Major League Fishing pro Aaron Martens

ALPENA, Mich. – Two of the three Elimination Days of the Jack Link’s Major League Fishing 2014 General Tire Summit Cup in Alpena, Mich., were blowouts with crushing performances from Brent Ehrler and Kevin VanDam.

Sudden Death Day One didn’t produce a blowout performance, but did deliver a very tight race. The finish was probably the most intense, pressure-packed moment in MLF history.

To keep the Sudden Death anglers guessing, MLF officials moved the battle ground from Hubbard Lake to a water body north of Alpena called Long Lake. This forced anglers to dump the majority of what they learned during the Elimination Round.

Along with the pressure of having to learn a whole new lake, the Sudden Death Round format has its own wrinkle for anglers to deal with. For an angler to advance to the finals, they must be one of the first three to reach a cutline of 40 pounds. It’s an all-out sprint that will often test the anglers’ mental toughness.

As stated earlier, this race to 40 pounds was very tight; it was the tightest in MLF history, in fact. Starting with the TV crew having to review recorded video to see which angler was the first to reach the 40-pound mark. Then there was the battle for the third and final qualifying spot. This turned out to be a three-angler brawl that was full of twists, turns, lost fish and missed opportunities.

The first angler to eclipse the 40-pound mark was Leeds, Ala., pro Aaron Martens. It was a photo-finish victory over Gonzales, La., pro Greg Hackney that will be labeled as one of the great moments in MLF history.

Martens and Hackney both ended their day at 12:56 p.m., they both had a total weight of 40 pounds, 3 ounces, and they both caught 21 keepers. To accurately award first and second place, the TV production crew had to put the video feeds on a timeline. It was determined that Martens’ final fish came over the side of the boat a split second before Hackney’s final keeper.

While Martens was crowned the winner, the result was that both anglers earned tickets to Championship Day.

The drama wasn’t over just yet. Tim Horton, of Muscle Shoals, Ala., looked as though he would be a shoe-in for the third spot. But, Horton struggled to produce the final keepers he needed to close out the day. While Horton began to slip, Skeet Reese and Jason Quinn started to apply some next-level pressure.

At 2:40 p.m., Horton caught a keeper that appeared to be just large enough to give him the 40 pounds needed to end the day. But when the weight was recorded, the Long Lake bronzeback was just one ounce short, giving Horton a total of 39 pounds, 15 ounces. The window was still open.

Quinn hooked and lost a large smallmouth that would have put him over the 40-pound cutline. In the meantime, Reese got on a flurry that put him on the fast track. By nearly 3:00 p.m., three anglers – Reese, Quinn and Horton – were one bite away from claiming the final ticket to Championship Day. Then, at 3:00 p.m., Horton caught a 13-ounce smallmouth that finally pushed him past the 40-pound cutline.

Reese finished in fourth place with 37 pounds, 11 ounces. Quinn ended up in fifth place with 37 pounds, 2 ounces, followed by Mike McClelland in sixth with 26 pounds, 14 ounces.

The top three anglers – Martens, Hackney and Horton – now move on to the finals where they will compete for the title of the 2014 Summit Cup. They would just have to wait to see who the rest of their competition would be from Sudden Death Day Two.

Summit Cup 2014 :: Sudden Death Day One Final Standings

AnglerWeight (lbs)Total FishAvg Weight (lbs)Biggest Fish (lbs)Last Fish (lbs)
Aaron Martens40 lb 03 oz211 lb 15 oz3 lb 06 oz1 lb 10 oz
Greg Hackney40 lb 03 oz211 lb 15 oz3 lb 08 oz1 lb 12 oz
Tim Horton40 lb 12 oz301 lb 06 oz2 lb 09 oz0 lb 13 oz
Top three anglers advance, bottom three are eliminated
Skeet Reese37 lb 11 oz241 lb 09 oz2 lb 13 oz2 lb 02 oz
Jason Quinn37 lb 02 oz201 lb 14 oz3 lb 01 oz2 lb 06 oz
Mike McClelland26 lb 14 oz171 lb 09 oz3 lb 04 oz0 lb 15 oz