Preview: Last chance at Lake of the Ozarks
Final Six Anglers Compete for Last Chance at Summit Cup
By Rob Newell
February 1, 2017
A certain degree of somberness hung in the humid air at the Larry R. Gale boat ramp on the Niangua Arm of Lake of the Ozarks. The final day of an MLF Select always has a more solemn tone to it and the reason is simple: it’s the last chance – the last ticket left up for grabs to go to the MLF Summit Cup between the six competitors on the sixth day. There are no more survival rounds or advancements or “living to fish another day,” after day six. This is it.
As the six anglers made their last preparations for the final day, the common sentiments revolved around fishing speed – or the lack there of. After surviving the Elimination Round, most pros were verbalizing their need to get out of the gates faster on the final day.
Getting off to a fast start was doubly critical because it was a Summer Saturday on Lake of the Ozarks. Not only was there a race against the SCORETRACKER, but also there was a race against “the party.” Everyone knew that by 10 a.m. the lake would turn into a sea of huge party cruisers riding up and down the lake, whipping up massive boat wakes and creating an angry ocean out of the Ozarks. Running from one spot to another would take far more time than on smooth water, creating more impediments for those trying to play catch up.
Russ Lane was the first to admit his notion of idling around looking for offshore schools during the Elimination Round on the Grand Glaize Arm was probably not the best approach.
“It kills me because I know there is a wad of them out there somewhere,” Lane said. “But these boys are so quick; they figure it out so fast. So lesson number one for me in MLF: I need a faster start.”
Lane scrolled through his GPS mapping marking potential starting spots. But unlike in his Qualifying Round when he was marking offshore points, this time he was marking flat, shallow pockets.
“I have absolutely no clue where we are,” he said while studying the terrain digitally. “It looks like we’re up some sort of river. I see a lot of these little short, shallow pockets right off the river, I’m marking some of those. I would like to find some bigger pockets with more expansive flats with a ditch running through them. That’s the kind of place I’d like to start on – forget idling around and graphing.”
Gary Clouse, who fished Lake of the Ozarks a good bit 30 years ago, says he is familiar with the Niangua arm.
“Guys used to run all the way up here from PB2 because the fishing was so good up this way,” Clouse recalled. “Years ago, the back of this creek was a real hot spot, but that doesn’t matter today because the back of the creek is off limits. So I’m just going to pick up right where I left off in my last round, fishing shallow docks along flatter places.”
“I thought about looking out deep for a bit, but you can dig yourself a hole so fast like that,” he added. “I need to generate some bites quickly like I did the other day, I’m going to fish some of that same kind of water wherever I can find it.”
Marty Robinson, who survived elimination in the Grand Glaize Arm in Qualifying Round 1, was looking to add speed to his morning plan, as well.
“I got started way too slow the other day,” Robinson said. “Trying to dig your way out of a hole with these guys is like being in quicksand; it’s hard to get out so I’d rather just not let it happened at all. I had a solid bite going with a popper in shallow shade the other day and that’s what I’m going to this morning.”
As Chris Lane pulled topwaters out from under his deck, he seemed to be in a take-no-prisoners mode. Lane also evaded elimination in the Grand Glaize Arm on day one with a topwater pattern.
“There’s only one spot to be concerned with here today and that’s number one,” Lane said. “Win. That’s it. Period.”
“What I learned from my round the other day is to get one rod in your hand and go,” Lane revealed. “Stopping to switch lures and experiment and try different things is more of a negative in this format than any other format we fish. You’ve got to get comfortable with something immediately and just go with it as fast as that technique will allow you. And that’s my plan to get this done today.”