From Major League Fishing
If the weather on Elimination Day 2 of the Jack Link’s Major League Fishing Challenge Cup presented by Busch Beer at Lake Amistad was considered uncomfortable, then conditions on Day 3 were nearly unfishable. The third group of eight anglers competing in the elimination rounds arrived at the Diablo East takeoff and found that the winds had shifted directions.
The relatively mild temperature of the Southwest wind from the day prior gave way to a blustery Northern wind that brought chilly temperatures and big waves rolling into the launch ramp. This created challenges for the anglers and the production staff as waves were rolling in over the top of the official Challenge Cup Nitro and Bass Cat boats as they attempted to launch for the day.
With the winds expected to worsen, the Commissioner of Major League Fishing, Don Rucks, consulted with the anglers and producers about the conditions. Without having an extra day in the tight filming schedule, the decision was made to switch fishing zones.
When looking at the wind direction and the available areas, the decision was made to swap to zone six, which was originally planned for the Championship round. Day 3, originally scheduled to be contested in the 6,300 acres between the Highway 90 bridge to the west and Long Point and Saw Tooth at the mouth of San Pedro Canyon, would now be fished in San Pedro Canyon, relatively protected from the north winds.
What the adjustment meant was that any map study the anglers had done the night prior, after learning their fishing zone, would now be out the window. It would also mean that the first fishing period would be shortened to accommodate moving the take off around the lake to the Hwy 277 North launch ramp.
After the move, the first period of the fishing day was shortened by approximately 30 minutes, but all parties agreed that safety should take priority. What the move also meant was that the field of eight anglers would be fishing in perhaps the most pure and level playing field yet. Because of the last minute switch, the anglers had less than a half an hour to even contemplate their new surrounding before fishing began.
However, the 24 anglers that made up the field of the Challenge Cup are among the best in the business, so adaptation wouldn’t be a problem for the eight players in the field.
Those anglers included 2007 Bassmaster Classic Champion Boyd Duckett, four-time B.A.S.S. winner, 10-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and FLW Tour winner Kelly Jordon, Elite Series Pro Jeff Kriet, a B.A.S.S. winner and eight-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier, six-time B.A.S.S winner and eight-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Mike McClelland, three-time B.A.S.S winner, seven-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and four-time FLW winner Ish Monroe, 2007 Bassmaster Angler of the Year and 2009 Bassmaster Classic Champion Skeet Reese, four-time B.A.S.S. and FLW Winner, 10-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and the record holder for the largest single day weight for a five fish limit of 45 pounds, 2 ounces, Dean Rojas, and three-time Bassmaster winner, and the record holder for the heaviest winning three day B.A.S.S. weight for his April 2000 83-pound, 5-ounce victory in the California Invitational.
On a side note, Rojas arrived in Del Rio with a badly sprained right wrist he suffered while at the BASSZONE.com Fish-n-Chips event, held just days before the Challenge Cup on Grand Lake in Oklahoma. Rojas decided to go ahead with the competition after consulting with a physician and receiving treatment. He also consulted with Major League Fishing Commissioner Don Rucks to insure that he could safely compete.
|Due to strong North winds, the area scheduled for the final - Zone 6, 3,130 acres - was used for Elimination Round Day 3 Fishing. |
It didn’t take long for the first fish of the day to be posted to the leader board, but the overall success of the morning was limited. Mike McClelland used a spinnerbait on a windblown point to fool a 2.5-pound bass at 8:04 a.m. It was the injured Rojas who struck next at 8:20 a.m., when he flipped a soft plastic creature bait into brush at the back of a creek and boated a 2.75 pounder.
Overall, whether it was the tough conditions, or the shortened first period, the eight competitors only managed to boat 13 keepers for a total of 26 pounds, the lowest morning totals of the three Elimination days.
McClelland was able to add three more keepers in the morning to bring his total to 6.5 pounds to take the first period lead. He was followed by a battling Rojas who fought through his painfully injured wrist to post 5.75 pounds for two keepers and land in second place. Not far behind him in third was Reese who produced three bass for 5.5 pounds by tossing a jig on offshore structure. Jordon landed in fourth place with one 3-pound fish that he caught on a dropshot rig.
Meanwhile, Monroe pitched a Texas rigged soft plastic creature bait to isolated grass patches and landed one 2.5-pound keeper to end the first round in fifth place. Velvick, who was fishing in his first competition since neck surgery forced him to take a year off from fishing, boated a 1.5-pound keeper to land in sixth place. Duckett also produced a single keeper that weighed 1.25 pounds to place seventh and Kriet wound up in eighth position when he failed to produce a keeper.
The second period brought change to the standings as anglers began to put together pieces of the puzzle the longer they had their lines in the water. McClelland started to dial in to what the fish were doing, and using his namesake jerkbait, was able to string together an impressive period. Focusing on windblown points, the Arkansas pro produced six keeper bass for 16.5 pounds which kept him in the lead after two periods with a total of 23 pounds.
Jordon also began putting things together. He picked up an Alabama rig and fished long stretches of creek channel bends for bass suspended in submerged hardwoods to add four bass weighing 11.75 pounds to bring his total to 14.75 pounds, good for second place in the standings.
The real surprise of the second period was Kriet. While he didn’t produce a keeper in the first period, the Ardmore, Okla., pro produced six keepers for 11.75 pounds, which catapulted him in the standings from last to third place.
Rojas continued to battle, and his three keepers added another 5.75 pounds to bring his total to 11.5 pounds, which remarkably found him in fourth place and in position to qualify after two rounds.
Monroe managed to add 8.5 pounds to his first round performance by putting three more keepers in the boat. He wound up in fifth with 11 pounds even. Reese continued to fish steady, adding 5 pounds to bring his total to 10.5 pounds, placing him in sixth position.
Duckett produced two keepers for an additional 3.5 pounds, raising his two-round total to 4.75 pounds and placing him seventh. Velvick missed several opportunities in the second round and failed to post a fish. His 1.5 pounds from the first period put him in eighth position heading into the afternoon session.
The afternoon session proved to be eventful as four anglers – Reese, Jordon, Monroe and Duckett – leapfrogged each other throughout the afternoon, fighting for the final qualifying spot. While those four were battling it out, McClelland continued to steadily add to his total. By the end of the period, McClelland had boated eight more bass weighing 15.5 pounds and took the top qualifying spot with 38.5 pounds.
The other remarkable performance in the third period belonged to Kriet. Following a morning session that saw him zero, Kriet improved to third in the second period, then strung together 10 keepers by alternating tactics between a jerkbait, a shaky head, and he even flipped a 6.5-pound largemouth out of matted grass. His 10 keepers added 25.75 pounds to his total weight of 37.5 pounds and launching him into second place for his qualifying round.
Reese got on a tear himself in the afternoon period. While he had focused mainly on the jig, which produced one keeper in the round, he made a switch to a dropshot rig at 3:15 p.m. Three minutes later, Reese put his second keeper in the boat, then added four more fish to bring his total keepers for the afternoon to six, adding 12.75 pounds and bringing him to a third place total of 23.25 pounds.
Jordon continued to toss the Alabama Rig. Focusing on quality bites, Jordon put three more keepers in the boat, and added 6.25 pounds to his total. His final weight of 21 pounds was enough to put him into the final qualifying spot by two pounds.
The first man out in the final qualifying round was Monroe. His afternoon total of 8 pounds included a 4-pounder at 3:39 p.m. that put him in position to overtake Jordon, but he was unable to land another fish. His 19-pound total put him in fifth place.
Duckett made a hard charge in the final period. He boated nine keeper bass on soft plastics, adding 12 pounds to his weight. His 16.75 pounds put him into sixth position. Battling his injured wrist more and more by the end of the day, Rojas was only able to add one more keeper to bring his total to 12.75 pounds for seventh place. Velvick rallied too, adding 9.75 pounds to bring his total to 11.25 pounds, putting him in eighth place.
With the completion of the third Elimination round, the 12 qualifying anglers move on to the Sudden Death semifinal rounds, while the other 12 anglers that didn’t advance get to sit on the bank and see how things shake out for the Jack Link’s Major League Fishing Challenge Cup presented by Busch Beer at Lake Amistad.
Now, the anglers must prepare for a new wrinkle, Sudden Death semifinal rounds, where the clock means very little. All that matters is getting to a cutline weight faster than four others in the field. From these rounds, four move on to the finals, and eight more go home.
Qualifiers for Sudden Death Semifinal Rounds
Jason Quinn: Day 1 qualifier with 58.25 pounds
Kevin VanDam: Day 1 qualifier with 42 pounds
Gary Klein: Day 1 qualifier with 41 pounds
Mike McClelland: Day 3 qualifier with 38.5 pounds
Jeff Kriet: Day 3 qualifier with 37.5 pounds
Brent Ehrler: Day 1 qualifier with 35.25 pounds
Mike Iaconelli: Day 2 qualifier with 34.5 pounds
Todd Faircloth: Day 2 qualifier with 32 pounds
Alton Jones: Day 2 qualifier with 23.25 pounds
Skeet Reese: Day 3 qualifier with 23.25 pounds
Takahiro Omori: Day 2 qualifier with 23 pounds
Kelly Jordon: Day 3 qualifier with 21 pounds