Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
With the arrival of the first day of competition at the Jack Link's Major League Fishing 2014 General Tire Summit Cup event in Alpena, Mich., the 24 pro anglers arriving at this picturesque Lake Huron harbor town were a bit clueless.
Quite literally, I might add.
Because unlike the three previous events in MLF history, where anglers knew both the lake and the zone that they would be fishing when they left the hotel for the boat ramp each morning, that simply wasn't the case this time.
In fact, when the eight pros competing in the first round actually woke up, they had no idea where they would be competing.
Not, that is, until their boat official actually turned the pickup truck into the parking lot at the Hubbard Lake boat launch facility.
Then and only then did the pros know that Hubbard, the 8,850-acre body of water not far from Alpena, would be where they begin their pursuit of winning the 2014 General Tire Summit Cup.
Standing in the predawn darkness enveloping the parking lot of the Sanctuary Inn and Conference Center in Alpena on the morning of Elimination Round Day One, Skeet Reese was one of those anglers without a clue.
Despite a lifetime spent acquiring knowledge and experience about bass fishing at the highest levels of competition, the 2007 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year and the 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion admitted that he was a bit perplexed.
About both what would happen and where it would happen.
Even so, Reese said he did know that he was highly motivated to perform well during the first round of the Alpena event.
"I know I'm tired," laughed Reese, stifling a yawn back as truck motors idled nearby.
"And I know (that) I didn't catch them last week in the Elite Series (event on Lake St. Clair in Michigan). And I'm not happy with my last MLF finishes (either).
"I didn't catch them last time. So I'm ready to catch them this time."
While at the time of this interview Reese had no idea about what lake he would be fishing, that didn't mean that the wheels weren't already turning in his head.
Especially since he did know that he was fishing in northeastern Michigan, home to some good smallmouth action.
"Depending on where we fish, we might have smallmouths and largemouths," said Reese.
"It's going to be one of those deals where you're going to try and fish shallow but will (also have to) experiment and go out a little bit.
"If you can find them out (in deeper water off the bank), you might be able to catch them a little bit better out."
Reese admitted that being deeper into the history of Major League Fishing does help the anglers - himself included - come into an event a little more comfortable these days.
Certainly more so than they were two years ago at Amistad (site of the first ever MLF event).
"Yeah, I think so," said Reese. "You understand the format and the concept (now). So you're just trying to learn how to deal with it (all) emotionally and keep (those emotions) in check.
"You've got to fish smart (out here)."
With that thought in mind, what does Reese - one of the best bass angling pros in modern times - know now that he didn't know a couple of years ago?
"The shallow water guys who have gone to the bank and have picked them off (there), those are the ones who have done better (in the three previous MLF events)," said the California pro with seven B.A.S.S. wins and more than $2.77 million in career earnings on his resume.
"They (the previous MLF winners) have found the shallow bite and the shallow fish."
But that might not hold true this time.
Because even with no information about where he was going to fish later in the morning, Reese did know the state - and the portion of the state - where he would be fishing.
Armed with that knowledge, he indicated that he wasn't so sure that fishing shallow near the bank will be how this particular event will be won.
"(Even with the prior history of MLF events), I still believe that if you can find the outside fish out a little bit deeper, you can potentially get a lot of reward and do that really fast," said Reese.
And with that idea tucked away into the angling supercomputer of his mind, Reese got into his boat official's pickup truck, shut the door and headed for the unknown water body.
Armed with hope that his idea, conceived without any prior knowledge of what lake he would soon be fishing on, might somehow prove to hold water and be true.
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