After totally bombing on my picks at the Bassmaster Classic, it would be fun to brag that I'm now getting back on track, since two of my choices to win at the Harris Chain at least finished in the top five, Bobby Lane in third and Dean Rojas in fifth.
Truth be told, however, the difficulty of the Harris Chain Elite surprised a lot of people, not just me. Weather conditions did play a role, but really, many pros openly admit they simply want to get through the two Florida events without a wreck. Winner Mike McClelland told sportswriters that all he was hoping for was to make the Top 50 cut after Friday, even though one of his goals this year is to make a run at Angler of the Year. Sixth place finisher Steve Kennedy was completely surprised to make the Top 12. Fourth place finisher Chris Lane had only collected two checks in 25 previous tournaments on the Harris Chain, and he lives in Florida.
So much for justifying why the final standings did not match my choices. The pros are already testing the water for this week's Elite on Lake Kissimmee, so let's look at what might happen.
It should be a completely different tournament, primarily because there has already been one major spawn on Kissimmee this spring; at the Harris Chain, a lot of bass were still on beds (Kennedy was sight fishing exclusively). That means Kissimmee's postspawners ought to hit moving lures, and a lot of pros will be throwing frog-type lures for reaction strikes. That's a lot easier and more fun than sight fishing for most of the 110-man field.
Secondly, Lake Kissimmee fishes more like a marsh, whereas most of the Harris Lakes fish like grass-ringed bowls. Kissimmee bass get a lot of pressure, but they still bite; Harris bass don't.Finally, weather conditions are expected to be more Florida-like, which means there should not be 40-plus mile an hour winds, near-freezing temperatures (water temps fell 11 degrees overnight at Harris) or tornadoes.
Thus, I'll make this a toss-up between Bobby Lane (yes, the same one who finished third at Harris) and Terry Scroggins, who has a very good history at Kissimmee, and who was not happy about not making the Top 50 at Harris. Right now, Lane is on a roll, his confidence is very high, and he told me he's really looking forward to Kissimmee.
Don't count out Chris Lane, either, who finished just 10 ounces behind his brother in the opener. This pro jumped from 50th to 12th place on the third day at the Harris Chain. Chris himself picks his brother as a potential winner, too. He's won at the Open level but not in the Elites, and he's ready to hoist that trophy.
'll round out my choices with Greg Hackney, Dean Rojas and Preston Clark, all three of whom are not only excellent grass fishermen but also superb sight fishermen, should a wave of bass move up on spawning beds. Rojas, you may remember, set both one-day and tournament weight winning records here just a few years ago, so for obvious reasons he likes Florida. He relies on his past guiding experience for giants in the San Diego lakes system to help him in the Sunshine State tournaments, which must be working.