February 11, 2013
Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
When Jack Link’s Major League Fishing pro Jeff Kriet enters championship day, he can't afford to overlook the obvious; this final day at Chautauqua Lake is one of the biggest fishing days in the Oklahoma pro's career.
Especially as the cameras record Kriet's on-the-water decisions, along with those of the other five Major League Fishing championship finalists, all of them looking to claim the big silver trophy at the conclusion of the 2013 General Tire Summit Cup competition.
"It's no secret that most of these fish have been caught on docks," said Kriet about the event’s primary pattern on the 13,000-acre western New York angling jewel.
The Oklahoma pro, known affectionately to his fellow competitors as "Squirrel," says that even with high overcast, warm and muggy conditions, the seasonal docks at Chautauqua will play a pivotal role in the outcome, especially early on in the day.
"They may not be quite as tight to the docks in the morning, (but they'll still be close)," said Kriet, a runner-up to fellow Major League Fishing pro Kevin VanDam at the 2010 Bassmaster Classic.
He admits that the lure of Chautauqua's big - as in Lake Erie big - smallmouths weighing up to eight pounds is highly tempting. But he'll do his best to avoid giving in to the urge to go on the prowl too early trying to find a big school of bronzebacks offshore, something that could "smoke the rest of the field."
"I'd really like to go out (looking for them), but the situation is that with as much time as we have to do it in, you really can't be out there looking for them while everybody else is (on the docks) racking up numbers of them," said Kriet.
He does admit that all of that could go sailing out the proverbial window if the leader board begins to explode early on in the day.
"It's a gamble," said Kriet. "If I get to a point where I feel like somebody is running away with it, I might give up a period and risk finishing in last to go out and try and find them. Because if you find them out, I think you might blow it away."
Kriet is worried that the prevalent dock bite pattern could be trashed by the crowds that are gathering at Chautauqua.
Zone 2 (Championship Day 6)
Zone 2 is the premier bass area on Chautauqua Lake. Like zone 1, Zone 2 offers both shallow and deep water, with the deepest area of the lake off Lower Dewittville Bay. Some the finest lake front property is in Zone 2. For bass anglers, that means some great dock fishing action.
"The thing that you're going to run into is that this zone doesn't have a lot of docks," he said. "Now, after the first period, every other dock is going to have some kids jumping on the top of them and people walking around on them. These docks are so shallow that could take them out of play."
If that happens, then what?
"I'm probably going to push the dock deal for a little bit, just because you have to," said Kriet, a one-time winner on the Bassmaster Elite Series. "They're not that smart and if you get it around one of them, he's probably going to bite first thing this morning.
"But later on in the day, you're going to see some guys getting frustrated, I promise you," he added. "And that's when I'm going to have to make a decision."
What decision? The decision of whether or not Kriet will stay shallow and green for largemouths or crank it up and head out for the big brown smallmouths that roam Chautauqua's deeper water.
"This lake's got a lot of fish," said Kriet. "We touched one group of fish (earlier in the event), the dumb green ones. The big brown ones are out. The ones that have been caught (smallmouths) have been caught on accident."
As important as that decision might be, there's one that could be even bigger for Kriet and his fellow pros. And that's the decision to ignore the voice of self-doubt that always creeps into an angler's mind when the race towards a championship is on and the finish is in doubt.
"For me, managing my emotions has always been my biggest deal," admitted Kriet. "I've just got to put it in my head that I'm as good as or better than anyone else out here. That's the way I've got to think.
"I've got to think that none of these guys has nothing on me," he added. "I mean they're all good ... but in my mind, I've got to think that I'm just a little bit better than they are."
That should be true throughout the day for Kriet and the other five championship round finalists.
But it will be especially true in the third period as the outcome is likely in doubt and the real-time leader board fluctuates and emotions rise.
Because that's when the 2013 General Tire Summit Cup championship will be won, and lost.