Let yesterday serve as a warning to all 80 anglers competing on the MLF Bass Pro Tour: No lead is ever safe in the made-for-TV format of this big money competition. Second round winner of the Major Fishing League’s kick-off tournament, Marty Robinson happily proved – it’s not over until it’s over. Propelled by one of the most frenetic fish-catching displays Robinson rocketed from near the bottom of the 40-man field competing in Group B on day two of the six-day event, to become the day’s winner in the last two hours of the seven and-a-half hour competition on Lake Toho, near Kissimmee, Florida.
After struggling mightily with just one fish taken of 2 pounds, 3 ounces over the first six hours of the day, Robinson racked up 33 fish for 53-13 over the final two hours of competition, blazing past Anthony Gagliardi (41-14), Jacob Powroznik (33-8), Greg Hackney (31-6) and Fletcher Shryock (30-1) to claim his first Bass Pro Tour round win.
“I’d say this was a pretty memorable day,” Robinson said. “My first day of competition on the Bass Pro Tour, to come from almost at the bottom and win it like that, I don’t think I could’ve written it any better. I can tell you one thing for sure, it was about as much fun as I’ve had in awhile.”
Based on his previous experience fishing tournaments in Florida, Robinson had entered the event with the plan to fish offshore submergent vegetation. While he didn’t count on that plan producing big bites, he knew he might locate enough sizable groups of largemouth that would allow him to take advantage of MLF’s “every scorable fish” format.
That plan seemed like a failure for most of the day as Robinson struggled to locate fish. But once he did land on a school, it proved to be the Mother Lode.
“About noon, I was wondering if I shouldn’t have just gotten up there and started flipping the bank like everybody else,” he said. “When I finally ran into them, I just sat there and wrecked ‘em. By that time, I knew that a big school was about the only way I was going to catch up, so I stayed on those fish for the rest of the day.”
Robinson’s key baits were a green pumpkin Buckeye Lures swim jig and albino Zoom Super Fluke.
Until Robinson started his epic run, the day looked like it belonged to Tony Gagliardi.
After a relatively slow start to the morning where the South Carolina pro caught three fish in the first two hours, Gagliardi keyed into an open-water jerkbait bite late in the first period, recording 10 fish in a 27-minute flurry just before the period break. That burst added 20-10 to Gagliardi’s weight, pushing him past Hackney and into the lead, which he added to with six fish and 12-5 in the second period.
But not long after that, Gagliardi hit an afternoon lull where he failed to catch a scorable bass for nearly two hours, and Robinson went on his tear.
“To me, it’s all about positioning myself well in that Top 20 (to advance out of the Elimination Round), so today was a successful day for me,” Garliardi said. “I coudn’t ask for a better way to kick off this new part of my career.’
Frontal activity continued throughout the day in Central Florida, keeping temperatures in the low 50s, with an intermittent 10-mph north wind and very little sunshine. Unlike Shotgun Round 1 yesterday, when afternoon sunshine stimulated a Period 3 bite, the bite cooled dramatically in the second half of competition.
Extended forecasts call for daytime highs to climb into the low 70s for the second Elimination Round on Friday, and 75 by the Championship on Sunday, Feb. 3.
“These Florida fish just don’t like the cold,” said Powroznik. “They hunker right down on the bottom or get up under the thickest cover they can find, and they don’t want to move. It’s a patience deal at that point – you have to fish slow. And I mean SLOW slow. We don’t need it to warm up much, though. I’d really like to make it to the weekend, because things could get good by then.”