bassmaster classic

Fantasy Fishing: Betting on winders

This year’s return to Knoxville for the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmasters Classic presented by Toyota is about two calendar weeks later than the 2019 event. We have also had an unseasonably warm spring in much of the Southwest, but that false spring has seemed to have been knocked back by cooler temps. So far, the forecast suggests that it will hold into the 2023 Championship.

It looks like it will be warm enough to get bass moving out of their wintering holes but cool enough to have them piled up on their staging areas. This should create some good fishing conditions and solid weights for this year’s showcase event.

In the end, I think these conditions will favor the winders, and the best bags will come on flat sides, ChatterBaits, jerkbaits and lipless crankbaits. The spots and anglers may look different in 2023, but the techniques and weights should be fairly similar to what we saw from Knoxville in 2019.


In 2019, Brandon Lester stumbled out of the gates with less than 10 pounds on Day 1 of the very first Knoxville Bassmaster Classic, but from there on he came on strong to finish in sixth place. Lester’s good buddy Ott Defoe brought home the title for Rocky Top. I am sure Lester wants to keep the trophy in Tennessee again in 2023.

Back to back?

I was really close to picking Jason Christie to defend his title. He has this weird pattern of having bad classics and then following up the next year with a top five showing. Christie’s last five classics have a roller coaster pattern of ups and downs. Conditions and matchup suggest he threatens to repeat as champ; history suggests it could be a down Classic for the defending champ.


This will be Brock Mosely’s fourth Bassmaster Classic appearance, and I just have a feeling he will be able to unlock a strong bladed jig bite that will carry him far in this event. Mosley is no stranger to success on TVA fisheries, so all that points to potential for his best Bassmaster Classic finish of his young career.

Rising star

Patrick Walter is definitely one of the young stars of the Bassmaster Elite Series, but a Bassmaster Classic title would accelerate the trajectory of his career in a major way. Walters had a solid finish in Knoxville in 2021, and I am sure he will leverage his favorite Rapala flat-sided crankbaits to a solid finish this year. 


Matt Robertson put the bass fishing world on notice with what he did off the water at the 2019 Knoxville Bassmaster Classic. Given a second chance at this TVA fishery, I expect Robertson to make some noise on and off the water. His vast experience on Kentucky Lake should serve him well now that he understands the pressures of fishing multiple Classics.

No grass, no problem

Taku Ito has been pretty transparent that he doesn’t care for grass fishing. That should not be an issue as grass is pretty scarce in this section of the Tennessee River. This Classic should set up well for Taku just like Hartwell did last year where he notched a seventh-place finish.


The 2021 Knoxville Elite series stop was Luke Palmer’s worst ever finish in his career with Bassmaster, but I expect a much different result from Palmer in his 2023 Classic appearance. I see this event fitting his strength as an Okie winding and grinding in the shallow to mid-depths for prespawn largemouth.

Golden ram

Clifford Pirch has had two very solid finishes in his two previous visits to Knoxville, so if you are looking for a solid veteran presence for your Fantasy team, this Arizona angler might be your guy. Pirch has made four final-day cuts in his previous seven Bassmaster Classic appearances.


Tristan McCormick did not qualify for the Bassmaster Elite series in 2023, but he is still fishing events at a high level. The Tennessee angler is coming off a recent Top 10 and finished very strong at the end of the 2022 Bassmaster Opens series. He is not necessarily a local to Knoxville, but he is close enough to allow him to put time in for this Bassmaster Classic, so I expect big things from this former Bassmaster College Classic Bracket winner.

When a grasshopper becomes the master?

At this point you have probably heard, Missouri’s Cody Huff is a protégé of a legendary four-time Bassmaster Classic champion. In Huff’s lone Classic appearance on Lake Guntersville in 2020, he did make the championship day cut. Also, some of this Ozark angler’s best finishes have come on other TVA fisheries, so maybe the stars will align and this will be young Huff’s coming out party.

Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

Now onto the third event of season three of the Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge. This additional Fantasy Fishing game not only offers a fresh way to play the game, but it has a completely separate prize pool. Drain the Lake is an elimination or survivor style game where you can only use an angler once all season. 

I strongly consider taking a hard look at a few of the Classic only anglers to be able to save other Elite pros for events down the road.

Here is my Bassmaster Classic Drain the Lake roster:

• Luke Palmer
• Jason Christie
• Clifford Pirch
• Tristan McCormick
• Stetson Blaylock
• Matthew Robertson
• Keith Combs
• David Mullins