Conservative Pick – Mark Davis
Popular Pick – Brandon Palaniuk
Wild Card Pick – Bobby Lane
Sentimental Pick – Randy Howell
My Pick – Bobby Lane
After finishing 20th in AOY points last season, 1995 Classic champ and 15-time Classic qualifier Davis (11.1 percent ownership) appears to be returning to form. Consider his win in the 2004 Table Rock event and a 24th-place showing on Eufaula in 2003, and he seems like a pretty safe bet to finish high in Bucket C.
Although Howell (8.6 percent) is coming off a great 2012 season in which he finished fifth in the AOY race, he’s not fared well in Classics, having made only one final cut in 10 trips, placing 11th. He has not fared well on Grand in two previous tries (48th and 63rd) or in any of the similar-condition tournaments reviewed above, in which his average finish was 47th. Excepting an 18th on Eufaula in 2003, he’s never finished higher than 48th in any of the similar-condition tournaments.
Palaniuk's fourth-place finish in the 2011 Classic coming out of the B.A.S.S. Nation and his win last year on Table Rock indicate the greatness of which he’s capable, but his two-year record indicates a hero-or-zero pattern of inconsistency. Accustomed to fishing in cold water in his native Idaho, Palaniuk is capable of winning this Classic, but he is by no means a lock to even make the final cut, based on his history.
I’m picking as my dark horse Bobby Lane, whom I’ve got a gut feeling about. Review his record in similar conditions and you might be surprised that a Florida guy finishes as well as he has in cold tournaments – fourth in the 2008 Classic; ninth in the 2011 Classic; 15th in the 2010 Classic; and 16th in the 2009 Classic.
See Bucket D on the next page.