Preview: 2017 Summit Select Survival Round Begins

By Rob Newell - January 24, 2017

After four days of MLF Summit Select Qualifying Rounds on the Grand Glaize and Gravois Arms of Lake of the Ozarks, 12 Select Pros have soldiered on to the Survival Rounds, which will be held far up the lake on the Niangua Arm.

The first six Pros tackling the Niangua Arm on Survival Day 1 include MLF first timers Casey Ashley and Zack Birge. Both pros dodged elimination in the Grand Glaize portion of the lake and now they must carefully consider how much of the fishing information they garnered from the Grand Glaize Arm should be applied to the Niangua Arm.

This is a tricky call when advancing to another round in the MLF format. For instance, Ashley survived elimination fishing a shaky head around docks, targeting the man-made brushpiles around those docks. But the Niangua Arm might be a different animal.

“That’s the thing with fishing two completely different areas of a lake,” Ashley offered. “Now I’ve got something in my head from my previous zone that doesn’t need to be there when fishing this zone. The stuff you learn in one zone can either be a real help or a real hindrance in another zone. If I take the way I fished the other day and apply it here, I might be chasing ghosts – it definitely makes it interesting.”

Birge, however, plans to pick up right where he left off with his Grand Glaize pattern.

“I’ll be looking to run those smaller, undeveloped pockets with a topwater like I did in the other zone,” Birge said. “I can’t stand fishing boat docks so I’ve just been trying to avoid them all week.”

While Ott Defoe studied his zone map of the Niangua Arm, a sudden look of disbelief crossed his face as he realized the back ends of the Little Niangua River and Weaver Creek were not included in the zone. He could only shake his head with disappointment.

Defoe was well aware that the far back ends of the creeks were productive. He was fishing that pattern in the back of the Gravois Arm in his Qualifying Round when he discovered Jacob Wheeler had beat him to the main creek inflow. Wheeler went on to win that day in the main creek ditch while Defoe could only take the leftovers out in the flat to make the Survival Round. Obviously, he had plans to exploit that same pattern in the Niangua Arm and having the backs of those creeks cut out of the zone was like a dagger to his strategy.

“Those two creeks ends are the prettiest parts of the whole zone and they’re not even in play,” Defoe lamented. “Oh well, it’s the same for all of us. No one else can go back there either, so it’s not going to do me any good to get upset about it.”

While Defoe fettered his frustration, MLF Select pro James Watson had a perma-grin on his face about the Niangua Arm.

“This is my favorite section of the lake in the springtime,” Watson says. “Now, I’ve never fished it this time of year, but when it’s cold, I love it up here. It’s got a lot of pockets without docks – just bare, natural banks. That’s the kind of stuff I like to fish.”

“I’m fired up!” Watson suddenly exclaimed. “Let’s get this show on the road! I’m ready to catch something!”

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