It's a Level MLF Playing Field this Week in the Lower Mississippi River Valley
By Joel Shangle
October 20, 2017
VIDALIA, La. – As he gets his first look at the map of the competition waters for his Elimination Round competition at the 2018 Lucas Oil Challenge Cup, South Carolina pro Andy Montgomery shakes his head and frowns at MLF executive producer Randy White.
White is the man who chooses the fisheries and boundaries for every MLF competition, and this morning, he’s chosen a lake that has Montgomery boondoggled.
“Randy, I don’t know anything about these kinds of lakes!” Montgomery protests jokingly. “I’ll be lucky to catch a single fish.”
In the spirit of fair competition, White has done his job like a champ this week in the waters around Vidalia, Louisiana and Natchez, Mississippi. Among the field of Bassmaster Classic champions, Angler of the Year winners and Million Dollar Club members on the 27-man competition roster, not a one has ever fished this part of the Mississippi River Valley.
Even Louisiana native Greg Hackney, whom one might assume has spent at least one day in this area, is seeing these backwaters, bays and lakes for the very first time, even though he lives just 115 miles south of here in Gonzalez, Louisiana.
“What do I know about these places? Not a darn thing, really,” Hackney says. “Your guess is as good as mine.”
It is, to borrow a phrase, a truly level playing field. And the rod lockers and tackle storage in the official Nitro Z7 competition boats have shown it throughout the week as the Cup anglers prepare for every potential condition and scenario.
Montgomery has managed to stuff upwards of 40 rods into his Z17 this morning. Brent Ehrler’s first load-out from his regular-season boat to his Z17 is at 18 Plano boxes and counting. Gary Klein hoists so many rods off his front deck that he can barely get his hands around them.
“I love it,” says Daiwa pro Ish Monroe. “This is what a fishing competition should be about: nobody out here has an advantage, nobody has a clue about how these lakes are going to fish, and nobody knows a single piece of information that might help them in this competition. It’s just pure competition, and may the best man win.”