Fantasy Fishing: Big Bass Specialists will excel at Okeechobee

After a solid start to my season at Cherokee — 94th percentile — I’d really like to keep the momentum rolling in an upward direction. But, the minute I start thinking I am actually good at this Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing thing, I get humbled. Quickly.

So, let’s forget I said anything about Cherokee.

Okeechobee is going to be a very exciting tournament, as the Elite Series anglers will be taking advantage of large, spawning bass that swim in one of North America’s big-bass factories.

There are a number of anglers that could/should be selected based on past performance and for having a nose for big bass. But, I think my picks are the best in that region.

They are as follows:

BUCKET A: THARP

Right now Randall Tharp is the top pick across all of Fantasy Fishing garnering 54.8 percent ownership. The strategist in me is saying to think differently and choose a different angler, but I seriously believe that if Tharp doesn’t win this thing, he will be dang close. I’ve been wrong before, but following his outstanding performance on Cherokee and his history with the Big O, he’s a very safe and likely bet.

Dark Horse: Matt Herren and Alton Jones both know how to flip and catch giant bass from thick vegetation during the spawn. I don’t think you could go wrong with either, but I know for a fact Herren is very hungry for a win.

BUCKET B: SCROGGINS

Floridian Terry Scroggins knows well how to catch big spawning bass from the type of water that makes up Lake Okeechobee. He did very well at St. Johns last year and has been very effective at the Big O before. But, above that he’s had a difficult couple of years, and I think we are witnessing the re-emergence of The Big Show. He made the 51 cut at Cherokee, and Okeechobee is a great place to see what I’m talking about

Dark Horse: Gerald Swindle and Bobby Lane are each excellent springtime, shallow grass big-bass anglers. And, I’d be willing to bet you’ll see both of these guys in the mix.

BUCKET C: MONROE

I don’t think you can overlook the potential of Ish Monroe at this tournament. He said that he’s happiest when he’s dropping heavy jigs through dense vegetation in shallow water. That’s Okeechobee in a nutshell, and Monroe is very good when weights get heavy. He won this event the last time the Elite Series visited south Florida, and with over 108 pounds. You can expect the California angler to show up ready for hand-to-hand combat with 25- to 30-pound stringers.

Dark Horse: Greg Hackney and Rick Clunn will produce competitive limits, especially when considering each angler’s preferred method of take: jigs. Clunn won big at St. Johns last year getting away from the crowds, and you can expect more of the same at Okeechobee. Hackney just can’t be overlooked at any tournament, especially one where a big jig will play.

BUCKET D: HOWELL

Randy Howell has always done well when sight fishing is a part of the game. And even though he didn’t do as well on St. Johns last year, I expect him to be a major contender at Okeechobee this year.

Dark Horse: Bernie Schultz and Dean Rojas have both been very productive on fisheries like this. Rojas has won big, but a “W” has evaded Schultz. If there’s a place for him to redirect that ship, it could easily be Okeechobee. Both anglers know well how to tie up with large spawning female bass in south Florida waters.

BUCKET E: LUCAS

Justin Lucas didn’t start his Elite Series season as well as he would have liked. In fact, if you were to ask him I’m sure he’d have some colorful words to share — and who could blame him. It was a very uncharacteristic finish. But, having said that he almost won the first Open of the year on Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes. The young California native knows how to catch large springtime bass, and you can expect a solid showing at this event.

Dark Horse: Skeet Reese and Cliff Prince should always be considered in this part of the universe. It’s unlikely to find Reese in Bucket E, so you can expect him to make some big jumps in the standings at this tournament. Cliff Prince very well could have won St. Johns last year if it weren’t for some livewell issues. I think you can expect him to fish with a vengeance this year and have a great showing.

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