As the 2017 Major League Fishing General Tire Summit Cup continues in Grand Rapids, Minn., the MLF pros are chomping at the bit to see what fishing riches await them here in the North Country.
While northern Minnesota really isn’t a place that many – or even any – of these pros have much tournament experience on, they are very well aware of what this latitude can produce from fishing in places farther to the east in Wisconsin, Michigan and New York.
And because of that, most anglers like Alabama MLF pro Timmy Horton are expecting to catch plenty of largemouth and smallmouth bass this week.
“You’re talking about an aggressive fish, at least that’s what we’ve almost always experienced up here with northern fish, both largemouths and smallmouths,” Horton said. “They are a lot more aggressive because they don’t see as many lures.”
Because of that, Horton said that the MLF pros fishing in Minnesota this week can’t afford to sit in fishless water for very long if the SCORETRACKER LIVE! leaderboard begins to sing.
“There will be a lot of moving around, at least early on, until we get it figured out and get it dialed in,” Horton said.
While the 2000 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year – in his rookie season, no less – loves the southern lakes that he excels at fishing on, he certainly doesn’t mind pointing his truck towards the North Country.
“I love these lakes up north, even when it is hit or miss,” said Horton, an 11-time qualifier for the Bassmaster Classic and winner of more than $1.5 million in his career.
How will the likable Alabama pro start off? By looking at look at the water clarity right off the bat.
“Some of (the lakes up north) are what we call black water lakes that have a little bit more tannic acid (in them),” Horton said. “And some of them are really clean. So that’s the first thing that I’ll be looking for, to see what we’ve got going (on in terms of water clarity) out here. That will dictate a lot of what happens today.”
Given the number of North Country bass in Minnesota and their aggressive nature, Horton thinks that a number of pros – himself included – will have a very good chance to make some noise this week in Grand Rapids.
Many of them have experience catching smallmouths in other places and others have some northern history and experience to fall back on in other events like the 2014 MLF Summit Cup in Michigan a few years ago.
“When we were in Alpena, someone was in last place after the first period and ended up winning the round by more than 10 lbs.,” said Horton, who made the Championship Round in that event. “So this is going to be cool, exciting stuff (up here in Minnesota this week).”
In fact, Horton says that despite being a southern boy at heart, he really likes coming north at this time of the late summer and early fall.
“There’s more action up here (at this time of year) and it’s a given that you’re going to have a lot more fish,” Horton said.
“We say that, and we may get in a place here that doesn’t have that (kind of action), so we’ll just have to play it as it goes,” he added.
“But I can promise you, the juices are flowing for everybody (this week) for what we’re about to get into.”
If the lakes around Grand Rapid appear to have some similarities to those around Alpena – where Horton captured the first day of Elimination Round fishing – they also have some differences.
For starters, these lakes are farther to the west. And they appear to be a little bit deeper, too.
But that doesn’t really deter Horton or his fellow MLF pros.
“The things about these northern lakes – even the Great Lakes – is that there are always some shallow fish,” Horton said.
“If it’s really clean, if it’s really deep, then there could be some (more) vertical fishing going on (out there). I don’t really know the potential of that just yet, but that could always be an option.”
Even if he thinks that it is an option, Horton might be somewhat reluctant to chase the off-shore bite.
“That’s a bit of a risk/reward deal though,” he said. “You can get out there and get behind looking for that. But when you find it, you can really catch up. That’s just going to be what’s fun about it, about putting the puzzle together today.”
As Horton finished prepping his rods, reels and tackle for today’s round, I posed one final question – will he try to find a huge school of bass or will he be content to find nickel and dime his way towards the top of the leaderboard?
“You can do both,” said Horton. “And there will be both of those kinds of anglers in the Top 4 today, guys who get on the big schools and a guy who just singles them to death.”
Because of that, the Alabama pro has a definite game plan in mind.
“I think you have to start out with the singles and see how quick that is, because if that game is happening and you get behind on it, then it’s hard to catch back up regardless of what (else) you find.”
With any luck, perhaps Horton will find one of the few things that is missing from his sterling career as a pro.
And that’s a big, shiny Summit Cup to make the long ride back home to sweet home Alabama.