caught some really nice ones the first day of practice – I think I had 15 or 16 pounds. The rest of practice, I just drove around and looked for the same stuff. I ran stuff I knew the first day of the tournament and did alright. The second day, I ran almost all new water – places I’d marked.”

Not fishing super deep, Marks used a lot of the lake and seemed to understand the fish well.

“I was focusing around 15 foot, maybe deeper, maybe shallower,” he said. “I was using Lowrance SideScan, the 3-in-1 transducer, to pretty much just mark rocks. It was all sizes; some of them were the size of trucks, some of them were the size of a basketball, they just had to be in the right spot. Legit spots that I thought I might actually fish, I probably marked 150. A lot of them were a little too deep – I think (the fish) are still shallower, it’s been coolish the last few weeks.”

Fishing over the rocks with finesse gear, Marks used a 3.8-inch Zoom Z-Swim on a 3/8- or 1/4-ounce Greenfish Tackle Bad Little Shad Swimbait Head. He threw it on a 7-foot, medium-light Shimano Poison Ultima with a Shimano Vanquish 3000, 10-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid and a 12-pound Seaguar Tatsu leader.

Marks presented his bait about 2 or 3 feet above the rocks and let the fish come to it.

“They’ll come get it,” he said. “The water isn’t real clear, but the smallmouth can see or maybe feel it coming – they’ll haul ass to get it from a long ways. I’d say 80 percent of the time, I didn’t see them. I’d throw out there and they’d come eat it. That’s why I think I did a little better, too – I wasn’t just looking for fish. There are so many fish out there; I was ignoring all the fish I saw and throwing at structure.”

After three days of catching Tennessee smallmouth better than anyone else in the field, Marks convincingly earned one of the most sought-after titles in bass fishing – he’s the 2024 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American Champion.

The Top 10 boaters at the 2024 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American on Cherokee Lake finished:

1st:          Paul Marks Jr., Cumming, Ga., 15 bass, 38-6, $120,000 (includes $20,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus)
2nd:        Matt O’Connell, Brooks, Ga., 15 bass, 34-1, $20,000
3rd:        Dillon Falardeau, Hixson, Tenn., 15 bass, 33-3, $15,000
4th:         Buddy Benson, Dahlonega, Ga., 15 bass, 31-9, $21,000 (includes $7,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus)
5th:         Lucas Murphy, West Columbia, S.C., 14 bass, 31-8, $18,000 (includes $5,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus)
6th:         Brett Carnright, Plattsburgh, N.Y., 15 bass, 30-15, $14,000 (includes $2,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus)
7th:         Jason Barnes, Concord, N.C., 13 bass, 30-5, $12,000 (includes $1,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus)
8th:         Mike Feldermann, Galena, Ill., 13 bass, 28-5, $10,000
9th:         Ian Leybas, McAlester, Okla., 12 bass, 26-2, $9,000
10th:      Pete Saele, New Lenox, Ill., nine bass, 20-8, $8,000

A full list of results can be found at

Overall, there were 41 bass weighing 90 pounds, 13 ounces caught by 9 of the final 10 boaters Friday. Six of the final 10 boaters caught a five-bass limit.

The highest-finishing boater from each Regional Championship (including the Wild Card) at the All-American also now advance to the Toyota Series Championship for a shot at winning $235,000.

The eight boaters that finished highest from their region earned an automatic qualification in to the 2024 Toyota Series Championship Presented by Phoenix Boats on Wheeler Lake are:

Ian Leybas, McAlester, Okla.
Brett Carnright, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Dillon Falardeau, Hixson, Tenn.
Paul Marks Jr., Cumming, Ga.
Mike Feldermann, Galena, Ill.
Matt O’Connell, Brooks, Ga.
Pete Saele, New Lenox, Ill.
Buddy Benson, Dahlonega, Ga.

After starting Day 1 in eighth place, Justin Parchman of Oologah, Oklahoma, won the Strike King Co-angler Division Friday with a three-day total of 10 bass weighing 21 pounds, 1 ounce to earn the top prize package of $50,000. Co-angler Caleb Welch of Bolivar, Missouri, finished runner up with a three-day total of nine bass weighing 19 pounds, 12 ounces, good for $10,000.

The Top 10 Strike King co-anglers at the Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American on Cherokee Lake finished:

1st:          Justin Parchman, Oologah, Okla., 10 bass, 21-1, $50,000
2nd:        Caleb Welch, Bolivar, Mo., nine bass, 19-12, $10,000
3rd:        Rodney Tapp, Inman, S.C., nine bass, 17-11, $6,000
4th:         Justin McGaha, Knoxville, Tenn., seven bass, 16-7, $5,000
5th:         Jody Jones, Harvey, Ark., seven bass, 16-4, $4,500
6th:         Tyler Nekolny, Coral Springs, Fla., seven bass, 15-11, $4,000
7th:         Ashley Klaus, Thomson, Ga., seven bass, 15-4, $3,500
8th:         Randy Paquette, Sarasota, Fla., seven bass, 15-3, $3,000
9th:         Terry Laverack, Martin, S.D., seven bass, 13-8, $2,500
10th:      Pop Catalin, Cookeville, Tenn., five bass, 12-1, $2,000

Overall, there were 12 bass weighing 25 pounds, 6 ounces caught by 7 Strike King co-anglers on Friday. The catch included zero five-bass limits.

The highest-finishing Strike King co-angler from each Regional Championship (including the Wild Card) at the All-American also now advance to the Toyota Series Championship for a shot at winning $33,500.

The eight Strike King Co-anglers that finished highest from their region and earned an automatic qualification at the 2024 Toyota Series Championship Presented by Phoenix Boats on Wheeler Lake are:

Caleb Welch, Bolivar, Mo.
Stacy Metz, Staley, N.C.
Stephen Vick, Dandridge, Tenn.
Tyler Nekolny, Coral Springs, Fla.
Justin Parchman, Oologah, Okla.
Rodney Tapp, Inman, S.C.
Terry Laverack, Martin, S.D.
Justin McGaha, Knoxville, Tenn.

The three-day Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American presented by T-H Marine on Cherokee Lake was hosted by Visit Jefferson County TN. The event featured the nation’s best weekend grassroots anglers competing for a top prize of up to $120,000 – and an automatic qualification into REDCREST 2025, MLF’s most prestigious event – and a top prize of $50,000 for the winning Strike King co-angler.

Television coverage of the 2024 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American will premiere November 16 on CBS Sports. The full television air schedule can be found at

The full field of 49 boaters and 49 Strike King co-anglers competed on Days 1 (Wednesday) and 2 (Thursday) of the event. After two days of competition, the field was cut to just the top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on two-day total cumulative weight, and the final 10 anglers competed on Championship Friday. The boater and co-angler that caught the heaviest three-day total weight earned the title of the 41st Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American Champions.

The 2023 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine was a 24-division circuit devoted to weekend anglers, with 128 tournaments throughout the season, five qualifying events in each division. The top 45 boaters and Strike King co-anglers from each division, along with the five winners of the qualifying events, advanced to one of six Regional Championships where they competed to finish in the top six, which then advanced them to compete in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine include: 7Brew, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, BUBBA, E3, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, General Tire, GSM Outdoors, Lew’s, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, REDCON1, Strike King, Suzuki, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota, WIX Filters and YETI.

For complete details and updated tournament information, visit For regular Bass Fishing League updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF5’s social media outlets at FacebookInstagram and YouTube.

About Major League Fishing
Major League Fishing (MLF) is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, producing more than 250 events annually at some of the most prestigious fisheries in the world, while broadcasting to America’s living rooms on CBS, Discovery Channel, Outdoor Channel, CBS Sports Network, World Fishing Network and on demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, the MLF roster of bass anglers includes the world’s top pros and more than 30,000 competitors in all 50 states and 17 countries. Since its founding in 2011, MLF has advanced the sport of competitive fishing through its premier television broadcasts and livestreams and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for bass through research, education, fisheries enhancement and fish care.

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