Day five of the Major League Fishing Summit Select in Hot Springs is about to get underway, which means the second half of the Sudden Death round is about to begin. A warm, balmy morning dawns at the well-known “Fish Hatchery” ramp on the lower end of Lake Hamilton as a group of six pros arrive ready the fish their way to the cut weight of 16 pounds.
The first half of Sudden Death was held up in the upper portion of Hamilton but today the six pros will be on the lower part of Hamilton, below the Highway 7 Bridge, which roughly includes about 3000 acres of water.
Of the six anglers, some have fished Hamilton before and some have not.
MLF rookie Cody Meyer is one who has never been to Hamilton before. He qualified to fish sudden death by finishing second in his Elimination Round on Ouachita.
“This is all new to me,” Meyer said as he received his zone map. “This is a new lake to me. This is a new format for me – I’ve never fished a Sudden Death-type format before so this whole concept of a cut weight is new to me as well. They said it was 16 pounds, but that really means nothing – it’s just a number to me.”
“The one thing I can see that I like right off the bat is a lot of docks,” he added. “I’m comfortable fishing docks, especially in the summertime so those will probably get a lot of my attention today.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Dave Lefebre was quickly scrolling through his mapping trying to rekindle old memories of prior trips to Hamilton.
“I think I’ve been here three times,” Lefebre said. “I know I’ve fished a Forrest Wood Cup here and I finished second in an All-American here.
“I’ve always liked fishing here – it has a lot of shallow docks and seawalls and it reminds me of a lake I grew up fishing in Pennsylvania called Lake Conneaut. It also reminds me of Lake Conroe in Texas, which I’m confortable fishing, too.”
Lefebre also points out that since information of any kind is off limits, including lake levels, he would rather fish a lake kept at a steady water level, like Hamilton, rather than one that fluctuates like Ouachita where he qualified third in his Elimination Round.
“At least here what you see is what you get with the water level,” Lefebre said. “I’m sure it might be a touch high from all the water, but this level is pretty much where it stays so I won’t be out there wondering how much the lake fluctuated in the last week. Not being able to know the water level on Ouachita the other day was a little frustrating.”
As for the 16-pound cut weight, Lefebre said that sounded totally plausible.
“It might even be a touch low,” he offered. “Hamilton fishes really well this time of year. The fish seem to stay up shallower a little longer here so there should still be plenty of fish up around the banks. I think it’s going to fish pretty well – I’m ready to get out there.”
One to watch during the Sudden Death shuffle today could be Keith Poche. When it comes the MLF format, Poche has found his groove, experiencing quite a bit of success in the Selects over the last season.
He won his Elimination Round on Ouachita and now has his eye set on the Sudden Death Round on Hamilton.
“I don’t know much about it,” Poche said. “It looks like we’re on the south end of the lake – I’m more of a north end kind of guy – generally the river part of a lake fits my fishing style better. But we’re on the lower end today and I can’t change that.”
Poche won his Elimination Round on Ouachita fishing offshore breaks and points. But it’s not something he looks to duplicate on Hamilton.
“Trying to take one technique that worked on one lake to another lake can be a big mistake,” Poche offered. “We have lakes in Alabama that are on the same chain, but fishing nothing alike. Like Wheeler and Guntersville on the TVA chain: both are on the Tennessee River, but both are very different in terms of the way fish set up. Also the Coosa chain – Lay, Logan Martin and Mitchell – they’re all connected, but they fish differently, too. So knowing that, I’ve got to keep an open mind. Just because a couple of things worked on Ouachita is no guarantee that they’re going to work here.”
“Sure, I’ll have that stuff I used on Ouachita out on the deck and I’ll try it,” he added. “But I’m not going to force it.”
As for the 16-pound cut weight, Poche is fine with it.
“That sounds just about perfect with me,” Poche noted. “Now let’s go see if I can make 16 pounds happen.”