DETROIT -- The last Bassmaster Elite Series qualifying event of the season always amps up the stress level of every angler in the tournament. Those that have a shot at winning the Angler of the Year race know they are on the verge of making history.
Any Elite pro who isn’t comfortably above 35th place, the last to be invited to the Bassmaster Classic, is trying to keep from panicking and blowing it. Those who have a shot at climbing into the top 35 look determined, if not downright grim.
You might think the pros whohave no mathematical chance to make the top 35 in the AOY standings are more relaxed. Think again. They know that their only shot at going to the Classic is to win this tournament.
Expect to see some of them make long, heroic runs as Brandon Palaniuk did when he won the recent St. Lawrence River tournament.
Every Elite Series pro worth his salt believes he has a shot to win any tournament, including this one at Lake St. Clair. But, excluding themselves, here are the top three picks from several of the pros.
1. Kotaro Kiriyama. “He will go to the end of the earth to catch a big smallmouth bass. That’s where this tournament will be won.”
2. Chad Pipkens. “He lives here and always does well. He has a thousand waypoints at Lake Erie.”
3. Kevin VanDam. “He’ll fish St. Clair for sure. I don’t think the tournament will be won there, but KVD will make a good run at it.”
1. Kevin VanDam. “Because he’s the Man.”
2. Chad Pipkens. “He was strong at the St. Lawrence River and he’ll be strong here.”
3. Jason Quinn. “He looks like a Detroit homeboy. St. Clair’s smallmouths will think he’s a local.”
1. Jonathon VanDam. “JVD is the best smallie fisherman on the Elite tour. He won at Green Bay last year and finished second at the St. Lawrence River.”
2. Davy Hite. “Don’t forget that Hite won a Bassmaster tournament at St. Clair once in August.”
3. Edwin Evers. “Edwin has more to lose than anybody. I’m not trying to jinx him by picking him. He’s been fishing well all season. I don’t think that will change here.”
1. Edwin Evers. “Because he’s caught them everywhere we’ve been this year. He was still on the water at 9:30 pm on Monday’s practice day. It’s hard to beat that kind of dedication.”
2. Aaron Martens. “There’s no doubt that he’s going to catch them doing his drop-shot deal.”
3. Kevin VanDam. “He’ll probably catch them jerking. He knows where the bass live here.”
1, Brandon Palaniuk. “Palaniuk can pull a rabbit out of his hat when he needs to.”
2. Kevin VanDam. “This is KVD’s home water. It’s where he learned to fish and it sets up well for how he fishes.”
3. Derek Remitz. “Remitz lives near Lake Guntersville now, but he used to live in Michigan. He’s a good Lake Erie fisherman.”
1. Chad Pipkens. “He fishes here a lot and he’s really good on smallies.”
2. Randy Howell. “Howell always does well on smallie waters.”
3. Edwin Evers. “Evers is the point leader and he’s been on a roll all season.”
1. Michael Simonton. “I heard that Simonton is catching the big ones.”
2. Kevin VanDam. “The bite on St. Clair is off for some reason. KVD’s knowledge of this lake will help him figure something out.”
3. Jonathon VanDam. “Ditto what I said for KVD.”
1. Cliff Pirch. “I picked him because I’m standing next to him. Seriously, he did well at the St. Lawrence River and I expect him to catch them here, too.”
2. Aaron Martens. “Aaron is the drop-shot master. That will be a key tactic here.”
3. Jason Christie. “I heard that Christie is catching them. And, he won a Bassmaster Open here last year.”
1. Chad Pipkens. “He’s a good local stick and he always does well here.”
2. Aaron Martens. “Aaron is always good with a little stick in his hand, he’s strong on smallies and with his electronics.”
3. Charlie Hartley. ”Hartley knows these waters really well. It would be awesome to watch him win one.”
1. Derek Remitz. “He does really well on Erie. It’s one of his strongest suits.”
2. Charlie Hartley. “Charlie knows Lake Erie Well. The smallmouths there are much bigger than at St. Clair this year.”
3. Kevin VanDam. “Even though I don’t believe KVD is going to run to Erie, he’ll probably do well anyway. The bass at St. Clair are more receptive to moving baits, and that fits KVD’s style better.”
1 & 2. KVD and JVD. “They both fish here a lot and they know how to catch smallmouth bass.”
3. Aaron Martens. “Wherever Martens decides to fish, he’ll be catching big smallmouth bass on a drop shot.”
1. Chris Zaldain. “This type of fishing is good stuff for him.”
2. Brandon Palaniuk. “He likes to fish for smallies and he’s good at catching them.”
3. Cliff Pirch. ”I’ve known Cliff for long time. He likes this type of fishing.”