Day 3 Anglers Brace for the Unknown
2012 Major League Fishing Challenge Cup, Lake Amistad, Nov. 6-11, 2011
by Lynn Burkhead
DEL RIO, Texas – Leading into the third round of elimination fishing at the Jack Link’s Major League Fishing Challenge Cup presented by Busch Beer on Lake Amistad, the combination of injury, the unknown and a grim weather forecast are all conspiring to crank up already high personal anxiety levels to values threatening to go off the charts.
Injury? Major League Fishing pro Dean Rojas walked into the anglers’ meeting and confirmed the rumors swirling around that he was bringing to Amistad an injured right wing.
A severe wrist sprain from a freak accident has Rojas' hand/wrist bandaged up heavily, so much so that many wonder how well - or if at all - he'll be able to effectively compete.
|Elimination Round Day 3 Competitors |
The unknown? Since the pros are prohibited from visiting with anglers who have already competed in the first two rounds of elimination fishing, they have no idea of what to expect in terms of the format, the fishery, or the event's intangibles.
The weather? Every one of the eight pros fishing in the third elimination round voiced strong concerns at the anglers’ meeting of having to point their boats directly north into the teeth of worsening weather.
Why? The National Weather Service's forecast of widely scattered thunderstorms overnight and into the morning, a major cold frontal passage around daybreak, and forecasts of sustained northwesterly winds of 30 mph or more along with much higher gusts could all combine to make fishing the zone difficult at best, all but impossible at the worst.
At the anglers’ meeting, Commissioner Don Rucks assured the anglers that if conditions are unsafe, appropriate changes will be made.
But he reiterated that if conditions aren't unsafe, then the third round that unfolds will be a fair challenge since everyone will be in the same boat, so to speak.
He finished by reminding the eight anglers that they are among the world's best and that they would have to make up their minds to fish on and find a way to succeed, regardless of the conditions.
All in all, the third round of this inaugural Jack Link’s Major League Fishing Challenge Cup presented by Busch Beer, promises to be perhaps the most interesting and potentially dramatic round yet.
"The zone they have us in, the wind is going to be such a massive element and we're going to be pretty much exposed (all day)," said Byron Velvick, who makes Lake Amistad a part-time home and knows first-hand what the forecast will mean.
|Scheduled Elimination Round Day 3 Fishing Zone - Approximately 6,300 Acres|
|Due to strong North winds, the area scheduled for the final - Zone 6, 3,130 acres - was used for Elimination Round Day 3 Fishing.|
"I'm always real happy to fish Amistad it's just that I'm not too happy to fish where they've got us fishing with the front coming in," he added. "I don't like the forecast. That's going to be a real challenge."
For the former television star of ABC's "The Bachelor" reality-series, the task of just getting to the fishing zone safely will be a real challenge.
And, the swimbait guru thinks the task of finding a way to catch numbers of fish in the heavily tossing water could be an exercise in futility.
"It's tough, man," said Velvick. "I'm going to have to do some stuff that is tough. Big heavy spinnerbaits, fish real deep, slow rolling them."
Velvick indicated that the exposed zone and virtual gale-force winds predicted for Day 3 were going to change his approach considerably.
"There's some ways to catch them and I'm going to go home and change some tackle around," he said. "I'm (certainly) going to check that Weather Channel out.
"If it's rainy, overcast and real windy, that kills a lot of bites. A lot of bites that guys don't expect it to kill, it kills. The swimbait bite goes south real fast on a rainy, crappy, gloomy day. The fish can't see the bait.
"It's going to be a lot of cranking and spinnerbaits for me, I think."
His concerns aside, this doesn't mean that Velvick is all gloom and doom for the third round.
"I love the format," he said. "I love the fact that I'm competing against all of these guys in one area and the conditions are all about the same. So I'm not going to get beat by a guy who makes a really good decision and runs way up a river somewhere.
"And, I love the idea of seeing the scoreboard, of watching myself do really well on the scoreboard or falling really quickly on the scoreboard and knowing that I've got to make changes.
"I can't wait to play a real-time leader board while I'm fishing. It's going to be the first time ever and it's going to be really cool."
For Rojas, the tournament format and the Amistad fishery are cool, but he admits that his injury is not.
"Obviously it's going to hinder me tomorrow," he said. "I can't be at 100 percent out there. I'll do the best I can.
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 the zone during fishing periods
The four anglers with highest total weight advance to the Sudden Death Rounds
"I'll fish my fish and hopefully that will be enough to make the next round."
Will the Arizona bas pro throw his famous "Kermit the Frog" Spro bait?
"I'm sure you'll see him," he smiled weakly. "It's just going to be how I can cast. It may limit me on the types of baits I'm able to throw."
For Boyd Duckett, the 2007 Bassmasters Classic champ and one of the founders of Major League Fishing, his biggest challenge isn't injury or the weather.
It's turning off the "management" switch from spending countless waking moments in recent months developing the Major League Fishing format along with Gary Klein, Don Rucks and others.
And then turning on the "pro angler" switch and becoming a wide-eyed, zoned-in, highly-focused competitor once again.
"You've got to get up and turn that (side of things) off somehow," said the Alabama pro. "I didn't do as good a job doing that as I should have this past (B.A.S.S.) season. But that's what you have to do in this sport anyway, no matter what else is going on around you.
"As professional anglers, when we back the boat into the water, it's another gear and you become another person. You're a competitor tomorrow and that's all it can be.
"I'll worry about the wind blowing and tearing up the equipment, but on game day morning, if the wind is blowing, I'll be a competitor and we'll do what we do."
What about the conditions on Day 3 as Duckett becomes an angler again? He says he'll have to bear down, reach deep, and fish somewhat by the seat of his pants given the forecast.
"I've been working on tackle and I've got my junk (all over) my room, but I have no idea what to do," he laughed.
"Most of our (Bassmaster) Elite Series tournaments have been here in the spring, but it fishes completely different then. Now some of the guys that are here have spent time down here in the fall, but I'm not one of them.
"So I'm a little clueless right now and really, the weather we get doesn't make any difference to me."
Because Duckett plans to go fishing whatever the weatherman brings. And ultimately, all concerns aside, that is going to be true for all eight anglers.
Because when the boats hit the water and the starting time is reached, it's game on to see who the final four anglers will be who make it through to the Sudden Death round.