January 17, 2014
Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
ALPENA, Mich. – When I caught up with Jack Link’s Major League Fishing pro Jason Quinn the morning of his Elimination Round, he was a bit lost in thought.
After all, the visibility was virtually zero thanks to a heavy, early morning fog that was blanketing the northeastern Michigan area near Alpena.
In effect, the damp pea soup had effectively grounded the MLF bass boat fleet until visibility improved.
Where's a Lake Huron lighthouse when you need one?
Quinn also was a bit lost in thought since he had just discovered where he and the other seven MLF pros would be fishing.
Like the previous two days, that would be on Hubbard Lake, site of the Elimination days for the 2014 General Tire Summit Cup near Alpena, Mich.
Like the pros during the previous two days of Elimination Round competition, Quinn and the rest of competitors were literally in the dark about where they were fishing. Until their boat official's truck actually pulled up into the Hubbard Lake boat launch parking lot.
What were Quinn's thoughts as the fog persisted?
"I actually like a little bit of foggy weather," said Quinn. "(When we actually get out there), it actually gives you a little bit of a topwater bite."
Provided that his 15-minute look-see boat ride around Hubbard shows him the kind of habitat that he is hoping to find.
"We're going to put in a bit, ride around, and see what it looks like," said Quinn, a one time winner on the B.A.S.S. tournament trail. "We've got to find us a place to start."
Especially since Quinn isn't sure of whether Hubbard holds a lot of smallmouth, a good number of largemouths, or perhaps even a mixture of both black bass species.
Hazarding a pure guess in the foggy gloom of the boat ramp parking lot, Quinn opted for the latter.
“I've got like 25 rods in the boat.”
Especially when it comes to tackle selection, something that Quinn says he spent a lot of time working on during the previous evening as he pondered what might lie ahead.
"You've got to pack so much stuff (when you don't know where you're going)," said Quinn. "I've got like 25 rods in the boat."
Umm, 25 rods?
"Yeah, we're going to go out there, look at (things), and see what happens," laughed Quinn.
Given the location of 2014 Summit Cup event, and given the smallmouth dominated fisheries at recent Elite Series stops held just prior to this event, Quinn admitted that his tackle selection hinged on the bet of bronzeback bass ruling the day.
"I chose predominantly smallmouth pattern stuff," he added. "Your tubes, your drop-shots, your spinnerbaits and your jerkbaits, and stuff like that."
But that doesn't mean that he ignored the possibility of catching a largemouth. Or two. Or three.
"(You) know I also chose some flipping gear, some frogs, a chatterbait, and stuff like that ... just in case there is a largemouth bite going on up here."
Does Quinn feel the need to forget the action on the Elite Series where competition took place at other northern smallmouth rich waters?
"Yeah, absolutely, you have to," said Quinn. "But at the end of the day, smallmouth are smallmouth. They kind of relate to the same type of bottom (up here) as they do anywhere else and the same type of structure.
"And so do largemouth. Largemouth are a little bit more easy to target up here in northern waters. You get around a little bit more vegetation and you get in the shallow water (up here) and that's just where largemouth live."
Given that, Quinn thinks that he'll have a big decision looming in front of him about whether to target the brown smallmouth bass or the green largemouth bass.
"(If) this is one of those little lakes that doesn't have very many largemouths in it, you could waste a lot of time fishing for them real quick," he said.
If smallmouths rule the day, does Quinn - whose career earnings on the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament trail are approaching the $1 million dollar mark - think that the day's action will get better as it goes along?
"It does get better as the day goes along because smallmouth tend to group up more than the largemouth do up here," he said. "What will happen is that you will fish a lot of dead water and then you will run across a school of them.
"You can exert a lot of time trying to find them, but hey, all you've got to do is find a couple of schools of them. If you find one or two schools of them, you can set on them all day."
“... you know, Kevin, he doesn't fish over here on this side of the state much at all. He stays more a couple of hours on the other side of the state.”
Which should make the leaderboard sing as the first, second and third periods unfold before Outdoor Channel television cameras.
One difference in Elimination Day Three and the previous two days is the appearance of the proverbial 800-pound gorilla.
Meaning that Day Three is the first day of competition for Kalamazoo, Mich., angling legend Kevin VanDam, the four-time Bassmaster Classic champ and a finalist in every MLF event he has attended.
Will Quinn and the other anglers be paying close attention to what KVD is doing on the leaderboard and to what portion of Hubbard he is doing it in?
"Probably so," laughed Quinn. "He knows how to read (these) lakes (up here in Michigan).
"But you know, Kevin, he doesn't fish over here on this side of the state much at all. He stays more a couple of hours on the other side of the state."
Even so, Quinn is expecting KVD to be KVD, and for him to have an effect on the rest of Elimination Day Three anglers.
"It will be interesting to see," said Quinn. "I'm sure he's going to catch them (though). He's a smallmouth kind of guru and I'm sure that he'll be right on up there (at the top of the leaderboard)."
Which is exactly where Quinn hopes to be by day's end.
Right up there at the top of the MLF leaderboard where he hopes to give the well-known Michigan man plenty of company.
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