December 16, 2013
Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
In the brief but building history of Jack Link's Major League Fishing, the largemouth bass has ruled the day.
Take the inaugural MLF event for example. At Lake Amistad in the fall of 2011, Kevin VanDam and Brent Ehrler put on televised clinics before Outdoor Channel cameras, showing bass fans everywhere how to work a jerkbait to catch fall largemouths at the Texas bass factory.
Despite the presence of some good smallmouth bass at Amistad, particularly in the upper end of the lake in the Devil's River arm, KVD's Sudden Death virtuoso performance and Ehrler's Final Day Championship blitzkrieg proved that the largemouth bass is king, deep in the heart of Texas.
In 2012, it was much the same story at both MLF events on opposite ends of the continent.
At New York's Chautauqua Lake near Jamestown, the lake's numerous smallmouth bass, including some giants in the six- to eight-pound range, never really factored into the winning of that event.
While an occasional bronzeback bass was caught, including a true-blue giant by MLF pro Greg Hackney, it was the largemouth bass dock bite at Chautauqua that proved to be the winning ticket for flipping and pitching legend Denny Brauer as he won the event in going away fashion.
In last season's final event at Florida's Lake Istokpoga, where no smallmouths even live, Edwin Evers thrilled MLF fans everywhere with a stunning final period comeback to surpass Ish Monroe.
As MLF fans will recall, Monroe had beaten the Championship Day field - and departing Hurricane Sandy - all day long with his snag proof "Ish's Phat Frog" and his Missile Baits D-Bomb.
Until, that is, the lake was opened up due to the howling post-Sandy winds. When that happened, Evers ventured into Istokpoga's Arbuckle Creek and put on a clinic on how to catch largemouth bass under windy, inclement conditions.
If you're keeping score at home, that's three MLF events. A few smallmouths caught here and there. But by and large, it has been largemouth bass determining who has won each and every MLF Summit and Challenge Cup that has been contested to date.
But that trend for bucketmouth bass to dominate MLF angler catches will almost certainly change during the Jack Link's Major League Fishing 2014 General Tire Summit Cup in Alpena, Michigan.
Because for the first time ever, an MLF event will be contested in certifiable bronzeback country where the brown smallmouth bass, not the green largemouths, will steal the daily fishing headlines.
With the event being contested on different venues, including Hubbard Lake where the Elimination Rounds of competition will be held, it would not be surprising for few, if any, Michigan largemouths to be caught.
While some largemouths bass do swim in the area waters, the lakes in and around Alpena simply do not have an abundance of largemouth bass for the MLF pros to target.
Nor do they have the types of shallow cover, shallow vegetation, boat docks, and marina slips that might fuel the green fish bite.
Instead, there should be plenty of hungry brown fish hanging around points, rock piles, offshore drop-offs, offshore vegetation beds, and Michigan DNR planted fish holding structures.
So prevalent are smallmouths in the Alpena area that the "book" on Hubbard is that there aren't really any largemouths available since Michigan DNR shocking several years ago turned up a preponderance of smallmouths in the lake and no largemouths to speak of.
On the 8,850-acre lake, the bronzebacks are not only prolific; they also are hefty-size to five pounds or better.
Those smallmouths get that considerable girth thanks to their steady diet of crawfish (the lake bottom literally crawls with countless numbers of the crustaceans that call Hubbard home), resident baitfish and juvenile yellow perch and panfish species.
While it remains to be seen which Alpena area water bodies the Sudden Death and Championship Rounds will be held on - MLF Commissioner Don Rucks hasn't yet announced those locations - largemouths aren't any more prevalent on most of the local waters than they are on Hubbard.
Two exceptions to that idea could be if the MLF pros find themselves on either the Thunder Bay River that flows through Alpena into Lake Huron or on Fletcher's Pond, a shallow impoundment of flooded cedar trees where many more largemouths swim than smallmouths do.
Fletcher's Pond is vastly different than most other Alpena area water bodies in that it has a more murky water present, has plenty of flooded timber (both conifers and hardwood tree species), numerous stumps, some lay downs and shallow water that averages just 10 feet in depth.
All of this, including the presence of Eurasian water milfoil, could make a round of competition at Fletcher's Pond more conducive to largemouth fishing.
But if the tournament's final rounds are held on the deeper, clearer lakes in and around Alpena or on the vast waters of Lake Huron's Thunder Bay, expect smallmouth bass to completely dominate the catches being tallied on the live leader board.
With that thought in mind, who will be the anglers to watch at this event?
2014 General Tire Summit Cup Elimination Rounds - Starting Groups
Obviously, Michigan man, and smallmouth bass fishing expert, Kevin VanDam will be one of the favorites going into the event.
If the Kalamazoo, Mich., resident isn't the 800-pound smallmouth fishing gorilla already sitting in the room with the Summit Cup trophy firmly in his grasp.
Even with the limited fishing experience that KVD has in this part of the state, his overall knowledge of Michigan fishing - and the smallmouth in general - should make his power style of fishing a successful venture in the Alpena event.
But don't assume that KVD is a total lock to win the Alpena event.
Why? Partly because VanDam is in a bit of a slump, at least where his stellar angling career is concerned. Believe it or not, KVD hasn't won an event since the February 2011 Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans.
If you're keeping score at home, that's more than two and a half years since KVD last hoisted some fishing tournament championship hardware up into the air.
And don't think that VanDam's a lock on northern smallmouth waters either. He finished 24th at the Bassmaster Elite Series event last summer at La Crosse, Wis., and he finished 31st at the Elite Series event on Michigan's Lake St. Clair.
As good as he is, VanDam isn't the only angler adept at catching smallmouth bass in rocky, clear water.
This year’s B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Aaron Martens, who was in contention to win the smallmouth dominated Elite Series event on Michigan's Lake St. Clair in August 2013, is one angler to keep in mind as a possible winner in Alpena.
Ditto for Timmy Horton, who has caught plenty of smallmouth bass on his home water of Pickwick Lake in Alabama.
Oklahoma's Jeff Kriet fishes on Lake Murray in the southern part of his state, a rocky and clear lake filled with smallmouths, so don't count "Squirrel" out in Alpena. Ditto for Oklahoma's Edwin Evers, who fishes smallmouth and largemouth rich waters in the northeastern part of the Sooner State.
Arkansas' Mike McClelland and Mark Davis are two other anglers to keep in mind as possible winners of the Alpena event.
McClelland fishes the clear waters of northwestern Arkansas where some good smallmouths live. And Davis, who has plenty of smallmouth experience under his belt too, was the runner-up in the Elite Series smallmouth derby held on Lake St. Clair last summer.
And don't forget Mike Iaconelli and his northern water know-how, hard earned experience that has made Ike another angler with a boat load of smallmouth bass fishing expertise.
What will happen on the waters near Alpena, Mich., as the 2014 General Tire Summit Cup unfolds?
Well, it remains to be seen which angler gets the upper hand and hoists one of the most coveted trophies in all of professional bass fishing.
But it does seem all but certain that green is out and brown is in as the smallmouth bass prepares to dominate a Major League Fishing event for the first time.
Watch Outdoor Channel in January and see what happens.
Because it promises to be a great time for the best bass anglers in the business to target the most aggressive, acrobatic and energetic black bass species that swims in all of North America.
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