Monday, June 10, 2024

Drew Gill Wins 2024 Bass Pro Tour U.S. Air Force Stage Five Presented by WIX Filters!

Mitchell Forde


EDENTON, N.C. — Over the past two years, Drew Gill has rocketed up the tournament-fishing ranks about as rapidly as any angler in recent memory. Competing in his fifth Bass Pro Tour event at U.S. Air Force Stage Five Presented by WIX Filters, he made it to the mountaintop.

Gill put together an epic run during the second period of Sunday’s Championship Round on the Chowan River. In a little less than 2 hours, the 22-year-old rookie stacked 10 bass totaling 31 pounds, 12 ounces onto SCORETRACKER®. The best period logged by any angler during the event, it turned a nearly 9-pound deficit to Michael Neal into better than a 14-pound advantage. The rest of the way, Gill would add another 10 pounds and change, bringing his total to 58-14 — also the best day for any angler all week. That topped Neal by 14 pounds, earning Gill $100,000 and his first BPT trophy.

“Everything I’ve wanted for the last few years was to just make it to this field and get to compete against these guys,” Gill said. “To make it to this field and get to compete against them and get a win in my rookie season, the feeling is absolutely unquantifiable.” 

Here’s how the Top 10 pros finished the Championship Round:

  1. Drew Gill — 58-14 (22)

  2. Michael Neal — 44-14 (18)

  3. Dustin Connell — 41-14 (20)

  4. Jacob Wheeler — 36-1 (12)

  5. Justin Lucas — 31-4 (12)

  6. Alton Jones Jr. — 31-0 (13)

  7. Matt Becker — 25-10 (7)

  8. Zack Birge — 11-8 (5)

  9. Ott DeFoe — 11-8 (6)

  10. Fred Roumbanis — 9-15 (3)

Complete results

An inevitable win Gill didn’t see coming

On one hand, it might seem like Gill, who started fishing tournaments in 2021 and was competing at the Abu Garcia College Fishing level as recently as this January, came out of nowhere to reach this point. On the other, the victory almost feels like a long time coming.

After qualifying for the Bass Pro Tour during his first season fishing the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, Gill wasted little time showing he could hang with the best. He finished third in his debut event on Toledo Bend, then fourth at Stage Three on Dale Hollow and second in his most-recent BPT start, on Lake Eufaula in Oklahoma. Add in his three Top 10s at the Invitationals level this season — including his first pro win on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in February — and it seemed like only a matter of time until Gill would hoist a BPT trophy.

“It’s not really felt like a long time coming, it’s just felt like a lot of chances coming,” Gill said.

Still, Gill admitted he didn’t think this would be the week he broke into the winner’s circle. While he cruised through qualifying, finishing second in Group B, he said Friday afternoon that he hadn’t expected to make the Knockout Round following a “mediocre at best” practice, and he worried that he was running out of water to fish.

“I’ve always been a small-wins guy, a small-victories guy — like, a check here, making a Top 10 when you don’t expect it, things like that,” Gill said. “I’ve never been the kind of guy to expect to win.”

While he wound up making the Top 10 with relative ease, Gill’s chances of winning looked especially slim at 9:45 a.m. Sunday. At that point, he’d caught just two scorable bass for 3-15 — 24-9 back of Neal, who stacked up more than 17 pounds in 18 minutes during a furious flurry.

That all changed when Gill made a move to an area he’d discovered on the second day of qualifying. Already one of the savviest strategists in the game, Gill marked the spot while searching for new water once he knew he’d secured a spot in the Knockout Round. Then, after a quick start Saturday, he decided to keep it in reserve for the Championship Round.

“I found that at the end of the Qualifying Round,” he said. “I actually was about to go pull the trigger and go there yesterday, and I caught a couple scorables, and it kept me from going.”

Even Gill didn’t realize how important that decision would be.

“I thought it had like 10- or 12-pounds’ worth of potential, and just went to absolutely waylaying on them,” he said.

Gill described the area as the mouth of a major tributary of the Chowan River. While offshore, the water was “decently shallow” and dotted with fallen cypress trees, brushpiles and other wood cover. It produced not only numbers of bites but big ones — seven of the 10 fish he caught during the second period weighed 3 pounds or more.

“There was a good baitfish population in that area,” Gill explained. “The water fell a little bit today, and any time you’re fishing out in front of a major tributary and the water falls, you’re going to gain a population. And man, it was textbook, the fish were a little more grouped up per piece of cover, and the more you had on a single piece of cover, the more likely you were to get bit.”

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