I'm a firm believer that momentum is a major player in the sport of competitive bass fishing. Success breeds more success, and success creates confidence. Great finishes can come and go with slip-ups and falters in between, but overall you can look at a successful angler and see a positive trend.
If we look at some of my Pre-Pre-Classic picks, many have had a less than stellar start to their 2017 Elite Series season. Do the first two Elite events impact a three-day all-out slugfest like the Classic? Not necessarily, but there are anglers that could second guess decisions in crunch time that normally wouldn't.
My first-round picks were as follows: Kevin VanDam, Takahiro Omori, Andy Montgomery, Chris Zaldain and Wesley Strader. Some have changed, and some are still in my starting five.
Word from a valuable source tells me the fish are spawning at Conroe already, and there will be plenty of ways to catch them in a few weeks. Some sight fishing, post spawn and even some flipping and froggin'. Here are my adjusted Classic picks after the first two Elite events.
BUCKET A: HACKNEY
My pick: Greg Hackney
Top to bottom he's one of the best anglers on the planet. He's always thinking about the next bite, and once he is dialed in with a pattern, he's hard to stop. Two checks including a Top 12 have Hackney in 10th place of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. With the rest of the schedule, he will be one to contend with.
Watch out for: Kevin VanDam
He was one of my early picks and I still think this warm Classic could play right into VanDam's run-and-gun style. Plus, if there is any hint of a shad spawn (weirder things have happened) then he could knock their lights out early every day. I’m not picking Keith Combs here because there will be a ton of spectator boats at Conroe, many of which I’d expect to be watching him, will complicates things.
BUCKET B: MARTENS
My pick: Aaron Martens
A-Mart is due for a Classic win and Conroe could be the place for it. There should be fish in all three stages of the spawn, and it seems like a perfect collision course for Martens to intersect with transitioning fish and find a solid pattern through any number of techniques.
Watch out for: Justin Lucas
There is no possible way for Lucas to continue this streak of sub-par tournaments. He’s been too consistent and close to the top of the standings for a few years now to let two events mess with the rest of his season. Power fishing should be on the menu at this event for Lucas, which makes him deadly.
BUCKET C: MONTGOMERY
My pick: Andy Montgomery
Andy M. won’t garner a ton of picks from Fantasy Fishing participants due to the fact that Ott DeFoe, Bobby Lane, Jordan Lee, Brett Hite and Brandon Palaniuk are in this bucket. But with docks in play at Conroe he should feel in his comfort zone. He’s one of the best dock fishermen on the Elite Series, and if he can toss a swim jig around and get bites then he’s even more deadly.
Watch out for: Bobby Lane
Hard to call Bobby Lane anything but a star, especially with his Classic resume. Lane has fished in nine Classics with his worst finish at 20th place. That’s impressive, especially since most of those have been cold tournaments in February. I’d expect with the warmer temps, Lane will be a top 5 contender.
BUCKET D: CHERRY
My pick: Hank Cherry
The same reasoning that applied with Montgomery certainly applies to Cherry. I had previously chosen Chris Zaldain here, but after two tough tournaments I’m going with my backup, Hank Cherry.
Watch out for: Brent Ehrler
He’s hungry for a win, no matter if it’s a regular season Elite or the Classic. Every angler is hungry for a win, but for Ehrler to have spoken publicly about it means he’s likely quite dialed in hoping to accomplish that goal. He’s as well rounded as they come, so with fish in every stage he should find a pattern and roll with it.
BUCKET E: HAMILTON
My pick: Skylar Hamilton
Hamilton has fished beyond his years so far in his short time on the Elite Series. Like Alton Jones Jr. and Jesse Wiggins, Hamilton has notched a check in both events this season, and I think he will feel comfortable running his boat up the river or in some thick stuff to find unpressured fish. With Jesse Wiggins’ rise to popularity, media day could get hectic for the rookie. Over half of the Classic challenge is to contain media day and the outside distractions.
Watch out for: Wesley Strader
Strader was my pick in this bucket before the season started and nothing has obviously changed too much for me here. Strader has fished a Classic before, and it was early in his career. With another one coming as a seasoned veteran at the peak of his career, he should handle this one a lot better.