Who’s the odds-on favorite to win the Classic in 2023?

The annual task of determining each angler’s odds of winning the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota is one I could honestly live without. It’s seriously no different than the endless Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing columns we run for every tournament. But since being tasked with this responsibility back in 2016, I’ve taken heat from anglers, sponsors and even one angry coworker here at B.A.S.S. over something they disagreed with in this purely-for-fun-and-talking-points, illustrated guide.
Simply put, this is our biggest event — and no big sporting is complete without some pondering and prognosticating. So, every year, I throw myself back on this sword knowing someone will get angry and then ultimately get over it.
Understand as you read, please, the meaning of the word “odds.” Listing the odds doesn’t mean picking the order in which the 55 competitors will finish. The numbers next to each angler’s name are reflective only of his chances of hoisting the gigantic Classic trophy and depositing the $300,000 check. The order of finish is irrelevant.
The longer an angler’s odds to win, the better the story will be if he pulls it off. But history hasn’t favored the long shots. During the seven years I’ve been doing this, the angler with the longest odds to actually win was Jordan Lee in 2018 at 15/1. Other winners were Edwin Evers (2016, 5/1), Lee (2017, 8/1), Ott DeFoe (2019, 4/1), Hank Cherry (2020, 7/1), Cherry (2021, 6/1) and Jason Christie (2022, 4/1).
This year, maybe someone will finally overcome long odds to win the 53rd renewal of the event scheduled for March 24-26 on the Tennessee River out of Knoxville. Here’s a look — again, just for fun — at each angler’s theoretical odds of winning.
Brandon Palaniuk (3/1)
Rathdrum, Idaho
If you think I’m just grabbing the low-hanging fruit here, you’re partly right. Palaniuk is the reigning Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year, which makes him an obvious pick. But he also has a sparkling career resume with B.A.S.S. that seems to be missing only a Classic title. Besides six career victories and two AOY trophies, he’s made 12 previous Classic appearances with two top five finishes. He placed 10th in the 2019 Classic in Knoxville and certainly won’t be intimidated by the lights and sounds that accompany fishing’s biggest stage.
Brandon Lester (4/1)
Fayetteville, Tennessee
It seems like a strange argument, considering Palaniuk won the AOY title, but Lester might have actually had the better 2022 season. He started with a St. Croix Bassmaster Open win on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida and then picked up his first career Elite Series victory at Pickwick Lake. He had two other top five finishes en route to a second-place showing in the AOY standings. He seems to be in the running anytime an event is held in his home state, and he’ll be making his eighth Classic appearance. His Classic experience features two top 10s, including a sixth-place finish at the 2019 Classic in Knoxville.
Jeff Gustafson (4/1)
Keewatin, Ontario
If this Classic was a month earlier, with a better promise of cold weather and deeper bite, Gustafson would probably be perched at the very top of this list. Those were the conditions he found in February 2021 when he claimed his first Elite Series victory in Knoxville with four straight five-bass limits of smallmouth that weighed 63 pounds. Expect that to be his game plan this time as well — and even if it doesn’t pan out, expect confidence to carry him to a good showing. He finished last season red hot, placing no lower than 26th in the final six tournaments of the year.
Jason Christie (5/1)
Park Hill, Okla.
In the past, I’ve actually given longer odds to reigning champions because it was historically so hard to repeat in the Classic. But since Jordan Lee (2017-18) and Hank Cherry (2020-21) have both done it recently — and since the Classic is tailor-made for an all-or-nothing angler — I like Christie in this spot. This is the Oklahoma pro’s ninth Classic appearance with four top 10s, including last year’s victory on Lake Hartwell. He could easily have three Classic wins if not for his own late-event missteps and/or superhuman efforts by others. If you’re thinking he’s satisfied after finally getting over the Classic hump last year, remember he claimed yet another victory at Chickamauga two events after last year’s Classic.
Greg Hackney (5/1)
Gonzales, La.
As Christie closed in on his Classic victory last year, he pondered, “If not now, when?” Louisiana superstar Greg Hackney has to be thinking the same thing. As the young stars continue to improve around him, Hackney will turn 50 later this year. He’s one of the elder statesmen in terms of Classic experience, with this being his 17th trip, but only two of those previous visits were top 10s. He did, however, place seventh at the regular-season Elite Series event held out of Knoxville in 2021 — and like Palaniuk, a Classic win is the only major box he has left to check.
Chris Johnston (5/1)  
Peterborough, Ontario
Johnston finished 50th in the 2021 Elite event out of Knoxville, but there are plenty of reasons to put his name among the anglers to beat. He’s making his fourth-straight Classic appearance and is coming off back-to-back top 10 Classic finishes (eighth at Ray Roberts in 2021 and fifth at Lake Hartwell in 2022). His final three finishes of 2022 were sixth at the St. Lawrence River and second at both Lake Oahe and the Mississippi River. In only 45 events with B.A.S.S., Johnston has 17 top 10s. He’s a contender anytime he has a line in the water — and that includes the Classic.
Stetson Blaylock (6/1)
Benton, Arkansas
Blaylock is less than 7 1/2 pounds away from already owning two Classic trophies after third-place finishes at Guntersville in 2020 and Lake Hartwell in 2022 (an event he lost by only 11 ounces). He finished a disappointing 54th at the Knoxville Elite in 2021. But in 78 career tournaments with B.A.S.S., he has 19 top 10 finishes, including three seconds and three thirds. If I’m picking an angler off sheer gut feeling, I’m rolling with Stetson in Knoxville.
Seth Feider (6/1)
New Market, Minn.
The 2021 Angler of the Year fell off slightly in 2022 and still finished a rock-solid 21st in the points standings. He has three Classic top 20s, including a fourth-place finish at Guntersville in 2020. He’s also one of the few anglers in this event who’s made two trips to Knoxville for major events with B.A.S.S. He placed 15th in the 2019 Classic at Knoxville and 29th at the Elite event there in 2021. His proven ability to catch both smallmouth and largemouth definitely make him one to watch on a fishery that offers healthy populations of both.
Brandon Card (6/1)
Salisbury, N.C.
The former Knoxville resident had a tough offseason, battling viral meningitis and Bell’s palsy during what he described as a miserable hospital stay and lengthy home recovery. But he showed tremendous courage and drive by not only showing up for the first two Elites of the season, but by making strong showings at both. Keep an eye on this guy in a town he called home not so long ago.
David Mullins (7/1)
Mt. Carmel, Tenn.
Mullins is a noted Tennessee stick making his fourth-straight Classic appearance with two finishes inside the top 13. He placed 40th in the 2021 Knoxville Elite, but other career finishes inside his home state have included a pair of top 20s the last three years on Chickamauga and his only career victory with B.A.S.S. on Douglas Lake in 2016.
Chris Zaldain (7/1)
Fort Worth, Texas
Zaldain is making his eighth trip to the Bassmaster Classic, and his most memorable was the 2019 event in Knoxville. Zaldain entered the final day of that tournament in third place, catching smallmouth on a big swimbait — just the way he likes — and believing he was on the fish to win. But the bite disappeared on Day 3 and he ultimately finished 12th. He tamed the fishery in mid-March 2019, but returned in late February 2021 for one of the worst finishes of his career, 94th place, in the regular-season Elite Series event. If late March provides the big swimbait bite once again, he could be big factor.
Cory Johnston (8/1)
Cavan, Ontario
Like his brother, Johnston has made a habit of being in the hunt anytime he’s on the water. In 45 tournaments with B.A.S.S. — both Opens and Elites — he’s finished in the money 43 times with 16 top 10s. This will be his fourth-straight Classic appearance, including a high-water mark of 11th place during the summer event at Fort Worth in 2021. He finished 45th in his only trip to Knoxville in 2021, but that tends to make a fierce competitor like Johnston even more competitive the next time around.
Lee Livesay (8/1)
Longview, Texas
During his four-year career with B.A.S.S., Livesay has missed the Classic only once — and he had an eighth-place showing at Guntersville in 2020 and an 11th-place finish at Hartwell last year. In just 56 tournaments with B.A.S.S., he has 12 top 10s, four victories and two Century Club belts for winning four-day events with 100 pounds or more. He finished 32nd at the 2021 Knoxville Elite. But with no points on the line this time around, watching him swing for the fences could be quite a show.
John Cox (10/1)
DeBary, Fla.
Trying to predict what the weather and water will look like in east Tennessee in late March is an impossible task. But one thing’s for sure: If conditions are right for the bass to move shallow, Cox will be one of the favorites to hoist the trophy. Not only is there no better shallow-water angler in the business, but Cox’s happy-go-lucky style seems perfect for the most pressure-packed event in the sport. He’s making his fifth Classic appearance and hasn’t finished higher than 20th. But he finished third at the 2021 Knoxville Elite — and it can’t be stressed enough: If the fish are shallow, look out for this dude.
Brock Mosely (10/1)
Collinsville, Miss.
There have been several instances through the years when an angler struggled to break through for his first win and then finally got it on the biggest stage imaginable. Alabama pros Jack Chancellor and Jordan Lee both come to mind in that regard. Mosley is another one who seems primed to fall into that class. Mosley now has five second-place finishes with B.A.S.S. without a victory. This is his fourth Classic appearance, with his top finish (fifth place) coming in 2021 at Lake Ray Roberts. He placed a rock-solid ninth at the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Gerald Swindle (10/1)
Guntersville, Ala.
Speaking of guys primed to break through, Swindle will be making his 20th Classic appearance — the most of any angler in the field — and the two-time Angler of the Year has three Top 10 Classic finishes on his resume, including a career-best third-place finish in 2005. Any discussion about the best angler never to win an Elite Series event has to include Swindle, as his only B.A.S.S. win came in the 2011 Southern Open at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida.
Buddy Gross (10/1)
Chattanooga, Tenn.
Gross is making his third Classic appearance after finishing 52nd in 2021 at Ray Roberts and 20th last year at Hartwell. He earned his second Elite victory in 2022 at the Harris Chain of Lakes, and there’s just something about the thought of Gross fishing on the Tennessee River that feels right — even though he placed 60th at the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Drew Cook (12/1)
Cairo, Ga.
Cook has rapidly gained a reputation as one of the best sight fishermen in the world, having earned a spot in the Century Club during his 2022 victory on the Santee Cooper Lakes with that method. It’s highly unlikely this will be a sight-fishing event, but the 2019 Rookie of the Year is all grown up now and should be considered a factor anywhere. He’ll be making his fourth Classic appearance, with his best showing coming at Ray Roberts in 2021 when he placed ninth. He finished 30th at the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Bryan New (12/1)
Saluda, S.C.
There’s something about New’s demeanor — the perfect mixture of laidback drifter and fierce competitor — that seems to make him feel comfortable amidst the chaos of the Classic. He’s making his third Classic appearance after finishing ninth at Lake Hartwell last year, and he comes in riding great momentum after finishes of eighth, fifth and third in the final three events of 2022. He placed 44th in the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Matt Arey (12/1)
Shelby, N.C.
Much like Hank Cherry was all those years, Arey is motivated by the sting of just missing a Classic trophy and having the winning fish on the line during the latter stages. That happened at Lake Ray Roberts when he finished second, ironically, to Cherry. Arey is making his fourth-straight Classic appearance, having placed 43rd at Guntersville in 2020 and 14th at Hartwell in 2022 in his other attempts. He struggled to an 80th-place showing in the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Patrick Walters (13/1)
Summerville, S.C.
Does it almost seem like Walters is so good at catching bass on LiveScope that he gets a little too caught up sometimes in boating fish that won’t quite help him win? He can’t fall into that trap during a tournament when points don’t matter — and LiveScoping deeper fish could be factor depending on the fickle east Tennessee March weather. Walters is fishing his fourth-straight Classic and had strong showings in his previous two — 10th place in 2021 and 12th in 2022. He’s been a force since bursting onto the B.A.S.S. scene with four victories and 18 top 10s. He placed 23rd at the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Drew Benton (15/1)
Blakely, Ga.
Benton’s five previous Classic appearances make him one of the veterans in the field, but his finishes in the event have been less than stellar. His best Classic was an 18th-place showing in 2017 at Houston. He finished 32nd at the 2019 Knoxville Classic and 55th at the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Taku Ito (15/1)          
Chiba, Japan  
Since arriving on the Elite Series three years ago, Ito has cemented himself as a fan favorite, but he’s done it in a way that is strikingly unique. He doesn’t yell and scream with the intensity of a Michael Iaconelli or wisecrack his way through a day on Bassmaster LIVE with the southern charm of a Gerald Swindle. He’s fun to watch very simply because … he seems to be having fun. A guy who can take that kind of approach to a gigantic event like the Classic — and combine it with the obvious skills he’s shown — has a shot at fishing’s biggest prize. Plus, this tournament just has the feel of one that could be won with some sort of off-the-wall technique. That plays into Ito’s wheelhouse as well. He placed seventh in the Classic at Hartwell last year and 21st at the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Scott Martin (15/1)
Clewiston, Fla.
Martin is making only his second Classic appearance, but that’s because he spent the first part of his career over on the FLW side. He placed 19th last year at Hartwell after making a run at the top prize the first two days, and he finished 25th at the 2021 Knoxville Elite. He came to the Elites with a stated goal of winning the Classic because it’s one of the few things his famous father, Roland Martin, never did with B.A.S.S. That factoid will provide him with the media spotlight in which he seems to thrive.
Matt Robertson (15/1)
Kuttawa, Ky.
Robertson has a unique Classic resume in that he’s now qualified four times through three different paths — the Team Championship, the Bassmaster Opens and the Elite Series AOY standings. His first appearance, through the Team Championship, netted a 47th-place finish at the 2019 Classic in Knoxville. When he visited Rocky Top for the 2021 regular-season Elite, he finished 17th. He’s another angler who might favor a deeper offshore-type event, but he’s proven he can compete anywhere.
Jacob Powroznik (15/1)
North Prince George, Va.
Powroznik is making his seventh Classic appearance, with his highlights being fifth-place finishes at Hartwell in 2015 and 2018. He finished 22nd at the 2019 Knoxville Classic. Since returning to the Elites in 2022, his highest finish has been a 26th-place showing at last year’s season opener on the St. Johns River. That means he’s due — and dangerous.
Bob Downey (17/1)
Detroit Lakes, Minn.
Downey finished the 2022 season with nice momentum, placing 10th, 22nd and 15th in the final three events. He also placed 12th at the 2021 Knoxville Elite. He finished 27th at Guntersville in 2020 during his only previous trip to the Classic.
Austin Felix (17/1)
Eden Prairie, Minn.
Felix comes into this event not too far removed from a major career milestone. He got his first career victory in 2022 during the Elite at massive Lake Oahe in South Dakota. But he hasn’t had much luck in his two previous Classics, finishing 39th in 2021 at Ray Roberts and 40th in 2022 at Lake Hartwell. He also had a middle-of-the-pack finish of 47th place at the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Keith Poche (17/1)
Montgomery, Ala.
Poche, who will be back on the Bassmaster Elite Series this year after four years away, is making his third Classic appearance thanks to his victory in the 2022 Bassmaster Open on the Red River.  He finished third way back in the 2012 Classic and 36th at the 2019 Classic in Knoxville. He is one of the more experienced anglers in the field with 143 B.A.S.S. tournaments under his belt.
Scott Canterbury (17/1)
Odenville, Ala.
The 2019 Angler of the Year is making his third appearance in the Classic and a return after missing last year’s event. He placed sixth at Lake Ray Roberts in 2021 and 15th at the 2021 Knoxville Elite. He grew up in Alabama fishing environs much like he’ll face during this event.
Tyler Rivet (20/1 — up from 40/1)
Raceland, Louisiana
The odds would seem to be against Rivet in this one. He’s making his only second Classic appearance after finishing 33rd last year at Hartwell, and he placed 71st in the 2021 Knoxville Elite. But after a sensational start to the season — first and third place in the first two events — he comes into the Classic leading the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race and as hot as any angler on the planet.
Bryan Schmitt (20/1)
Deale, Md.
Schmitt, a Maryland river specialist, is making his second Classic appearance after finishing 28th at Hartwell last year. In river environments, he recently has an Elite Series win last year at La Crosse, Wis., and a seventh-place Opens finish last year on the James River Open. He finished 49th at Knoxville in 2021.
Jay Przekurat (20/1)
Stevens Point, Wis.
The reigning Bassmaster Rookie of the Year is making his first appearance in the Classic at age 23. And while it seems like a tall task for someone so young to win fishing’s biggest event, Przekurat has tremendous momentum after finishing first, 13th and 12th in the final three events of 2022. Many have him pegged as one of the next megastars of the sport, and a Classic victory would certainly accelerate that process.
Keith Combs (25/1)
Huntington, Texas
Another elder statesman of the event in terms of Classic experience, Combs is making his ninth appearance in the big show and returning for the first time since 2020, thanks to his victory in the final St. Croix Bassmaster Open of the year on Sam Rayburn in his home state of Texas. His highest career Classic finish was ninth at Grand Lake in 2016. He finished 13th at the 2021 Knoxville Elite. I always tell people that I consider 25/1 the “money spot” when it comes to odds. The odds are short enough to believe the competitor has a shot, but long enough to provide a big payday if actual money is changing hands. In 2015, I locked in a $1,000 bet at 25/1 on Alabama running back Derrick Henry to win the Heisman Trophy. Do the math on that one.
Carl Jocumsen (25/1 — up from 35/1)
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
With the popularity and fan base Jocumsen has built, it’s hard to believe this is his first Classic — and now he has momentum on his side after finishing sixth and 11th at the first two Elite Series events of the year. If he could somehow pull off a victory in the state he now calls home, a Classic trophy combined with his charisma and likeability could help him cash in as much as any Classic winner in recent history.
Clifford Pirch (25/1)
Payson, Ariz.
Another guy who belongs in the money spot — and another who’s overdue for his first victory with B.A.S.S. after three second-place finishes — Pirch is a guy who could make some noise in this event. He’s making his eighth Classic appearance, and he’s made the top 20 four times, including the 2019 event in Knoxville where he finished 18th. He placed 24th at the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Shane LeHew (30/1)
Catawba, N.C.
LeHew hasn’t had much luck in the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing, with a high finish of 28th in 2020 at Guntersville in three previous attempts. But he had two top 10s on the Elites last year, and he seems to be coming into his own as a pro. He placed 41st at the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Brandon Cobb (30/1)
Greenwood, South Carolina
Another angler who hasn’t found his Classic groove, Cobb is making his fourth-straight appearance in the event after finishes of 50th, 32nd and 34th — the last of which came during the 2022 Lake Hartwell event when he was considered one of the favorites going in. He finished a respectable 22nd at the Knoxville Elite in 2021, so maybe this is the year he makes his Classic noise.
Cody Huff (30/1)
Ava, Mo.
Huff is another one of those young phenoms — like Przekurat — who seems poised to be a true star in the sport. His 2022 Elite Series season featured two top 10s, at Pickwick Lake and Lake Oahe. This is his second Classic appearance after finishing 24th in the 2020 event at Lake Guntersville.
Caleb Kuphall (35/1)
Mukwonago, Wisconsin
If the water is high and the fish have moved shallow, things could set up well for Kuphall, an angler who’s most comfortable with a flipping stick in his hand. This is his second career Classic appearance after a 19th-place finish at Guntersville in 2020. He finished 69th at Knoxville in 2021.
Luke Palmer (38/1)
Coalgate, Okla.
Palmer is making his fourth-straight Classic appearance, a string that included a career-best sixth-place finish at Hartwell last year. Knoxville, however, was not kind to him during his last trip. He finished a brutal 95th place at the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Kenta Kimura (40/1)
Hirakata Osaka, Japan
Kimura is making his first Classic appearance, and he finished near the bottom of the field at 68th in the 2021 Elite at Knoxville. But his only career victory with B.A.S.S. came in a river environment at the James River Open last year.
Marc Frazier (40/1)
Newnan, Ga.
Frazier is still a newbie with B.A.S.S., having fishing only 34 events. He placed 48th at the 2021 Knoxville Elite and 26th last year at Hartwell in his first appearance in the Classic.
KJ Queen (40/1)
Catawba, N.C.
Queen has a lot of factoids working against him. He’s only 26 years old. He’s only fished 28 events with B.A.S.S., and he’s making only his second Classic appearance after finishing 48th last year at Hartwell. He also finished 73rd in the 2021 Knoxville Elite. But then there’s the good part: He seemed to find his groove as an angler toward the end last season when he finished 15th, 28th, 38th and ninth in his final four events.
Pat Schlapper (45/1)
Eleva, Wis.
Schlapper is another who would probably prefer high water and a shallow flipping bite. He’s making his second Classic appearance after finishing 45th at Ray Roberts in 2021. He placed 27th at the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Will Davis Jr. (50/1 — up from 100/1)
Sylacauga, Ala.
Davis qualified for his first Classic as the B.A.S.S. Nation champion — and while Nation qualifiers don’t have the best track record when it comes to hoisting the Classic trophy, Davis can hardly be considered a Nation angler now after strong showings in the first two events of the Elite season at Okeechobee and Seminole. He’s still a long shot, but he’s more than held his own against bigtime competition so far this year..
Chad Pipkens (50/1)
Dewitt, Mich.
Knowing what a fantastic angler he is, it’s really hard to believe what a bugaboo the Classic has been for Pipkens. But boy, has it ever. In five previous Classic appearances, the bigtime Northern stick has finished 41st, 50th, 48th, 24th and 39th. He also placed 70th at the 2021 Knoxville Elite.
Tristan McCormick (75/1)
Burns, Tennessee
If only this tournament was being held on Lake Hartwell, McCormick might be among the favorites. He qualified for his first Classic through the Classic Fish-Off in late 2021 and finished a very respectable 35th on Hartwell last March. Then in October, he won the St. Croix Bassmaster Open on Hartwell to qualify for this year’s Classic. He’s another of those college whiz-kids who seems poised to take the fishing world by storm. It’s just hard to imagine him winning an event like the Classic in Knoxville after only nine major events with B.A.S.S. But be sure to invest in this kid on the futures market.
Cooper Gallant (75/1)
Bowmanville, Canada
Bassmaster emcee Dave Mercer has often described Canadian anglers Chris and Cory Johnston as “emotionless machines sent here to take your money.” On the other hand, he says another Canadian pro, Jeff Gustafson, is sometimes a little too nice. He says the Canadian Gallant might be the perfect mix of the two. Gallant is making his first Classic appearance with only 13 B.A.S.S. events under his belt. He qualified by winning the 2022 Bassmaster Open on Cherokee Lake and made the Elite Series despite an up-and-down Opens season that saw him notch two top fives, along with finishes of 109th and 123rd.
Casey Smith (80/1)
Victor, New York
Smith qualified for this, his first Classic, by winning the 2022 Oneida Open. While much is made about B.A.S.S. Nation anglers only winning the Classic once in 52 tries, it should also be noted that Opens pros have had even less success. So, a victory in this spot by Smith would be a story for the ages.
JT Thompkins (90/1)
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Perhaps an even better story would be if Thompkins hoisted the trophy at the ripe, old age of 21. Thompkins qualified for his first Classic by winning the Bassmaster Northern Open on the Upper Chesapeake Bay — one of only 19 major B.A.S.S. events he’s fished, dating all the way back to his teens … in 2020.
Wil Dieffenbauch (100/1)
Morgantown, W. Va.
Dieffenbauch is making his first Classic appearance as one of the three Nation qualifiers, but he has past college circuit wins on Lake Champlain, the Potomac River and Philpott Lake in Virginia. Plus, he gave Will Davis Jr. — now a successful Elite — a run for his money at last year’s Nation Championship on Pickwick.
Jonathan Dietz (100/1)
Corry, Pa.
The final Nation qualifier, the majority of Dietz’s experience has come up north, closer to his Pennsylvania home, with solid finishes on the college circuit, the BFLs and Toyota Series on the Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie. He did, however, venture south to Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee during late March/early April of last year for a ninth-place finish in a three-day Toyota Series event.
Louis Monetti (125/1)
Brielle, N.J.
With the advances in college fishing, I firmly believe a college angler will make a strong run at a Classic title someday soon. They fish a diversified schedule against tough competition — and when it comes to the one element that dominates fishing these days, forward-facing sonar, many of them are as good with it as today’s grizzled veterans. Monetti was a member of this year’s Strike King College Series Team of the Year — and he did most of it in a 1996 Ranger with a 115-horsepower engine. During this event, he may feel like he’s on a different planet. 
Collin Smith (150/1)
Anderson, SC.
Since the winner of the Team Championship Classic Fish-Off started earning a Classic berth back in 2015, eight qualifiers have averaged a 40th-place finish with Thomas Martens making the best showing for a team guy (26th place) back in 2016. If I was Smith, I’d be aiming to win the thing. But realistically, just besting that high-water mark set by Martens would be a historic accomplishment.