The Final Four: Will it be Ike, Hack, Montgomery or Reese?
By Joel Shangle
July 27, 2018
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Florida – Through five days of competition on three different bodies of water in Florida’s western Indian River County, if we’ve learned one thing from the 2018 General Tire World Championship (and final four competitors Andy Montgomery, Skeet Reese, Greg Hackney and Mike Iaconelli) it’s this: expect the unexpected.
Hackney advanced to the Championship Round after suffering through the most lackluster Shotgun Round performance in the 12-angler field. Reese eked into the final round after catching only five fish in Sudden Death. The defending World Champion failed to make the final round in his home state. And one hallowed Florida largemouth lake was significantly tougher than expected.
With TV cameras shadowing the final four onto a lake nicknamed “Jurassic Park” because of its population of giant largemouth, anything is possible when the Final Four go “lines in” on Saturday (2 p.m. EDT on CBS).
Andy Montgomery: Mr. Consistency
Based solely on his performance throughout this World Championship, one could make a case for Montgomery as the slight favorite in the finals. The South Carolina pro won his Shotgun Round on Garcia Lake with 40 pounds, 8 ounces, and then racked up the highest weight in Sudden Death with 20-10.
Montgomery trailed only Aaron Martens in accumulated Cup points over the past two seasons and has been at (or near) the top of SCORETRACKER virtually the entire World Championship, so he’s arguably the most consistent MLF pro in the field entering the final round.
Mike Iaconelli: Making peace with Florida?
Iaconelli has joked throughout this competition about his struggles in the state of Florida, going so far as to say that a World Championship title would be a “peace offering” from the Sunshine State. Joking aside, though, Iaconelli has scratched and clawed his way through three competition rounds, weighing in enough largemouth in his Shotgun Round (58-13) to survive the worst Elimination Round of the competition (10-6), and then rallying to put more than 75 percent of his Sudden Death weight on SCORETRACKER in the final period.
“Florida has always been a thorn in my side, I can’t even believe that I’m fishing the Championship Round,” Iaconelli admitted. “As odd as it might sound, I feel like I’ve already won, even though I haven’t fished yet.”
Skeet Reese: Back to Shotgun Round form?
Reese made a statement with his performance in the Shotgun Round, piling up 70-15 on 30 fish and cruising into Sudden Death as a clear favorite. Blue Cypress Lake was not kind to the General Tire pro, though, surrendering only five fish for 7-1 and forcing Reese to sweat out a 13-ounce cushion over defending World Champion Bobby Lane to claim the final spot in the finals.
“I was fired up just to get into the World Championship this year, to make it to the final round is pretty awesome,” Reese says. “You hear all the stories about the fish in this part of Florida, it’s hard not to be excited about a championship on any lake we fish in this area.”
Greg Hackney: The most comfortable in Florida?
After a slow start in his Shotgun Round and a shootout with Takahiro Omori and Edwin Evers in the Elimination Round, Hackney was the first one to hit the target weight in Sudden Death. Even more notable, though, is the potential for the Louisianan to hone in on a flipping bite on the championship lake.
“Hackney is the guy to beat here,” asserts J.T. Kenney, a veteran of the Indian River County lakes. “Of all the guys in the Championship Round, I feel like Hackney is the most comfortable in Florida. Kenansville just sets up perfectly for him.”