By MLF Communications Staff
The 2021 MLF Pro Circuit regular season will wrap up this week with an event at the St. Lawrence River out of Massena, N.Y. Competition will be conducted today through Sunday, with the winner claiming a top prize of up to $135,000.
Competitors will have the run of the river, but will not be allowed to lock downstream into Lake St. Francis or run out into Lake Ontario proper. While this may be a hindrance to some anglers, those who thrive fishing river systems will have everything you could ask for in a northern fishery – deep and shallow grass, docks, rock piles, current seams, sand flats, boulders and more.
Scott Dobson of Clarkston, Mich., who will be competing in the event, finished in 2nd place in a 2019 Toyota Series event on the St. Lawrence, picking apart shallow-water smallmouths.
“I won a Toyota Series event on 1000 Islands in 2016 during this time of year and came in 2nd on the St. Lawrence River in 2019, so I’m excited for another chance on this fishery,” said Dobson. “I love fishing current and Great Lake systems and have had a lot of success in that realm, so I’m excited to get there and get started."
Dobson said everything will be in play at this event – from fishing shallow on 6- to 8-foot flats to deep-dragging dropshots and Carolina rigs in the heavy current of the main river.
“Baits that will dominate in this tournament are moving baits like jerkbaits and spybaits, along with Ned rigs and dropshots on the bottom,” said Dobson. “I also expect to see a lot of fish caught on the Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flatnose Minnow, and if guys are lucky enough to have it, on the new MaxScent Little General. That bait is a Ned rig-type bait with MaxScent that a lot of guys already have in their arsenal.”
Dobson said he believes it will take 20 pounds per day to get into the Top 10 and winning the event will take a solid 23 pounds per day. While it is a big commitment to make long runs on the river, he anticipates a lot of guys are going to be running 50 to 70 miles to their fishing locations, which creates a risk factor due to the time it takes to make those long runs.
Michael Neal carries a 21-point lead in the Angler of the Year race into the final regular-season event.
“It really depends on whether guys are looking to just go for the win or planning to play it conservative and stay closer to the ramp where they don’t have as much of a risk of not getting back in time,” said Dobson. “This being the final event, that affects the points race to get into the TITLE championship and Angler of the Year standings. Some anglers may not be swinging for the fence.
“I don’t have a shot at the TITLE after a couple bad events, so I’m not worried about the points,” continued Dobson. “I’m all in and I’ve got to go for the win. I plan to make big runs and try to go places where I can catch bigger fish. I may not catch as many fish, but I expect them to be bigger and better-quality fish where I’m going.”
Anglers will take off at 6:30 a.m. each day from the Massena Intake Boat Launch located at 1415 State Highway 131 in Massena. Weigh-ins will also be held at the boat launch daily at 3 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend the event or follow the action online through the MLF NOW! livestream and coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
In Pro Circuit competition, the full field of 163 anglers compete in the two-day opening round on Thursday and Friday. The top 50 pros based on their two-day cumulative weight advance to Saturday. Only the top 10 pros continue competition on Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from the four days of competition.
The 2021 season culminates with the TITLE Championship, where the top 48 pros in the points standings plus 2020 TITLE winner Rusty Salewske and 2020 Angler of the Year Ron Nelson will compete for a top prize of $235,000. The 2021 TITLE will be held Aug. 17-22 on the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis.
The Angler of the Year race has pretty much been reduced to a three-angler affair. Michael Neal leads with 934 points, followed by fellow veteran Skeet Reese with 913 and second-year pro Cole Floyd with 903. Ryan Salzman, who's in 4th place, is 79 points behind Floyd.
Neal has a 2nd- an 11th- and a 3rd-place finish in the last three Pro Circuit events. A fourth straight Top-20 will secure the crown regardless of what anyone else does.
For a look at the AOY standings, click here.