Monday, February 13, 2023

Joshua Weaver Wins 2023 MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals on Lake Okeechobee!

By EriK Gaffron


CLEWISTON, Fla. – Weighing over 31 pounds on Day 2 and 26 pounds, 4 ounces on Day 3, Joshua Weaver surged to the win in the inaugural Tackle Warehouse Invitationals event with a 72-9 total. For his efforts, Weaver takes home a long-sought trophy and $117,500 in prize and contingency money. Additionally, Weaver’s win qualified him for REDCREST V in March 2024.

Finishing second in Power-Pole Stop 1 Presented by Phoenix BoatsColby Schrumpf racked up 63-12. In third, Brett Hite tallied 63-1 on the week.

“Man, I’m on cloud nine,” Weaver said. “It definitely hasn’t hit me yet.”

Weaver has been close to victory in MLF events several times since his professional career began in 2016, boasting eight Top-10 finishes in that span. Finally, the Macon, Georgia, pro can add the title of “Tackle Warehouse Invitationals Champion” to the list of accomplishments he’s amassed over the last seven seasons.

“Words can’t describe this feeling,” he said. “I’ve wanted this for so long. I’ve been doing this professionally since 2016 and have come close a lot of times. The last two days have been nothing short of amazing. I was always the guy who lost the one to win or lost them on a day I should have caught them – which I thought I did the first day – but no, we got it done.”

Weaver felt that the turning point in his event was when he reached the 25-pound mark midway through Day 2. It was then Weaver realized he could have a legitimate shot to contend for the title.

“Whenever I got over 25 pounds yesterday, I thought ‘If I catch them like this again tomorrow, it could happen,’” he said. 

Catch them again he did, starting his Day 3 off with a pair of fish over 6 pounds and continuing to pour gas on the flames. Less than an hour into his day, Weaver had a limit in the box with three fish over 5 pounds.

Weaver noted that the warming trend in South Florida made a huge difference this week for him when it came to making a game plan on Okeechobee.

“I knew that the weather was going to be good,” he said. “We’ve had four pretty days down here. Coming off a full moon and a cold snap, I knew that the potential for a big bag was there. These fish react to a cold snap and then they start coming up (to spawn).”

Weaver focused on the new wave of fish flooding shallow to spawn on the north end of the lake. He focused his efforts on a pair of areas with clean water and plenty of bait near the Tin House and Horse Island regions of Okeechobee. Weaver used a variety of reaction baits to claim his first MLF victory, most of which replicated the forage in his areas.

“A lot of guys this week were throwing Senkos and (slow) stuff around pads,” he said. “I’m not a slow fisherman. I like to be moving, casting and winding. Everybody knows that’s what I like to do. So, I put that ChatterBait and swim jig in my hand and went to winding. I was mixing it up every now and again with a frog or punching a mat if I went by it and it felt right.”

Weaver’s victory puts him squarely in the lead for AOY after the opening event, as he and 148 other Tackle Warehouse Invitationals anglers hope to reclaim the title from back-to-back reigning AOY Michael Neal (who finished fourth). Weaver knows that’s his end goal this season, along with one of the eight spots up for grabs to fish on the Bass Pro Tour in 2024.

“That’s obviously the goal, Angler of the Year,” he said. “I’ve finished Top 10 in points before. But I want to get in the top eight and get that BPT qualification. That’s my goal, it was my goal coming into this year. I feel like I deserve to be there because of my past accolades, and I really want to get there to prove that I deserve to be there.”

Top 10 pros

1. Joshua Weaver – 72 – 9 (15) – $117,500 (includes $35,000 Phoenix Bonus)

2. Colby Schrumpf – 63 – 12 (15) – $50,300

3. Brett Hite – 63 – 1 (15) – $20,000

4. Michael Neal – 61 – 13 (15) – $18,000

5. Jacopo Gallelli – 61 – 13 (14) – $17,000

6. Jonathan Dietz – 58 – 2 (15) – $16,000

7. Kyle Weisenburger – 57 – 2 (15) – $15,000

8. Michael Harlin – 56 – 14 (15) – $14,000

9. Paul Elias – 56 – 8 (15) – $13,200

10. Spike Stoker – 55 – 14 (15) – $12,000

Complete results

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