2018: year of revenge or western guys?

The first Elite tournament of the season always brings about new trends that might just carry out for the full season.

Last year’s Cherokee tournament had a surprising theme of young guns or rookie/newcomers, with Jacob Wheeler winning that one, Jamie Hartman finishing second and Jesse Wiggins taking third.

The 2017 rookie/newcomer class ended up being the strongest in my seven seasons. For this year’s Elite season opener we only have one rookie/newcomer in the top 12. That is Arizona pro Roy Hawk who sits in 2nd place at the start of the day. He’s 47 years old and has $1 million in tournament winnings, though less than $500,000 in Bassmaster and FLW (which means he qualifies as a rookie). I imagine that any new Elite worries whether he can hang with this collection of the world’s best anglers. Certainly Hawk has shown this week that he can. And his excitement level this morning at the dock was palpable.

So what are the themes that will emerge from Lake Martin? Perhaps revenge. Nine of the top 12 did not make the 2018 GEICO Classic. Most considered 2017 a sub par year, particularly our leader Takahiro Omori who finished 84th in Toyota Angler of the Year. This group has attacked the first tournament with a vengeance.

The other clear theme at Martin is strong performances from west coast anglers, with six of the top 12 being western guys. That includes Hawk, Luke Clausen, Jared Lintner, Justin Lucas, Dean Rojas and Brett Hite.

Has Lake Martin simply played to their strengths, or is this a year where western guys will dominate? Only time will tell.