One thing you can count on in any MLF event, whether it’s a Select, a Cup or the World Championship, at some point during the week, there will be a curveball thrown over the angler’s home plate.
And on day five of the World Championship, that curveball was delivered at the Sudden Death Round in the form of Blue Cypress, a 6500-acre natural Florida Lake. After two days of fishing the shallow, rectangular “farms” of Garcia and the Stick Marsh/Farm 13 for the Shotgun and Elimination Rounds, anglers found themselves facing a more traditional Florida lake – the typical “salad bowl,” with vegetation around the bank and deeper water in the middle.
Immediately anglers began to discuss the obvious change of lake type. What also caught their attention was the lack of trucks and trailers in the parking lot when compared to the limited parking at the more popular Garcia and Stick Marsh. This is the kind of thing professional anglers pay attention to; they literally have a sense of how good a lake is based on its parking lot.
Then came the news of the cut weight for Sudden Death: 20 pounds. Six anglers will compete, but only the first four to reach 20 pounds will advance to the pinnacle of all pinnacles in MLF competition: making the Final Four for the Championship Round for the MLF World Championship.
Between the scarcity of local anglers in the parking lot and the cut weight, the six pros in Sudden Death were getting the feeling that Blue Cypress wasn’t exactly the bass boomtown that the flooded farms were.
Mike Iaconelli was the first to hear the 20-pound cut weight and thought it was a joke. But when the cut weight was reiterated, this time in earnest, he was shocked.
“Wow,” he stammered. “Twenty pounds? That seems really light to me. I was figuring more like 35 to 40. They must know something about this lake that we don’t.”
“Sometimes you just have to go fishing without making a whole bunch of assumptions or plans. Just put the trolling motor down and fish and I think it’s going to be one of those days today.”
“Obviously it’s a different kind of lake,” he continued. “It’s a round bowl with deep water in the middle. But there looks to be plenty of shallow habitat around the bank to support a good population of fish.”
“I see a couple of nice, shallow flats right here by the ramp that stick out into deeper water,” he added, perusing the map. “If I don’t see anything else juicy in the ride through, that’s probably where I’m going to start.”
Andy Montgomery has not wet a line in competition at the MLF World Championship since day one when he won the first Shotgun Round at Garcia, which allowed him to skip the Elimination Round and go straight to Sudden Death.
Montgomery, too, thought the 20-pound cut weight seemed low, which is understandable since he caught 41-08 at Garcia.
“I really don’t know what to think of the situation,” Montgomery said. “It’s a different looking lake that’s for sure.”
“The other lake was square and this one is round,” he offered with a chuckle. “That’s about all I can tell you right now. Sometimes you just have to go fishing without making a whole bunch of assumptions or plans. Just put the trolling motor down and fish and I think it’s going to be one of those days today.”
Similar to Montgomery, Skeet Reese got a hall pass on the Elimination Round by winning his Shotgun Round on Garcia with 70-15. Sudden Death on Blue Cypress is his first return to competition since then so, he too, was caught off guard by what seemed to be a “low” weight.
“This looks to be more of a traditional Florida lake,” Reese said. “A round bowl with deeper water in the middle. The big X factor here that none of us know is how much hydrilla, if any, is out there. If there are nice, pretty mats of hydrilla out there, 20 pounds could happen really fast. If not, I still see plenty of typical Florida stuff out there: Kissimmee grass, shoreline grass and cypress trees.”
“This place is not real big, though,” he added. “And if the wind blows like they’re saying – like 20 – it’s going to cut the lake in half in terms of fishability. With this thing being round like this, fishing the windy side is going to pretty fruitless and we’ll all end up on the protected side. I know there is only six of us out here today, but take away half the lake and it shrinks fast.”
Even Floridian Bobby Lane found the weight cut to be low.
“That’s odd,” he said. “It’s early spring in Florida; it’s been warm; we’re on a full moon week; it’s pre-frontal as we speak – they’re biting on this lake somewhere.”
Lane did say he had fished Blue Cypress once many years ago with his grandfather.
“We didn’t catch much – some mudfish if I remember right,” he added. “I’ve not heard much about the lake at all since then. But that doesn’t matter. We really have premium fishing conditions here right now so they should be chomping.”