This week's new venue for the Bassmaster Elite Series, Old Hickory Lake near Nashville, will prove interesting to the pros, but I don't believe it's going to be particularly challenging. For the past two tournaments, the pros have been cranking river channel ledges to catch transition fish, and that should be a strong pattern on this Cumberland River reservoir, as well.There are some major tributaries on Old Hickory and each has a variety of shallow cover available, including boat docks, laydowns and even vegetation. There isn't enough vegetation, however, to support an Elite angler for four days, and right now the docks aren't holding that many bass, either.
The fact that Dianna Clark won last week's WBT event on Old Hickory (13 bass, 36 pounds, 5 ounces) in very shallow water opens some interesting possibilities, but again, I feel like the ledge/breakline pattern will dominate. On many TVA lakes, including this one, summer bass tend to move from channels to extremely shallow cover in spring-fed tributaries when power generation stops, and Dianna located such a tributary. Her biggest bass weighed over 6 pounds, but she'd have won without it.The tournament might actually be won in an area known as the "Miracle Mile," too, although it's actually closer to a two-mile stretch, with Flipper's Bait & Tackle on Bull Creek and the Highway 109 bridge right in the middle. The reason? There are fabulous stumpy flats here that drop into the river, rocky points, small coves, current and vegetation, so I'm sure it will get a lot of attention.With that scenario in mind, I have to pick — who else? — Kevin VanDam and Paul Elias, both of whom are fishing exceptionally well right now, and both of whom also happen to be superb crankbaiters. VanDam is poised now to claim his fourth Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, and he wants that title very much. He already lives in rarefied air, and another AOY title will push him even higher; it's hard to believe he won his third title "way" back in 1999. Elias, on the other hand, has found new life after winning Falcon earlier this year, and it's good to see him doing so well.I also think Mike McClelland has the potential do well this week. After winning on the Harris Chain and telling me his goal for 2008 was winning the AOY title, he has stayed close in the points chase, but now time is beginning to run out, and the upcoming northern swing may play right into KVD's hands. If McClelland is to have any chance of winning the title, he can't wait for VanDam to lose it.I like Edwin Evers' chances here, not only because he's also good with a crankbait, but also because he knows how to win. As I've written before, at this level of competition, mental toughness is critical, and Evers has proven he is tough. Mark Davis and Timmy Horton could also do well here, because they're both good river ledge fishermen and Horton undoubtedly gained a lot of confidence in his runner-up finish at Kentucky Lake two weeks ago.Long shots? This week that could include at least half a dozen anglers, including Kelly Jordon, Alton Jones, Terry Scroggins and Peter Thliveros. All are good with crankbaits, jigs or big worms, and none of them mind spending a tournament running from spot to spot. Scroggins, in fact, usually makes his living fishing a hundred different spots in every tournament, and his GPS is jammed with so many waypoints he sometimes doesn't have time to get to all of them.It will also be fun to watch Rick Clunn this week. We saw him in the Top 12 final at Kentucky Lake where his strategy was mainly to run farther than anybody else to be able to fish undisturbed water. Once he gets above the Miracle Mile, he will find miles of winding river that few will bother to visit, and knowing him as I have for more than 35 years, I'm sure he could find a place upriver absolutely filled with bass.