With Bassmaster history already a theme heading into this week, my Bucket B watch list this week fits right in — Rick Clunn and Mark Davis.
Popular young gun Ott Defoe will likely enjoy a high ownership percentage this week, owing to his 2011 postseason match-play win here, but I like the cagey veterans in this bucket. While close in AOY standings — Clunn, 29th; Davis, 30th; Defoe, 35th — both Clunn and Davis are fishing much better than they have in the last few years, while Defoe has fallen behind the pace he has set in recent seasons.
Clunn and Davis have much more history here, as well. Clunn finished fourth in the October 1981 Bassmaster Classic here; 18th in the June 2004 Elite 50 event; and 23rd in the October 1982 Bassmaster Classic. Davis, well-known as a postspawn specialist, won the June 2005 Elite 50 here and placed sixth here in a late May 2003 Bassmaster Tour event.
You might also consider Greg Hackney. Widely regarded as a River Rat, Hackney has two Top 10’s here: eighth in the June 2004 Elite 50, and seventh in the July 2010 12-man postseason derby. His history on Southern rivers includes three Top 10s and five Top 20s.
Hailing from nearby Wetumpka, Ala., Greg Vinson will be sleeping in his own bed during this tournament. In the last two Elite Series tournaments, he’s made headlines for taking and losing early leads. That suggests he’s fishing well but making a few poor decisions in crunch time. With local knowledge (his own or via the grapevine) and history here, perhaps this is the week he puts it all together to win.
You might consider also Brent Chapman. Although the 2012 Angler of the Year placed only 37th here in the June 2004 Elite 50 event, he was runner-up here in the May 2003 Bassmaster Tour events. His history on other Southern rivers includes 14th- and 18th-place finishes on the Arkansas River in June and August.
This bucket’s dark horse is John Murray. Despite being from the West, which is associated with clear, deep finesse tactics, Murray has a surprisingly good history here and on Southern rivers in general. He placed seventh, 13th and 32nd here in December 2005, May 2003 and June 2004. He’s placed fifth and 29th on the Arkansas River and 19th on the Ohio/Cumberland/Tennessee river system.
With water levels up, Biffle should find plenty of backwater vegetation to pitch and flip. And there’s plenty of room on this river to lock down, get away from the crowd and find fish you don’t have to share.
Hot off a Top 12 last week, Biffle has both momentum and a good record here: second in the September 2009 12-man postseason event; fourth in the July 2010 12-man postseason derby; and third in the early June 2004 Elite 50 tournament here. Elsewhere on Southern rivers, he’s finished first in September, 15th in June and 23rd in August.
Russ Lane hails from Prattville, Ala., located about 25 minutes away from this week’s launch site. He finished 10th here in the 12-man 2010 postseason event.
Timmy Horton may hail from Alabama, but this week I like “the other Horton” from Alabama, Jamie. He’s from Centreville, Ala., located only about an hour from Montgomery. That’s likely why the sophomore Horton has more experience on the Alabama River than does Timmy, the longtime Bassmaster pro. In two regional tournaments here in September and one in June, Jamie Horton finished first, seventh and fifth.
No handicapping of a river tournament is complete without mentioning Kevin Short. Although he has never competed in a major-level Alabama River derby, his Southern river history is strong: 16th- and 24th-place finishes in May and June tournaments, and third on the Arkansas River in a June derby.
Trussville, Ala., native Matt Herren has enjoyed some success in tournaments on the Miller’s Ferry pool of the Alabama River. Elsewhere on Southern rivers, he’s been hit or miss — second on the Ouachita River in a March tournament but 92nd on the Arkansas River in a June derby.
Want more information?
I’ve researched Alabama River and Southern river finishes for most of the field, so if you have a question about an angler not mentioned above, leave a message in the comments section below and I will reply.