The first 10 anglers headed to Lake Pokegama in August 2016: Select Pros Keith Poche and Jacob Wheeler joined full-time Cup anglers Edwin Evers, Skeet Reese, Jeff Kreit, Aaron Martens, Tommy Biffle, Gary Klein, Dean Rojas and Alton Jones.
Although there are two Pokegama Lakes in Minnesota, the one the Pros find themselves on is the one formed by the Upper Mississippi River located just a few miles southeast of Grand Rapids. Pokegama is actually connected to another body of water: Jay Gould Lake. Together, the two lakes offer about 7,000 fishable acres to the Elimination Round 1 Summit Cup anglers.
Wheeler noted early on that there were large numbers of birds around the lake, signaling to him that there were plenty of fish in the lake.
“When there’s birds, there’s normally schooling smallmouth,” he said.
Reese and Martens seemed to agree, looking for diving birds in the 15-minute Mercury Ride Thru as a sign of where they should start the day, while Biffle and Jones started by fishing near a bridge.
Klein had the first catch of the day with a 1 lb., 14 oz. fish off a spinning rod. Martens used a jerkbait to fish his way to a commanding lead early on, with more than 3 times as much weight as his closest competitor halfway through the Period.
At the end of Period 1, Martens, Wheeler, Klein and Evers were in the top 4 spots. Those four would continue to dominate through the rest of the day and eventually take their place in the Sudden Death rounds later in the week.
Many of the anglers were surprised by the number of largemouth in the lake as they expected it to be a smallmouth fishery.
As Period 2 kicked off, the anglers seemed to be finding patterns that worked for their individual fishing styles and strategies. Flipping seemed to be the name of the game for many of the anglers who were able to point fish on the SCORETRACKER early.
Wheeler went from skipping wacky worm under docks to frog fishing on more open waters. As the anglers guessed before getting out on the lake, there was a spot for almost any type of fishing on Lake Pokegama.
At the close of Period 2, Martens, Klein, Reese and Wheeler were holding strong in the top 4 spots with Martens on 44 lb., 6 oz. after catching a lot of brown fish. With the wind picking up the anglers had to figure out what to do in Period 3 to try and make it to the top.
“I got on a deal where I could catch them on a frog, and the fish that are gonna get bit on a frog they’re 2 to 3 pounders, but I’m just really not getting the opportunity to get them,” Wheeler said. “When you’re in the position where I was at in second or third, you don’t deviate from what you’re doing a lot of times and guys behind, they start doing different stuff and they can catch up so it can be a dangerous place.”
With a series of 4 and 5 lb. catches to kick off Period 3, Martens switched to heavier line to make sure every fish counted. The switch worked for Martens as he ended the day with 88 lbs., smashing Kevin VanDam’s previous single-day MLF record of 82 lbs., 6 oz. from Alpena, Mich., in the 2014 Summit Cup. Though Reese, Jones and Wheeler were in a tight race for 4th place, Wheeler came out on top with the final spot to advance.
So close, kids, so close,” Reese said. “I had the bites, opportunities. Hats off to the guys that caught ‘em.”
Martens, Klein, Evers and Wheeler move on the Sudden Death rounds, one step closer to a bid to the 2017 Summit Cup Championship.