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Will Largemouth Continue to Prevail?

by Lynn Burkhead

Elimination Round Day 3 Competitors

Boyd Duckett

Alton Jones

Mark Davis

Bobby Lane

Brent Ehrler

Jason Quinn

Terry Scroggins

Byron Velvick

Day 3: Smallmouth bass or largemouth bass?

Heading into the third and final Elimination Round, that was one of the storylines discussed at the Jack Link's Major League Fishing 2013 General Tire Summit Cup event at Chautauqua Lake.

With rumors of ample supplies of 3- to 5-pound smallmouth lurking in the offshore waters - not to mention plenty of 6-, 7-, and even 8-pound smallies too - the pre-tourney vibe was that somebody would gamble, leave the shallow largemouth dock bite behind, and swing for the fences.

But so far, through two days of Elimination Round competition, not one single angler really has.

On Day 3 of the Summit Cup, Alabama's Boyd Duckett could be the first angler to go offshore and swing for the fences.

After all, he figured out the smallmouth bite near Syracuse en route to winning the Bassmaster Elite Series season ending event on New York's Oneida Lake.

"I'm coming off a body of water that's in the same part of the country that has both fish in it so you're probably a little more ready as far as tackle goes and the thought processes (you go through)," said Duckett.

"You know, in Alabama, we really don't (get to) smallmouth fish, so to fish for them at Oneida probably really helps me here."

Florida's Bobby Lane knows that the week's run at Oneida can help his cause.

But he also knows that it can be a trap and can hurt his chances at Chautauqua if he's not careful.

"I will take some things I did on Oneida and bring them over here," said Lane, while quickly noting that Oneida and Chautauqua are two different animals.

Primarily because of the differing amounts of angling pressure the two Empire State bodies of water have.

"Oneida is an awesome fishery, don't get me wrong, but it's had a lot of pressure over the years," said Lane. "Last week was the third time I've been there in the last several years.

"People will get clued in to what we're doing and then they'll go duplicate it all year long so those (fish at Oneida) were kind of getting beat on and (becoming) tough (to catch).

Such conditions often mean that the bass tournament pros have to put on blinders and adopt a certain kind of "grind-it-out" style of fishing.

Lane is hopeful that Chautauqua will prove to be more wide open during the continued Elimination Rounds of Summit Cup action.

"I'm hoping that I can come here with a bit more of an open mind and try to figure these fish out," said Lane. "It doesn't look like this lake has quite as much pressure. There's more sailboats and party boats here (than bass boats).

"So who knows how I'm going to catch them here today?"


Zone 5 (Elimination Day 3, Day 3 of the event)

In Zone 5, anglers will have their first opportunity to fish several of the feeder creeks of Chautauqua Lake. From Smith Boy’s Marina and Ashville Bay Marina, anglers will have the chance to hit some of the best docks on the lake.

Zone 5: 5.2 miles shoreline, 2438 acres

Brent Ehrler, last year's inaugural Major League Fishing champion at Texas' Lake Amistad, hopes that Oneida's recent lessons don't come into play here.

That's because as the league’s lone FLW Outdoors fishing pro at the moment, Ehrler is the only angler in the Summit Cup that didn't compete at the B.A.S.S. Oneida event.

"None of us know (which species will dominate)," said Ehrler.

"If it is like Oneida, then I'll definitely have a disadvantage (against the Bassmaster Elite Series guys). If it's not, then maybe I will have an advantage because those guys may be keyed into what was going on over there and it's not what's going on here."

Given the "fish by the seat of your pants" format where anglers come in with no GPS waypoints, no pre-tournament practice, no Internet research, no on-the-water scouting, and no insider's storehouse of information, Ehrler said that it is a great unknown.

"It's an interesting concept (the MLF format)," he said. "We don't really know what the fishing is like (here). We might not even know until the end of the day how it is."

How will the defending Major League Fishing champ hit the water and venture into Chautauqua's great unknown?

"I'm going to look for a couple of things," said Ehrler. "I'm going to look for - not deep water - but some non-bank related stuff and then some bank related (things).

"Kind of a one-two punch where I can look at both things early and make some decisions and hopefully get keyed into something early. (I'll try to get a) bite or two fast that will get me going in the right direction."

Byron Velvick echoes some of Ehrler's sentiments about hitting the water with a blank slate at Chautauqua.

"I'm actually excited about today," said Velvick, whose home water is Texas' vast Lake Amistad.

"At Amistad, I knew too much. I knew exactly where I wanted to fish and once they showed us the zone (last year), I was thrilled because I knew where the best concentrations of fish were in that zone.

"And I died on them," he laughed.

"What I love about this (here at Chautauqua) is that I have no preconceived notions."

Velvick, a swimbait specialist, says he will look at the shallow stuff like everyone else. But he isn't going to forget the outside stuff, especially if he can find a few hard weed lines to target.

Alton Jones says he comes into the round with a different mindset than he had in Texas.

That's because he remembers the sting of letting a Major League Fishing tournament get away from him last fall at Amistad, a lake that is normally very much within his wheel-house.

"Marty Stone commented to me the first day (last year) that he was surprised to see me out there throwing a jerkbait," said Jones. "I had decided to throw a jerkbait because I could catch numbers of fish doing it and it would get me through the first cut.

"But as I got back (home) and analyzed my performance at Amistad, I realized that I had varied from my strengths."

Why is that important?

"Usually, when you win a tournament, it's almost always doing something that you consider to be one of your fishing strong suits," said Jones.

"I can throw a jerkbait like anybody else but it's not something I usually win on so (at Amistad) I had taken myself out of my norm and out of my element."

Jones plans on a different approach in western New York.

"I've just decided that I'm not going to do that this time (at Chautauqua) and that I'm going to focus on what really are my strengths and fish that way," he said.

The Texas pro knows that such an approach is more risky.

But he also knows that he isn't looking to show or place here in New York - he's looking to win.

"If I don't make the first cut, then so be it," said Jones. "But if I'm going to win, it's going to have to be doing something that I'm good at or something that maybe I'm better than everybody else at."

With one of fishing's most impressive resumes, there's plenty of reason to believe that Jones will be standing Lone Star State tall when the Summit Cup competition is over.

But there's also plenty of reason to believe that the other seven impressive angling resumes competing against him will make their own cases for winning the Summit Cup competition at Chautauqua.

Stay tuned to see how the final Elimination Round develops and who ends up riding tall in the saddle of fishing's most exciting competition!