The fishing in Chautauqua County has long been somewhat of a secret. It hasn't been until the last 10 years or so that folks from around the country have discovered the outstanding fishing opportunities Chautauqua County has to offer.
Yes, Chautauqua County has played host to many major fishing tournaments over the past 10 years, but it hasn't been until recently that anglers have truly uncovered some of the finest fishing in the country right here on our home lakes.
Lake Erie has long been known as an excellent walleye fishery, but the smallmouth bass fishing has been gaining national attention as of late.
Chautauqua Lake has always had a good reputation as a muskie fishery, but, again, recent years have elevated that good to first class. There aren't too many places in the world where anglers can spend a day on the water and have a great opportunity to put a muskie in the boat.
Then there is the long-standing jewel of Chautauqua Lake, bass. Chautauqua Lake has always been a great bass fishery, but with tournaments and TV programs coming to Chautauqua Lake to highlight its great bass fishing, it has been the rising star.
That star is about to change.
Since earlier this year the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commence, the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, county executive Greg Edwards and many local businesses have been able to keep a secret under their hats.
The Major League Fishing event is surely going to elevate Chautauqua County, Chautauqua Lake and bass fishing in the fishing world.
To keep a long story short, several months ago a company approached the county about hosting a different kind of fishing event. Through months of work, countless hours of meetings and miles of shoe leather, an agreement was made to have a Major League Fishing event on Chautauqua Lake.
MLF is the brainchild of Don Rucks.
While MLF is a fishing tournament, it's not the traditional style of fishing tournament. There are major differences. In a nutshell, MLF and Chautauqua County bring in the biggest names in bass fishing to fish Chautauqua Lake. The lake is divided up in six zones. Eight different anglers are basically dropped into a different zone each day with a different set of eight anglers fishing a different zone each day.
The anglers don't fish any of the zones more than once. The top four anglers each day, based on total weight, go on to rounds on Thursday and Friday with the top three anglers from Thursday and Friday going on to fishing on Saturday for the championship.
In each boat there is a pro, an official and a camera. The angler is allowed to catch either small or largemouth bass that is the legal limit. It is then weighed on a digital scale by the official and immediately put back into the lake alive.
There are very strict rules each angler must follow, such as the fish must not touch the carpet of the boat and/or the fish must be released at gunnel level or below of the boat, to mention a just couple.
If a rule is broken, the angler is penalized a time-out penalty when, depending on rule, he must sit in his boat a period of time.
MLF is taking the world of bass fishing to another level with how the events are run and their rules. The rules are set up to stress the care of each fish caught, which minimizes the pressure on each fish. Having spent time with the folks at MLF and pros, one quickly realizes that protection of the natural resource is paramount in their minds and guides them.
The Major League Fishing event is made for TV, and with names such as Denny Brewer, Skeet Reese, Alton Jones, Mark Davis, Mike Iaconelli, Shaw Girsby, Gary Klein and many more, it means some of the nation's top professional anglers are fishing Chautauqua Lake.
During a short break in the action, Greg Hackley said, "The Chautauqua County area in a nutshell is the prettiest place in New York State. I will surely come back with my wife to the area. While I enjoy visiting and fishing other areas of New York, I have found my new favorite spot right here Chautauqua County."
Denny Brauer has fished Chautauqua Lake in the past and said, ''From a fishing standpoint, Chautauqua Lake is loaded with docks and lots of vegetation. For anglers, vegetation means a healthy fishery. Vegetation is the key to a healthy fishery and here in Chautauqua County, Chautauqua Lake is definitely a healthy fishery."
While the anglers have the opportunity to fish different bodies of water in the country, they have not only raved about Chautauqua Lake and its excellent fishing, but they have also shared that the folks in Chautauqua County have been some of nicest and friendliest they have met anywhere.
During this past week, Chautauqua Lake has seen colorful bass boats, TV production sets on the grounds at Chautauqua Institution and helicopters with camera men hanging out of them covering the action for MLF.
Like any event/tournament, it takes a large group of folks working together to pull off an event of this magnitude. The Chautauqua County Area Chamber of Commerce and Todd Tranum and his staff have been key to the smoothness of the MLF event. Of course, the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau and Andrew Nixon and his staff make sure all involved have a good place to lay their heads each night and eat plenty of food. They did that by opening their doors, or should we say the grounds at Chautauqua Institution, to host the event. The beauty of the grounds and the friendliness of the staff is what makes the Institution a first-class learning center.
Professional bass angler Tim Horton said it best.
''Chautauqua County is the learning center of the world and what Major League Fishing is doing is all about teaching folks to be better at catching fish,'' he said. ''This is perfect place to host an MLF event and I am glad and proud to be here and be a part of it."
Tim's words pretty much sum up Chautauqua County and MLF. I might add it was our pleasure to host MLF in Chautauqua County.