April 11, 2013
Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
A crowd was gathering on the docks located at Istokpoga Marina as the first hint of daylight appeared to the east under the Spanish moss hanging from the cypress trees that surround this Florida fishing gem.
There was a buzz in the still humid air as the first eight anglers prepared to head out for Elimination Day One action on the water at the Jack Link's Major League Fishing 2013 GEICO Challenge Cup on Lake Istokpoga.
Typical questions being tossed around were like these: Who would win? How would the lake fish? What kind of lures and seasonal patterns would prevail? And would any of the lake's double-digit giants help some angler's cause?
As I peppered MLF co-founder Boyd Duckett with such questions during our early morning dock-talk session, he smiled and said he really didn't know the answers to those queries.
Yet, that is.
"These questions would be easy to answer in any other format because I would have practiced," said the Alabama pro and 2007 Bassmaster Classic champion.
"What is so unusual about Major League Fishing is we are clueless (coming into this event). I've never (personally) seen this lake. I can't look it up on Google. And what I can see here as it's breaking day, that's the most I've ever seen of this lake.
"I know it's Florida, I know it's an east wind fishing day, but the bottom line is that we're not going to know anything (else) until we put the trolling motor in the water."
So did Duckett have any type of game plan in mind?
Not really he smiled.
"It's just impossible to make a game plan (in this format) until you put the trolling motor in the water," said the four-time winner on the B.A.S.S. tournament circuit.
He did allow that his previous Florida fishing knowledge and his knowledge of late fall fishing patterns in this region shouldn't hurt his cause.
But still, Duckett emphasized that the lack of knowledge and preparation that is designed to level out the MLF playing field left him uncertain about how the day would proceed and play out.
All he could fall back on - until the trolling motor hit the water later that morning - were preconceived notions that might or might not hold any merit.
While there is no real information concerning the Lake Istokpoga largemouth bass until the eight anglers hit the water and make their first casts of the day, there is something that Duckett and his fellow competitors can fall back on.
And that is the knowledge that they have about each other and what each angler may or may not be doing as the leader board begins to move in the first period.
"Knowledge of the other anglers helps," agreed Duckett. "Everything that we didn't use to do you pay more attention to (now).
"Our format is that we're in a small zone (and) we're in that zone so we can see each other. To me, the format lends itself (to the fact that) you had better pay attention to (the other guys)."
Duckett points to another sport as an example.
"If you're in NASCAR and all of the other guys going faster are on the high side of the track, if you stay down on the apron, you're going to lose," he laughed. "It shouldn't take long for the guys (out here) to realize that you had better pay attention to the field in this format."
Even if it goes against the way that they have typically fished elsewhere in their pro angling careers.
"This is completely different than what we've done before," said Duckett. "We've always gone out on our own, found our own fish, and stayed on our own deal for the most part.
"That's not what Major League Fishing is," he added. "It's more hand-to-hand combat (on the water)."
Which makes for some highly entertaining - and educational - fishing action as the Outdoor Channel television cameras get up close and personal with these MLF pros participating in the most exciting tournament format that professional angling has ever seen.
Jack Link's Major League Fishing Show Page