Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
Most of the time, when one of the 24 Jack Link’s Major League Fishing pros launch their boat in a body of water, they carry a lot of knowledge with them - past successes, past failures, spots that were good, and spots that were not so good. But not this week.
This week, with the exception of Floridians Bobby Lane and Shaw Grigsby, when the Major League Fishing pros hit the shallow water of 28,000-acre Lake Istokpoga, they bring nothing to the table - no previous experience, no previously gathered intel, no practice time on the water. They'll hit the water all eyes, all ears and fishing by the literal seat of their pants.
Case in point is Kelly Jordon, the Texas pro who was a finalist at the Major League Fishing event at Lake Amistad in November 2011. When I caught up with him on the dock prior to the Day One launch, Jordon was already deep in thought, trying to figure things out by using the limited information he had gathered during the one minute boat ride from the boat ramp at Windy Point Park to the MLF headquarters at Istokpoga Marina.
First thing he noticed? The water temperature was cooler.
"Launching at the ramp, I got to look at the water temperature and it's in the mid 70s, around 75 degrees," said the Texas pro. "So that's cooling off (a bit), it's not the 80s or 90s of summertime."
That number was already keying Jordon in on what he might need to do on the day.
"It's the fall, but a lot of times, that translates into almost pre-spawn down here in Florida because they can start spawning in November and December and spawn all the way to March," said Jordon. "It's not cold so they ought to be feeding pretty good. I'm hoping to find some pretty active fish."
Second thing he noticed? Typical of most Florida lakes, there was plenty of vegetation.
"The sun's not up, but I do know there's grass in the lake," said Jordon. "I saw some floating on the way over and I saw some real shallow on the graph. Looks like there are some reeds, some pads, and some eel grass that I saw at the mouth of this harbor so it looks like we're going to have a lot of options.
"Tell you what, it ought to be pretty fun."
With all of that preliminary data swirling around in KJ's head, it was easy to see that he was already formulating a game plan despite knowing nothing more of the lake than what zone he was fishing. That's what pros with four B.A.S.S. wins, one FLW win, and more than $1.5 million in combined career earnings do.
"A lot of times at this time of year in Florida, it happens quick and early," said Jordon. "If you can find them feeding early, that's going to be a big key in this match. I'm going to try and have all of my stuff ready so I can fish like a madman during the first hour and hopefully connect with them somewhere."
Zone 6: 8.4 miles primary shoreline, 0.9 miles island shoreline, 5,836 acres
One question I threw at KJ standing on the dock before the Day One launch was this: does all of his tournament knowledge of nearby Lake Okeechobee, a little more than 50 miles away, help or hurt here at Istokpoga?
"Well, I'll be able to tell you after the match," laughed Jordon. "On the map, it looks like a little Lake Okeechobee and I LOVE Lake Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee has lots of big fish and it's grass fishing, it's Florida fishing. When you get in the right areas, it can be awesome."
Jordon did throw some caution out for himself, however.
"One thing I've learned about Florida fishing is that the fish are where they are," he said. "You can fish the most beautiful stuff that you can find and there will be no bass there.
"They hold a lot of times in areas like big loose schools that will take up a couple of acres sometimes. So if you hit them, you're in them and if you don't, you can miss by a mile.
"So you move, move until you catch them and then you can sit down (on a spot) and usually there's a lot of fish in there. So that's one thing that experience here in Florida, it may help."
Once he hits the water, what will Jordon do during his 15-minute "Look-See" before the day's action begins?
"Well, (first), you've got to read the grass and see how the grass lays out," he said. "Then you've got to take into account any kind of wind or water color change or where some floating vegetation has blown into certain areas. Then you've got to find the fish."
Jordon said that one thing he will do is keep an eye on the sky, but not for deteriorating weather conditions.
"A lot of times when they're really feeding heavily, down here, they'll almost school and the birds can tip you off," he said. "Since it's starting to be fall down here, there might be a lot more birds down here so I'm definitely going to keep my eyes open."
With two previous Major League Fishing events under his belt, does Jordon have any strategy changes planned for Day One?
He shrugged his shoulders a bit and said he wouldn't know for sure until he hit the water and saw how the fishery and the day's competition played out.
"We're still learning," said Jordon. "You can get hung up fishing for big ones in this thing and get beat bad by a guy that's just catching a lot of fish.
"That's different than how we normally fish tournaments during our whole careers, but at the same time, everybody is under the same format and you have to adjust accordingly. We're professional anglers, we need to be able to fish to the rules."
In some ways, the strategy of quantity over quality goes against Jordon's angling DNA that was groomed on East Texas' big bass factory, Lake Fork, where he used to regularly guide anglers to double-digit lunkers.
"That's one of the hard things to do, especially on a lake like this that I know has some big fish," said Jordon, a big bass junkie who has landed more daily big bass than any other tournament pro in Bassmaster Elite Series history.
"Are you going to go for a lot of pounds with two- or three-pounders maybe or are you going to go try and flip with some serious heavy line and go for maybe a couple of five, six, seven, 10, or who knows how big a bass that are in here.
"Hopefully, you can get into all of them."
And that caused Jordon to smile and settle on his Day One game plan.
"You know, like I said, I think I'm going to move fast, try to find some active fish and get a bunch of fish on the board and rack some fish up and then if it does slow down, that's when you can slow down (a bit) and go for some big bites," he said.
And with that, Jordon stepped onto his Major League Fishing boat and prepared to go fishing.
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