With Major League Fishing visiting Alpena, Michigan for the third time in the league’s history, the first topic of conversation at each morning’s launch is about who has fished the day’s lake and who has not.
When day two’s group headed to Hubbard for their Elimination Round, it didn’t take long for the been-here-fished-this anglers to identify themselves, making the never-seen-this-place-before anglers a little nervous.
On this day, Andy Montgomery, Jacob Wheeler and Brent Chapman, were all seeing Hubbard for the first time. The three anglers were not in the Cup events when MLF first visited Alpena. Since that time, all three qualified for the Cups through the Selects.
Montgomery was the first to learn of the experience disparity unfolding on Hubbard on this morning. He and Chapman had actually qualified for the Cups before the Selects came to Alpena, so neither one has been to Eastern Michigan before.
“Nope, I’ve never been here before,” Montgomery said. “This is my first time being in this part of the country. And there are some guys here this morning that have fished this lake before: that’s not what Major League Fishing is supposed to be about. I’m not complaining; it’s just that some of these guys already know right where they’re going to start and I have no idea what this place even looks like – this not what this format is supposed to do.”
Montgomery said he did remember watching some of the Alpena shows when they first came out, but it was so long ago he does not remember which lakes were which.
A few boats over, Jacob Wheeler was also coming to terms with being on the outside looking in.
“No, I’ve never been here; we didn’t come to this lake when I came to Alpena for the Selects,” Wheeler said. “But I’ll tell you what I did do: I watched the TV show from the first Alpena Cup and from what I remember, this place is full of smallmouth – not many largemouth were caught on this lake – so that decision is made for me. And that’s a huge decision to have out of the way. Just trying to determine which species to fish for can take up a whole period.”
Meanwhile, those anglers seeing Hubbard for the second time appeared pretty relaxed.
Mike Iaconelli remembers Hubbard well.
“I’m glad to be back,” Iaconelli said. “I really want some revenge on this place. The last time we were here I got my butt kicked and this place got the best of me. So when the shows aired, I watched them pretty carefully because I wanted to know what I missed. I learned some things from those shows so I’m really looking forward to getting some revenge here.”
“One thing that bothers me, though, is this rain,” Iaconelli continued, pointing up to the dark, seeping skies. “Smallmouths and rain are like oil and water – they don’t go together real well. Smallmouth are sight feeders – they love the sun for that reason. So this rain might put a damper on the first period or two.”
The last time Greg Hackney visited Alpena for the 2014 Cup, he had a big time, catching over 40 pounds in each round and finishing second overall.
“I’m good with it,” Hackney said with a chuckle. “I had fun last time I was here. Honestly, though, I’d rather go somewhere we’ve never been – I think we all would – but the reality is you can’t always go somewhere completely new. So it is what it is and I’m good with it. I know how this lake lays. I know it’s not very big. I know they live here. I know what species I’m fishing for, so that let’s me keep about 17 or 18 rods under the deck, which is a big help. The only thing that’s not good is this weather. I like some sunshine when I’m chasing smallies. But other than that, it’s all good; I’m ready to roll.”