Lake Garcia

Take the top 12 anglers from the Major League Fishing Cup points, put them on several of Florida’s infamous “farm” fisheries with a fast-paced tournament format and you have the makings of a bona fide MLF World Championship.

Fellsmere, Fla., located on the East Coast of South Florida, is serving as the nucleus for the 2018 MLF World Championship. The small coastal town over looking the Atlantic Ocean is surrounded by a handful of unique lakes where old agriculture land has been flooded in order to create supercharged bass fisheries. Those familiar with fabled Florida fishery names like “Farm 13” or “Stick Marsh” know what these unique bass farms are capable of producing.

In contrast to Florida’s famous “strip pit” fisheries in the middle part of the state, which are deep, dug out mining pits filled with water, these flooded farms have an average depth of 2 to 5 feet, with extensive amounts of submerged vegetation throughout. The farm fisheries have very little contour with the exception of a few barrow pits, berms, fencerows and linear drainage ditches.

The first “farm” on tap for day one of the World Championship is Garcia Reservoir, a 3150-acre flooded horse farm that is now where thousands of Florida strain bass roam.

“I’m telling you this could get out of hand today. I’m pumped!”

With just 12 pros in the World Championship, only six anglers fish on day one. This first day has been dubbed the “shotgun round,” although no shotguns were actually involved. Instead the winner of this day gets “shot” past the Elimination Round and is automatically qualified for the Sudden Death Round later in the week. The remaining five anglers from today’s Shotgun Round will carry their weights over into the Elimination Round and start Elimination Round in the order they finish today. Admittedly, this can get a bit confusing, but the upshot is the winner of today will skip ahead to the Sudden Death round and everyone else will fish again; day one eliminates nobody from the Championship.

As the first six anglers of the week pull up to the Garcia boat ramp, they’re already aware that they’re in for a treat based on the number of trucks and trailers in the parking lot on a Monday morning.

“Oh this is going to be good,” said Jeff Kriet as he rubbed his hands together with a big grin. “This is one of those Farm 13, Stick Marsh type deals. I don’t think it’s Farm 13 itself, but it’s one of those kind of fisheries down here in Florida that grows big ones.”

Kriet was somewhat familiar with his surroundings because he had actually been to Garcia once before by accident.

“We were down here for an Elite Series on Okeechobee and Jared Lintner and I drove over this way looking for that lake they call ‘Jurassic Park’ (Kenansville). We sort of got lost looking for it and I remembered we pulled up here. We almost put the boat in here, but never did. Now I wish we had.”

As most already know, MLF competitors are completely restricted from getting any kind of information about their physical surroundings. Yet, they still will take any extra crumb they can get inside the rules.

“We can’t look at anything, but we can look at the moon phase…and guess what?” Kriet questioned with a smile a mile wide. “We’re coming into a full moon this week; I mean, we got warm weather, nice tropical breezes, a full moon – I’m telling you this could get out of hand today. I’m pumped!”

“I’ll tell you another thing I like about this deal: it’s Florida so we don’t need 35 rods with drop-shots and deep running crankbaits and all that. It’s either going to be punching with braid, or plinking a light worm around or winding something like a swim jig or Chatterbait – pretty basic stuff and that makes me even happier.”

In the next boat over, Greg Hackney didn’t have much to complain about either.

“I’m pretty fired up; my anticipation level is pretty high right now,” Hackney said in a matter-of-fact tone. “We’re in Florida the week of the full moon in February. The weather is stable. What more could you ask for? I’ve never been here before, but obviously it’s a pretty good little place; I mean, look at all the trucks parked here on a Monday – you see what I’m saying. If this place sucked, no one would be here. I’m pretty sure we’re fixing to hit this thing wide open, you know what I mean?”