Strader rallies in skinny water
By Joel Shangle
|Wesley Strader put enough fish on SCORETRACKER to finish on top of Group A.|
With the first Elimination Round of the MLF Bass Pro Tour Huk Stage Two presented by Favorite Fishing officially in the books, Wesley Strader can take a quick breath of relief and rest up for Saturday’s Knockout Round.
Even more importantly, he can let his best water rest, too.
After adding 23 pounds to to his Shotgun Round total of 33-0 – bringing his two-day total to 56-0 – Strader heads into the semi-final round on top of the 40-man Group A, exactly 1 pound ahead of Bobby Lane (55-0). But Strader is quick to acknowledge that the competition has now become as much a game of strategy as of picking apart the water at Lake Conroe.
The East Tennessee pro summed it up best right after he put his last fish of Period 2 – a 4-4 – on SCORETRACKER: “I don’t care who passes me, I’m out of here,” Strader said as he Power-Poled up and backed his way out of the narrow creek he had been fishing to go scout new water.
Strader would eventually add another three fish to his total in Period 3 to claim the top spot in the group, but used the entire period as a scouting exercise, hoping to find “the juice” for Saturday, when the weights zero.
“I looked around more than I fished today,” Strader admitted. “I have a real specific (condition) I’m looking for – when I see it, I catch one about 75 percent of the time. But this thing I’m looking for is really hard to find, and I have to cover a lot of water on the trolling motor to find it. I feel like I can go behind guys and catch them, though, because I have a real specific bait that they really like. Hopefully I can make that work again on Saturday.”
The majority of the Top 10 – most of whom were in good shape on SCORETRACKER when competition began, anyway – followed Strader’s lead.
Surviving the Elimination Line
The handful of anglers battling for survival around the Elimination Line, though, had no such flexibility. Skeet Reese powered his way into the semi-final with a 25-pound day to finish 17th while Kevin VanDam clawed his way to 7-1 to stay just inside the Top 20 at 18th.
Greg Hackney and Dean Rojas claimed the final two spots in the Knockout Round, pushing Mike Iaconelli, Aaron Martens and Gerald Swindle out of the competition.
Elimination Round 2 set to be a brawl
The 40 anglers from Group B now get their second shot at Conroe for Elimination Round 2. This group – led by Jordan Lee, Andy Montgomery, David Walker, Jared Lintner and Randall Tharp – will see much milder weather conditions than Group A, with daytime highs hitting the 80-degree mark.
That means that bigger fish will likely be moving in. And with a tight grouping around the 20th spot – anglers 14 through 25 are separated by roughly 5 pounds – this race will likely see plenty of movement in the middle of the 40-man field.
“There are so many great anglers stacked up close together – with (the MLF) format and the ability to catch as many fish as you can, it’s going to be a battle,” said Randy Howell (18th with 11-4)
How/where to watch
Official live scoring updates are available via SCORETRACKER from the start of competition at 7:30 a.m. CT. The MLF NOW! live stream begins at 10 a.m. CT, with on-the-water coverage following the action until the end of competition at 3:30 p.m. The MLF Berkley Postgame Show begins at 5 p.m.