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Chautauqua Conjectures

by Dan O’Sullivan

As the Jack Link’s Major League Fishing General Tire Summit Cup is about to be televised on Outdoor Channel, Extended Cast PPV and NBC, it's time to look at the field and see what we as the editorial team think the eventual outcome could be on New York’s Chautauqua Lake. To be completely fair, pundit's picks are what they are, a set of opinions.

With that in mind, we will look at the Navionics charts of Chautauqua, evaluate the waterway and the strengths of the field to try and determine who will likely be strongest amongst the field of competitors at the General Tire Summit Cup.

From studying the Navionics maps, the lake appears to offer up just about anything that a bass angler could like. Chautauqua is a lake that features everything from shallow water cover in the form of grass, lily pads and shoreline docks from the many residences surrounding the lake. It also features a great deal of offshore structure and deeper water areas with good structure nearby. So, anglers should be able to pretty much find anything to fit their style.

That being said, the most prevalent type of water appears to be that which features shallow cover. The most abundant cover appears to be boat docks followed by pad fields and then grass. What that will likely mean is that anglers with strong, object-oriented strengths will likely perform very well at Chautauqua.

When we look at the field of 24 anglers assembled for the Summit Cup, we can quickly pick out a list of names that will likely excel in the shallow water areas of the lake. The field features some of the best flippers and pitchers in the business, such as Denny Brauer, Tommy Biffle, Gary Klein, Greg Hackney, Terry Scroggins, Kelly Jordon, Ish Monroe and Bobby Lane.

Brauer and Biffle have long been known for their strengths around hard cover, so I would expect to find them concentrating around some of the deeper docks, while Hackney, Scroggins, Jordon, Monroe and Lane are especially strong around grass, and there will be plenty of options for them. Klein is extremely versatile with any rod in his hands, but is likely one of the overall best and most versatile flippers on tour due to his wide range of experience with the technique.

With the pad field being a strong potential, a topwater frog bite is also a strong potential, and that not only plays into the hands of Monroe, but also to Dean Rojas, a pro who has built much of his public profile around his signature frog.

While they may not be best known as flippers, there is another group of anglers in the field that are also known for their ability to pick apart shallow cover. That group includes Alton Jones, Shaw Grigsby, Boyd Duckett and Takahiro Omori. This group has shown the remarkable ability to fish fast or slow in shallow water which may give them an edge.

While the majority of the lake features a plethora of shallow cover, the deep water opportunities are plentiful, and with the Summit Cup being held near the summer/fall transition, it could open up potential for anglers who like to use moving baits like crankbaits and jerkbaits. Anglers like Timmy Horton, Jason Quinn and Mark Davis have all proven themselves as more than proficient with deep diving plugs, and Mike McClelland, Skeet Reese, Aaron Martens and Edwin Evers and Ehrler all love tossing jerkbaits.

Winds bring opportunities for moving baits to play a factor, and the crankbait and jerkbait group mentioned above certainly has the potential to quickly run away with any given day on a lake located so near the windy nature of the Great Lakes.

Of course, the presence of deep water structure and clear water brings into play the use of finesse tactics, and with Martens, Ehrler and Jeff Kriet in the field, there is a great chance that the technique will come into play. While he is known primarily as a swimbait guru, Byron Velvick has the ability to slow down and scale down with finesse gear due to his many years of competing in the diverse Western states.

Of course Mike Iaconelli is one that can do damage with a spinning rod in his hand, so he too is a threat in this category.

When looking at the overall makeup of Chautauqua Lake, the one thought that quickly comes to mind is the need to be versatile. The anglers who will fair the best at this lake are those who have the ability to adjust, make different types of presentations and excel at many of them.

That factor alone leads me to believe that the six anglers left standing for the championship will be mainly those who have shown a great deal of flexibility throughout their careers. That has me leaning more towards predicting the likes of Martens, Ehrler, Reese, Jones, Duckett, Iaconelli and Evers to rise to the occasion and show their ability to adapt.

Of course, the 24 anglers that make up the field are among the best in the business, so anything is possible; any one of them can claim the title of Jack Link’s Major League Fishing General Tire Summit Cup Champion.