The argument about pro fishing becoming a fan-popular sport has always been it is not fan-friendly from a viewer aspect. The only way to watch an event at a lake was basically to attend the launch or the weigh-in, and neither of those provided a lot of action.
When Major League Fishing invades Lake Palestine Feb. 21-25 for its championship Redcrest Tournament even the weigh-in is anti-climatic because the 40 qualifying fishermen will be participating in a catch-and-release event with every bass 2-pounds and larger being immediately scored, entered into a constantly updated tracking system and released
That leaves fans two options, follow live streaming all five days of the event at MajorLeagueFishing.com or launching their boat and be an on-the-water spectator.
Like a fan who spends the day following their favorite golfer contend with all types of situations, there are fishing fans wanting to follow a fisherman or two on the water to see if they can pick up any tips.
“Fans are great,” said Kelly Jordon, an MLF pro who lives on Lake Palestine.
Jordon added that the pros are accustomed to having boats on the water and in the vast majority of instances there are not problems. The key to being a good fan is to give the fisherman space.
“Keep a distance and don’t follow behind them. They are not going to go down a shoreline as far as they can go. They are going to come back because they know there are fish there,” said Jordon, who did not qualify for this year’s Redcrest.
When following a fisherman around the lake it is best to keep a safe distance while under way, then stop well back of the pro and trolling up to a respectable distance.
“If it is a question, just ask,” Jordon said.
In some cases the pro will automatically wave fishermen back or to come in, depending on where and how they intend to fish. If they are fishing open water the pro may fish 180 degrees and work back and forth repeatedly over an area. In this situation it can be even more important to hang back until getting an idea of what they are doing.
Getting too close can present issues fans may not think about like noise caused by trolling motors or electronics that impact the fish.
“Turn depth finders off and be courteous. If you have yours on that is a lot of pings going down. It can sound like a nuclear sub down there,” Jordon said. He added it can also cause interference on the pro’s sonar as well.
The pro said he has never had a conflict with fans, but knows others have. He said some always have a next-day plan B because they know wherever they have been fishing is going to be hammered by the locals as soon as they move.
With MLF’s format, Jordon said he has no idea what to predict for the Redcrest. He said a lot of it is going to depend on the weather leading up to the event.
He does expect the pros to be able to exploit the lower two-thirds and western creeks of the lake more because of their skill.
“I think what this event will do is showcase how you can catch fish on Palestine from top to bottom,” he said.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Fisheries biologist Jake Norman expects the lake to present well.
“Palestine has been about as stable as any lake in Texas fishing-wise for the last few years and it should still be great in 2021,” Norman said. “The format MLF is utilizing opens up bodies of water that were essentially not feasible to host a pro tournament before, and I expect them to be impressed with what Palestine produces.”
Both Jordon and Norman noted that spawning activity on Palestine’s upper end and mid-lake creeks begins earlier than on other area lakes and could play into the tournament’s outcome.
Norman also said the weather could play a big role in the tournament.
“Some of the most productive areas of Palestine have extensive flats that warm up quickly, plus have the perfect mix of standing timber, creek channels and sporadic vegetation to draw waves of fish during the spawn. If Mother Nature is mild and warm leading up to the event, there will be fat pre-spawn fish chomping and likely some fish on beds,” Norman said. He added the fishermen will be fishing under a full moon the last day of the event.
The biologist said he would not be surprised to see some double-digit bass weighed, but expects most of the fish to come shallow, which is the norm on Palestine.
Unlike Lake Fork there is no history of pro tournaments on Palestine to use as a barometer. Looking at some local events held the first six months of 2020 Norman said the average winning weight was just under 26 pounds and the average big bass was 8.78. A 13.07 Toyota ShareLunker has already been weighed this year during a Media Bass tournament Jan. 30. It took a five-fish stringer of 26.23 to win a Media Bass tournament on the lake Feb. 6. A 7.84 was the big bass.
The Redcrest Tournament is MLF Pro Tour’s top event with a $300,000 top prize and $791,000 total payout. The format will include all 40 fishermen competing the first two days before a cutdown to 20. Ten of those will fish the third day and the others the fourth day. The top five from each of those days will participate in the championship round with all weights zeroed for the one-day championship round.