Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
As the first day of Sudden Death looms on Lake Istokpoga during the Jack Link's Major League Fishing 2013 GEICO Challenge Cup event, all eyes are on the weather.
Specifically, all eyes are on approaching Hurricane Sandy and what effect the damaging tropical cyclone might have on the MLF field of six competitors who will be out there competing.
Because howling storm or not, all of the competitors are zeroed in on the task at hand and trying desperately to grab one of the three coveted championship invitations.
Tommy Biffle is one of those pros. After a career spent fishing in many of the Sunshine State's famed bass waters, the veteran Oklahoma MLF pro is pretty sure he already knows what will happen as the wind and rain increases over the next 24 to 48 hours.
At least as far as Istokpoga's largemouth bass population is concerned.
"Nobody is totally sure what is going to happen (depending on Sandy's track), but normally when the conditions are very bad down here, they (the fish) just bury up," said Biffle, an eight-time winner on the B.A.S.S. circuit.
In Biffle's mind, the potential for deteriorating weather conditions means that anglers will have to sink deep into their Simms Gore-Tex rain suits, put their mental blinders on, ignore the conditions as much as they can, and simply go fishing.
Because inclement weather or not, the fish are still there in the shallow waters of Istokpoga. And MLF leader board or not, it's the fish that Biffle believes he is ultimately competing against in this round of competition.
"It doesn't matter what everybody else is catching because you've still got to catch (your own) fish to get on that leaderboard and move up it," said Biffle, an 18 time qualifier for the Bassmaster Classic with $1.8 million in career earnings to his credit.
Zone 2: 4.2 miles primary shoreline, 2.5 miles island shoreline, 2,822 acres
That doesn't mean that Biffle, who has 56 Top-10 finishes on his sterling angling career resume, will not be paying any attention to the leader board.
In fact, far from it since he knows who these anglers are, what their various strengths are, what their few weaknesses are, and what they are likely going to be doing as the leader board positions begin to change throughout the upcoming stormy day.
"You've got five really good flippers (out here) today," said Biffle of the technique that will likely dominate with the deteriorating weather conditions. "(And) Bobby (Lane) is from Florida here so he's going to have a pretty good clue as to what's going on and how to get started."
But Biffle also is of the mindset that no matter what the other anglers are doing - and no matter what the approaching tropical cyclone is doing - none of that changes what he has to go out there and do.
So he's planning to leave the dock with a good game plan and stick to it as much as he can.
"You've just got to go out there, fish hard, figure out what they're doing, and just catch them," he said.
No matter what happens as the skies cloud up over Istokpoga, the wind begins to blow and sprinkles begin to fall, and Hurricane Sandy prepares to come calling.
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