Monday, June 3, 2024

Paul Marks Jr. Wins 2024 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American Presented by T-H Marine on Lake Cherokee.

Paul Marks Jr. got it done in fine fashion this week on Cherokee. Photo by Rob Matsuura. Angler: Paul Marks Jr.
By Jody White


JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Tallying 38 pounds, 6 ounces over three days, Paul Marks Jr. dominated the Phoenix Bass Fishing League 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 and earned $120,000 for his efforts. Additionally, he qualified for the Toyota Series Championship this fall on Wheeler Lake and REDCREST 2025 on Lake Guntersville.

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.

Made for the moment

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,” Marks Sr. said. “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.”

The winning program

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 all right. 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% 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 All-American Champion.

Top 10 boaters

1. Paul Marks Jr. – 38 – 6 (15) – $120,000 (includes $20,000 Phoenix Bonus)
2. Matt O’Connell – 34 – 1 (15) – $20,800
3. Dillon Falardeau – 33 – 3 (15) – $15,000
4. Buddy Benson – 31 – 9 (15) – $21,000 (includes $7,000 Phoenix Bonus)
5. Lucas Murphy – 31 – 8 (14) – $18,000 (includes $5,000 Phoenix Bonus)
6. Brett Carnright – 30 – 15 (15) – $14,000 (includes $2,000 Phoenix Bonus)
7. Jason Barnes – 30 – 5 (13) – $12,000 (includes $1,000 Phoenix Bonus)
8. Mike Feldermann – 28 – 5 (13) – $10,000
9. Ian Leybas – 26 – 2 (12) – $9,000
10. Pete Saele – 20 – 8 (9) – $8,000

Complete results

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