Preview: Survival Round starts on Long Lake

2017 MLF Challenge Select in Alpena will end with a smallmouth treat

By Rob Newell - April 26, 2017

With the start of the Survival Round at the 2017 Bass Pro Shops Challenge Select in Alpena, Mich., much of the trickeration appears to be over. After Qualifying Rounds that included surprise trips to Great Lake Huron and a stop at Lake Winyah, a tiny largemouth lake, those that survived (finishing in spots 2 through 4 in Qualification Rounds) will be fishing the “second chance” Survival Round on Long Lake, which was one of the original lakes features in MLF’s first trip to Alpena for the 2014 Summit Cup. With that, many of the survivors fishing Long Lake are somewhat familiar with its waters through the previous MLF shows and know to expect a smallmouth fest – no more curveballs.

Randy Howell, who moved on to the Survival Round due to a second place finish on Huron, was one of the first to recognize Long Lake.

“I think this is the one where KVD crushed them on a squarebill,” Howell said. “It’s called Long Lake, but I call it ‘Squarebill Lake.’

“If I remember right, this is the lake that has a lot of shallow flats and humps in it,” he continued. “We got quite a bit of wind this morning so maybe some of that wind on those shallow places will get them going.”

MLF Select pro Kevin Short, who qualified in third place of off Winyah, was looking to take advantage of the windy conditions as well.

“This lake will be all about smallmouth,” he said. “I’ve got crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jerkbaits ready to go – I’m hoping this wind might let me get in on some powerbaiting for smallmouths this morning and that is something I’m looking forward, too.”

Zack Birge, who had a win snatched from his hands at Winyah at the last second by Jacob Wheeler, is hoping for some redemption today. But he is less than enthused by the wind if he plans to carry over his hot topwater bite from Winyah.

“This wind might hamper a topwater bite this morning,” Birge said. “We had overcast and drizzle yesterday on Winyah and that helped the topwater bite. Now we have clear skies and wind, so it’s time to adapt and see what this lake has to offer. I watched some of the shows, but for some reason, I don’t remember much about this particular lake, so maybe that’s a good thing. I can start fresh with an open mind.”

One thing that seems to be of particular interest to a couple of anglers before takeoff is the increased visibility with the bright sun. Not only do smallmouth seem to bite better with some sunshine, but the sunlight penetration also helps anglers see the structure they are trying to target.

Russ Lane of Alabama qualified in the fourth position spot off of Winyah catching mostly largemouths. But he knows he is going to have to switch to brown fish today.

“This one is going to be a smallmouth lake for sure,” Lane said as he scrolled through his mapping “It’s got a lot of sharp contour breaks, which means rock. I’m hoping I can power fish some of this stuff; looks like a lot of shallow flats and humps that break off fast from that 5 to 6 foot into that 10 foot range. When the sun gets high and I can see those kind of places it should be good.”

Mark Rose of Arkansas is the only one in the day-five group who fished Grand Lake on day one, which is the most similar to Long Lake.

“There’s no doubt that having some sun on your side so you can see those places is key,” Rose said. “If this lake is anything like the last one, it should be fun. I love coming up to this part of the country to catch smallmouth, it’s quite a treat for me – especially when you can see your targets and anticipate the bite. And I hope to do a lot of that today.”

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