January 11, 2013
Can the West rule the East?
That's one of the big questions as the second group of eight Elimination Round competitors get set to kick off Day 2 at the Jack Link's Major League Fishing 2013 General Tire Summit Cup event at Chautauqua Lake.
For Aaron Martens, an Alabama transplant by way of his native California angling roots, who knows what the day will bring.
"I'll go out there and probably have 10 to 12 rods rigged up and be ready to go," said Martens. "I'll probably have everything with me."
Martens is hopeful that his knowledge of other Empire State waters will have at least some carryover effect at Chautauqua.
"It is New York and I love fishing here so it should be interesting," he said.
One of the most compelling story lines during this competition is which black bass species the anglers will target: The native northern largemouths that fin their way around Chautauqua's numerous boat docks and shallow cover, or the hefty Lake Erie size smallmouth bass that lurk just offshore.
"Most of the guys in this group are probably going to go shallow for largemouths," said Oklahoma's Jeff Kriet. "I might go out and take a risk by going after smallmouth bass. I'll know real quick if the largemouths are biting (though)."
That potential risk by Kriet is magnified since every legal fish counts in the league’s innovative format.
"You're just trying to find some schools (of fish)," said Martens. "When you do find some pods of fish, you can keep catching them and do pretty good numbers wise.
"(You'll) find some bigger fish mixed in with those schools of fish. But I think going around looking for the big ones that are supposed to be in this lake would be too time consuming and you'd probably lose doing that."
As the Major League Fishing pros found out in the first round, finding pods of fish won't be as easy at Chautauqua since the grass- and dock-filled fishing wonderland is a bit off-color.
"It's dirtier than I thought it would be," admitted Martens. "The water clarity was quite a bit different (than what I expected). Looks like they've had a pretty good algae bloom here."
Even so, Martens says that advancing to the next round is as much about the angler and what he does as it is about the fish that roam the 13,000-acre natural lake.
"Time management (is very important)," said Martens. "I'm pretty prepared (here). I was pretty prepared at Amistad, but I know more how it (the format) works now and the second time through, it should be easier."
In theory, that is. But once the real-time leader board begins to pop, who knows what will happen.
"You've got to make (adjustments) immediately," said Martens. "Instantly."
Marten's longtime California sidekick, Skeet Reese, knows that making good judgment calls and on-the-water adjustments is compounded by the pressure of the leader board.
"(You've got to understand) how the leader board is going to affect you," said Reese. "I'll try to play off of that a little bit more (this time), whether it is on offense or on defense."
Offense or defense?
"The zones are smaller (here versus Amistad) and when you know who is catching what and you see them doing what they are doing, there's going to be some pressure put on some boys out here."
Reese says that one of the keys to Major League Fishing success is understanding how to manage the heightened pressure.
"You've got to realize that you've just got to go fish," said Reese. "You've got to go try and catch as many as you can. You're hoping to catch two-pounders, four-pounders, six-pounders and everything else in between.
"It's not just a matter of swinging for a couple of big fish. You've got to swing for a bunch of fish."
Martens knows that he has got to pay attention to the lessons that the bass are teaching as the round progresses.
"Today will be a learning process for the eight of us," he said. "And the four of us that move on, today will give us some good insight on how to approach the next round."
One of those West Coast anglers hoping to move on is Arizona pro Dean Rojas, one of pro angling's best frog-slingers.
Given Chautauqua's mother lode of docks and vegetation, Rojas - who was hampered by an injured wrist at last year's Amistad event - smiled when asked whether his beloved frog lure nicknamed "Kermit" would be used often, early and late.
"That's what I'm going to do first, that's what I do best," said Rojas. "That's one thing you always want to do (out here) is fish your strengths right off the bat. It's just a matter of picking the right stretches by looking at (things) and evaluating (things as we fish)."
While Rojas and the other anglers are in the dark about what Chautauqua has to offer, his brief look at the lake during the anglers’ meeting and his look at the zone map has him feeling confident as Kermit rides shotgun.
"I have everything that I want here, I'll put it that way," he said.