First of all, anyone fishing the Bassmaster Classic can win it. So let's start there.
Second, none of this in any way indicates a personal preference: I'm happy for whoever wins.
That out of the way, here's my impression of who is most likely to win the Classic based only on the winning and placing (2nd-5th) historical data in BassGold.com: Mike Iaconelli, Kevin VanDam and Davy Hite, maybe in that order. Here's why.
Everyone knows Ike finished a close second to Skeet Reese at the 2009 Red River Classic. And since Skeet isn't fishing this Classic, the spotlight falls to Ike, himself a former Classic champ.
But most folks have forgotten that Ike won the 1999 B.A.S.S. Federation Championship on the Red River. When was it? April – pretty close to February.
He also won it in a backwater, which pretty much is a certainty for this year's Classic win – and, for that matter, most wins on the Red River regardless of time of year. You don't have to take my word for it. It's right there in BassGold.com.
Now it's one thing to say the Classic will be won in a backwater, but it's another to find and effectively fish a backwater. Ike has proven he can do exactly that in February (second in 2009 Classic), April (first in 1999 Federation Championship) and August (first in 2003 Classic).
That August win was on the Louisiana Delta, a tidal water body rather than what BassGold calls a "Riverine Reservoir" like the Red River. But it was won in a backwater on a Louisiana River system, and it was a Classic.
Not only that, according to BassGold, in all three tournaments Ike fished baits that Ken Cook recently predicted right here on Bassmaster.com will figure in the Classic win this year.
What does this mean? If you're playing Fantasy Fishing, get Ike on your team.
This is almost laughable because isn't he a pick for every tournament? And hasn't he won the Classic a couple times before? On a river system? In Louisiana?
All of the above. All of his Classic wins have been on a river system, and last year's Classic win was in a backwater with stumps, in February.
If that's not enough, he also finished second in an FLW Tour event on the Red River in May 2001 – fishing a backwater with a spinnerbait and a tube.
Is Davy Hite a sleeper pick for the Classic? He should be. He won the 2001 Bassmaster Tour event on the Red River, not in a backwater but fishing wood and other cover on a main river bend in Pool 5.
And like Ike, he also won a Louisiana Delta Classic (2nd) on a spot – meaning you could say the pattern was more like fishing a backwater than not.
In other words, he's another guy who's won a Classic in Louisiana in a backwater and has also finished in the Top 5 on the Red River in other big tournaments.
As I said up top, you can't discount anyone in the tournament. And if your favorite angler is great at fishing wood in Louisiana backwaters (Hack Attack fans, this means you), he might have a better shot at winning than most.
This is just what BassGold.com tells me based on top finishes in past tournaments. You might read and apply the data differently. Remember, BassGold was designed to help you find, use and benefit from pattern information in ways that you simply can't otherwise. It's a fishing tool, and can be a pretty darn good Fantasy Fishing tool, too.
(Jay Kumar is the founder of BassGold.com and writes the No. 1 bass fishing blog at BassParade.com. He also founded BassFan.com, was a B.A.S.S. senior writer, and co-hosted the ESPN show Loudmouth Bass with Mark Zona.)