By Rob Newell - March 1, 2018
Kevin VanDam distinctly remembers the last time he fished Alpena, Michigan with Major League Fishing because he left with the 2014 Summit Cup title and set a few MLF records at the time. During that event, VanDam’s day on Lake Hubbard included a total catch of 67 pounds of bass.
As he looked out across Hubbard again, cleaning his glasses, an involuntary grin crosses his face. When it’s insinuated that a KVD duplicate domination is in the works, he quickly shuts down the conjecture.
“Oh no, that’s not the way this works,” he said, the grin suddenly gone. “We’ve got a long way to go. This is not as simple as just rolling out there and doing what I did last time. You never want to get too set in your thoughts in this game. This place has changed since the last time we were here. It’s been on TV; then there was a state record smallmouth that came out of here a couple of years ago – this place has been in the spotlight a lot the last few years.
“On one hand it’s good,” he continued. “We’re here to promote bass fishing in Michigan and it’s working. But now the fish are more educated and that has to be taken into consideration. That being said, I’m still comfortable with where I am.”
Then he lowered his voice and offered up a KVD golden nugget, “Playing the conditions today will be critical today; if I can get some wind it should be good.”
And with that, KVD’s smirk returned.
But KVD wasn’t the only one aware of how fishing pressure had changed old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. Mark Davis was already figuring Hubbard’s education level into his game plan.
“I didn’t make it out of the Elimination Round the last time we were here,” Davis said. “But these fish are a lot smarter now given the pressure this place received after our shows aired. I’m betting they’re not just going to run out there and snap at anything that flashes in the water. I’m thinking a slower, more methodical presentation is going to be needed this time around, which I hope will play into my hands a bit more.”
While other pros didn’t seem a bit surprised to be back at Hubbard, Edwin Evers was astonished.
“I’m actually a little stunned that we’re back here at this lake,” Evers said. “MLF is usually so good at pulling surprises out of the hat, this just seems too obvious to me. I mean, there are a lot of options in this part of the country so to be right back where we qualified last time has caught me off guard.
“But, heck, I’m not complaining,” he continued. “I had a pretty good time the last time I was on this lake. I qualified out of here and made it to Sudden Death, so I must have done something right. I might have to pick up a spinning rod a little bit more today – when lakes get exposed like this one has, it can really change the personality of the fish. We’ve got the sun peeking out a little bit already this morning, so it looks like at least the weather is going to cooperate.
While those who had been to Hubbard before were calmly recollecting memories, MLF Cup rookie Wesley Strader of Tennessee was learning that he was the odd man out in today’s round: the only angler on the day who had not seen Hubbard before.
“Oh this is a new experience for me for sure,” Strader said with a bit of consternation in his voice. “Not only am I the only FLW guy here this week, I’m the only one that’s never been to this lake before. And if that wasn’t bad enough, look at who I’m fishing against: you got KVD over there, Mark Davis over there, there’s Skeet Reese and did I mention Edwin Evers – what do we have, like, five or six Bassmaster Classic winners here this morning. They didn’t just throw me in here with a bunch of sharks – these guys are bunch of Great Whites!”