VIDALIA, La. – It’s a stress unlike any other in competitive bass fishing, and for the six anglers competing in the Sudden Death Round of the 2019 General Tire World Championship Presented by Bass Pro Shops, it carries even more weight than usual.
Takahiro Omori, Aaron Martens, Gary Klein, Jacob Wheeler, Mike Iaconelli and Brent Chapman have all seen their share of Sudden Death competition in their MLF careers. They all have experience shooting for a Target Weight, and the implicit stress of being in an all-out footrace to that weight.
However, only Iaconelli and Omori have experienced the Sudden Death anxiety in a World Championship. Both made it to Sudden Death in the 2018 World Championship won by Greg Hackney – Iaconelli advanced, Omori did not.
“Sudden Death is just stressful no matter what, but you add a possible World Championship title to that and it gets even more intense,” Iaconelli admitted. “You have this number (Target Weight) you have to get to, and the fish don’t care about it at all. It’s easy to focus too hard on the number and not the fish. You have to get bites, quickly. If you don’t, you’re stuck in this circle of ‘Where do I go, what do I do?”
Klein echoed Iaconelli’s assessment: “Sometimes you’re not even fishing against the guys, you’re competing against the fish.”
The final six competitors hit the waters of Lake Bruin with an aggressive – but very attainable – Target Weight of 18 pounds. This lake was also the site of the Shotgun Rounds, where three anglers (including Omori, Martens and Chapman) cleared the 20-pound mark, so an 18-pound target isn’t a stretch.
Chapman, who put over 23 pounds on SCORETRACKER® in his Shotgun Round on Lake Bruin, expects to go as deep into the basics as necessary until he’s figured out how
“Sometimes you have to do something as simple as just going to an area where you know there are plenty of fish,” Chapman said.
That’s an approach that Wheeler wholeheartedly agreed with: “I don’t think you need to make it too complicated: just roll around and fish what’s in front of you,” Wheeler said. “Fish a bait that you’re confident in, and just go.”
Lake Bruin will almost certainly fish a little differently than it did during the two Shotgun Rounds. Waters have been slowly but gradually warming since the first Shotgun Round, so fish are edging ever closer to the bank, and even deeper into prespawn.
“These anglers fished Lake Bruin in cold-front conditions, but things are changing,” said MLF analyst Marty Stone. “We’ve had warming nights, so shad and baitfish are moving to the banks. This is a different day, and a different challenge.”
The Sudden Death Round of the 2019 General Tire World Championship can be seen at 2 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS-TV.