Mental Prep in Overdrive on Eve of Day 1
2012 Major League Fishing Challenge Cup, Lake Amistad, Nov. 6-11, 2011
by Lynn Burkhead
DEL RIO, Texas - On the blustery eve of the first ever Jack Link’s Major League Fishing Challenge Cup presented by Busch Beer, the eight anglers competing in Day 1 Elimination Round are ... well they're jacked.
What else would you expect of the competition about to unfold on Lake Amistad.
|Elimination Round Day 1 Competitors |
"You know there's a lot of people involved in this program and to watch it all come together, all the boats sitting out here ready to go, it's awesome," said Gary Klein, one of Major League Fishing's co-founders and a competitor.
"I've been here several days working with everybody and what a great group," said the Weatherford, Texas, resident. "I mean I'm jacked, I'm excited.”
So too is Arkansas angler Mark Davis. He's especially jazzed about the iPad real-time scoring of the event.
"You will know where you are at in the game and that's where this sport needs to go," Davis said. "It's hard to know how to win a game if you don't know what the score is.
"I welcome that because now for the first time ever you're going to know where you're at. If you're out there catching two-pounders and everybody else is catching four-pounders, then you know you need to make a change."
Louisiana's Greg Hackney agrees. Part of "Hack Attack's" reasoning is based on the real-time scoring that Davis alluded to.
"I think it will help make your decision making a lot easier," he said. "Before, you were actually guessing. Whatever you might be doing, fishing for a lot of bites or fishing for big fish, maybe what you're doing is only helping yourself a little bit.
"But this way, you'll know if you need to move or not or change what you're doing rather than just guess at what you need to be doing."
Another tournament angling innovation that will be tested tomorrow for the first time is the fact that the anglers have no practice, no local knowledge, and will have only known the zone that they are fishing in for less than 10 hours.
|Elimination Round Day 1 Fishing Zone - Approximately 5,900 Acres|
"We're going to get out there, the sun is going to come up and basically I'm going to have 15 minutes before I start making my first cast to come up with my plan," said Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.
"But you go back to history, to seasonal patterns, and the type of lake and habitat that is here. And I like this format. It fits my style because I like to cover water and fish fast.
"The thing that I know about Amistad is that it has got a lot of fish in it. If I can cover enough water, hopefully I can get on a good pattern pretty quick. Then you can make things happen in a hurry."
But making things happen in a hurry will be challenged to some degree by the fact that the competitors are fishing from supplied Nitro Z-7 and Bass Cat Margay boats, all powered by Mercury 150 OptiMax Pro XS outboards.
That means they can't bring an endless supply of tackle, rods, and reels aboard the craft. And they can’t bring previously recorded GPS way-points aboard either.
Basic Rules and Format
Practice Start: 7:15am
Period 1 Start: 7:30am
Period 2 Start: 10:30am
Period 3 Start: 1:30pm
Score-able Fish: All black bass with a minimum length of 14 inches
Anglers must stay within the set boundaries of Zone 1 during fishing periods
The four anglers with highest total weight advance to the Sudden Death Rounds
"We don't have our own boats and everything so you're trying to take everything that you might need that you normally keep in your boat," said Jason Quinn of South Carolina.
"You're just trying to scramble around and throw as much stuff in there as you think you might possibly need."
One thing that nearly all competitors agree on is that what is needed most is finding active fish quickly since catching as many fish as possible will be a part of most game plans.
"We're in the fall so there should be some topwater action and I love to throw that way," said Bobby Lane of Florida. "But I fish by the seat of my pants, (so if not), it really doesn't matter to me."
"Just give me some holes, give me that Jack Link's boat and I'll get out there and see how I can do."
Lane is curious to see exactly how he and the other competitors can do with forecasted light winds, after high winds stirred the lake on the eve of the opening round.
"Everything gets thrown out the door (tomorrow)," he said. "If it takes me knocking Kevin VanDam out, then that's what is going to have to happen, or vice-versa."
Brent Ehrler, the lone FLW angler in the mix this week, agrees that a lot of preconceived notions may go out the door on opening morning, including his initial game plan.
"Really, I'm going to try and cover a lot of water and fish a lot of reaction baits and hopefully find some fish," Ehrler said. "Then I'll slow down and maybe throw a worm or jig. But when we get out there, who knows what is going to happen tomorrow.
"That's the whole idea about this, that we don't have time to practice and come game time tomorrow, we have no clue about what will happen."
This produces a little more excitement and fire-in-the-belly than usual for Ehrler.
"It's kind of crazy and it's something new," said the California angler. "It's good to kind of get the spark again.
"During the meeting, I was kind of nervous. You kind of get in a routine in fishing and it's just the same thing over and over again. Now it's something new and I'm pumped up and ready to get out there."
So, too, is Hackney, a die-hard LSU Tigers football fan who was proudly sporting his purple-and-gold pride on the night that his Bayou Bengals would go on to defeat Alabama 9-6 in the so-called "Game-of-the-Century."
"I really think that this is the purest form of the sport," said Hackney of the new format.
"I don't think it is ever as pure as it is right now. No information, no practice, and we're all fishing the same area. I truly believe that the cream will rise to the top."
We'll find out soon enough.