ALPENA, MI – If you were to take a stroll around the Reese household in Auburn, California, it would be pretty hard to miss the trappings of MLF veteran Skeet Reese’s professional tournament-fishing success.
Bassmaster Classic trophy here. Angler of the Year award there. A handful of Elite Series trophies scattered here and about. But heading into the 2018 Wiley X Summit Cup in Alpena, Michigan, Reese’s collection was missing one important piece of hardware: an MLF Cup.
Reese remedied that with a dominating performance in the Championship Round on Long Lake, relying heavily on a vibrating jig to accumulate 17 smallmouth for 40 pounds, 11 ounces and easily beating Jacob Wheeler (30-12), Takahiro Omori (27-1), Bobby Lane (26-0), Mike Iaconelli (23-2), Aaron Martens (20-5), Tim Horton (15-4) and Jason Christie (11-13)
“This is, what, my sixth year in MLF, and it took me this long to win one?” Reese joked as he sat down for a post-event press conference. “I’m pretty stoked about this, it’s obviously been really, really hard for me to win one of these things. Finally. It feels like redemption, like ‘I don’t suck!’.”
Reese’s highest previous MLF finish was third in the 2014 Challenge Cup in Denton, Texas. That event – won by Kelley Jordon – was also Reese’s only previous championship appearance. Heading into Alpena, Reese hadn’t advanced out of the Elimination Rounds since the 2015 Summit Cup in Waterville, Maine, a four-event span in which his personal fishing style hampered him.
“I’ve struggled to do well in MLF events,” Reese admitted. “Looking back at most of my career, I tend to start slow and then get dialed in and get stronger and stronger as the days go on. You don’t have that luxury in MLF – you have to start out catching them, and that’s been hard for me.”
Not so in the Championship Round.
Reese recorded his first SCORETRACKER smallmouth just minutes into a blustery Period 1 and racked up six fish for 14-7 in the first hour, focusing on shallow rock piles on the north end of the lake (a pattern he clued into in the previous MLF Cup event contested on Long Lake, in 2014).
“The last time we were here in 2014, I had missed a bunch of bigger fish on topwater on those shallow rockpiles, and I just happened to end up on that (north) end of the lake after the Ride Around,” Reese said. “I whacked one on just about every rockpile I fished in the morning, which put me in a pretty comfortable position heading into the second period.”
Reese maintained his momentum with the vibrating jig in Period 2, but catching slightly fewer fish as the morning wind died and the sun rose higher. Those fish were of the right quality, though: moving away from his shallow-rockpile pattern in favor of small pockets of grass, Reese’s SCORETRACKER for the period showed a 3-4, a 3-2 and a 2-10, three of the five biggest fish caught in the period, giving him 29-4 and a comfortable lead over Jacob Wheeler Heading into Period 3.
Reese returned to his rock pattern in the final round, picking off five more smallies for 11-7 to keep his margin over Wheeler.
“After so many years of fishing these events, to get a victory, it’s about damn time,” Reese said.