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Published: August 31, 2012

Chautauqua Lake Reels In Big Anglers

by Remington Whitcomb, The Post-Journal

CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. – Twenty-four of the greatest anglers in the world are testing the waters of Chautauqua Lake to see who will be crowned champion for the second season of Jack Link's Major League Fishing.

On Wednesday, a press conference was held at the Athenaeum Hotel in the Chautauqua Institution to announce that season two of Jack Link's Major League Fishing, dubbed the "Summit Cup" is taking place right now on Chautauqua Lake.

Those who have not yet heard of Jack Link's Major League Fishing should not feel bad, as the sport was only launched last August. However, in only one year's time, the sport has picked up a myriad of sponsors and has been aired on Outdoor Channel.

What separates Jack Link's Major League Fishing from other fishing tournaments is a set of new and innovative rules designed to make the event television-ready and full of action and excitement.

After 24 of the world's best anglers are selected, they are informed where they will be competing only two days before the tournament begins. This ensures that every angler begins the tournament with the same level of familiarity with where they are fishing. Additionally:

The tournament's innovative format enables anglers to compete with no limit on the number of legal fish they can catch and weigh;

Competitors are barred from utilizing stored, user-generated GPS waypoints;

Competitors are not allowed any practice time to get a feel for what the fish are doing;

The anglers are equipped with real-time leaderboards in their boats, allowing them to know at all times where they stand in the competition.

The competition is broken down into five qualifying rounds and one championship round. The first five rounds of the Summit Cup will be broadcast on the Outdoor Channel beginning on Jan. 1, and the championship round will air on NBC on Feb. 9. This means that Chautauqua Lake and all it has to offer will be shown for all to see on national television.

"It's interesting how this all started out," said Craig Robbins, fishing and hunting director for Chautauqua County. "The executive producer (for Major League Fishing) Randy White came here about 10 years ago as a cameraman for another show. Ten years later, he needed a location for this show. He made some phone calls and got our number. Because of Chautauqua Lake's reputation (for fishing) Jack Link's Major League Fishing came to us, and Chautauqua Institution has opened its doors the institution has been great."

Robbins continued that most of the anglers are lodging at the Athenaeum Hotel, however some are also lodging off-campus as well.

"All of our local partners have bent over backward to make sure (Jack Link's Major League Fishing's) stay in Chautauqua can be perfect," said Robbins. "It's great, because it's the government working with local businesses to bring everything together."

And according to the statements made by Timmy Horton, Gary Klein and Shaw Grigsby, the three professional anglers present at the press conference, there isn't a single detail about Chautauqua they can find to critique.

"It can be a touchy subject, especially when you're talking about the health of a lake," said Horton about lake weeds. "I think the best way to manage it is with the mowers, which is what Chautauqua is doing ... but for fishing purposes, the (vegetation level) here is perfect. For fishing, vegetation is essential. It gives the young bass a place to hide so they're not prey to the perch and other predators. Any lake you go to that has vegetation like Chautauqua is going to make for great fishing. Chautauqua offers both large and small mouth bass in the same lake, which is great."

Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of Jack Link's Major League Fishing coming to Chautauqua Lake is the amount of respect the anglers are showing to the lake. Because every boat has a scale, and there is no limit to the amount of legal-sized fish an angler can catch, fish are not spending all day in a bucket on a boat away from their ecosystem. In fact, harsh penalties are imposed upon anglers that allow fish to ever come in contact with the floor of their boat or that toss fish back into the lake rather than gently easing them back into the waters. In wanting to make Major League Fishing as popular as other major league sports, the anglers desire to practice the utmost level of professionalism in their trade.

Truly, the arrival of Jack Link's Major League Fishing is a win-win for both parties: the anglers get a beautiful lake to prove they are the best at their trade, and the county will get to enjoy the limelight of national television.

"We're going to have literally weeks of national coverage regarding the high quality of Chautauqua County and Chautauqua Lake," said Assemblyman Andrew Goodell. "This type of positive exposure for our county is absolutely invaluable. You can't buy this type of coverage. It's great to see the best bass fishers in the world singing the praises of Chautauqua Lake. Sometimes we forget what we have here, and sometimes we need to be reminded by those who are the best in the world that this is a fabulous lake and an all-around fabulous place."

This story and photo was published with permission from The Post-Journal.