This week's Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake probably won’t have the chance to break a 100 pounds like the first two times in 2020 we set our Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing lineups. But, this event still has the potential for giant bass and big stringers. I would not be shocked to see a 25-pound plus bag or a 10-pounder this week, but it's unlikely anglers can back up that pace day after day.
There is a fair amount of tournament data to review, if you are interested, but be aware that most of those tournaments happened later in April to June which tend to be a bit more offshore focused than the bite that I would expect this week. Also, after two mediocre fantasy outings for my team, I will need more than consistency to make any significant moves on the overall leaderboard. My picks this week might reflect a little more risk-taking, which if you find yourself at 90% or lower in the overall ranking, you should be picking to win one of the last two events and not worried about overall points.
It sounds like with the high water in the fishery this spring, the lower end of the lake doesn’t have as much grass as in years past. It will be interesting to see if this ends up being won in the grass or on shallow to midrange offshore stuff where bass are pushing bait.
BUCKET A: WELCHER
David Mullins is a Tennesse angler, and he's having the best season in the Elites of his career. But if you are looking for an angler that has a lot of tournament experience on Chickamauga at slightly lower ownership, take a hard look at Kyle Welcher. Welcher has fished several Triple-A and local events on these waters with several successful events. If you want more info, go to Welcher’s YouTube channel and search Chickamauga to see him at work. I have been talking about riding with Welcher on my team for weeks now, and I am sticking to it.
Sleeper: Need something a little sneakier for your Bucket A? How about Austin Felix who was recently anointed the “Sleepy Assassin” by Dave Mercer? Austin has made every Day 3 since a rough St. Johns River event. Don’t look now but he is coming off a fourth place last week and is tied for fifth with Seth Feider in Bassmaster Angler of the Year points.
BUCKET B: GROSS
Alright, not exactly a big risk here, but if you want to maximize your points, you need to pick the event winner. If there was a betting line, Buddy Gross would be the odds-on favorite this week. If someone is going to blow this thing out on sneaky offshore stuff, I would put my money on Buddy.
Dark horse: Coming off a solid event on Santee Cooper and a third place on Guntersville, Luke Palmer is fishing strong in this Southern Swing. Whatever worked for the Okee at Guntersville probably transfers fairly well this week on Chick.
BUCKET C: CHERRY
Hank Cherry had a disastrous Northern Swing, but if you look at the three southern events since winning the Bassmaster Classic, Cherry has averaged a solid 20th-place finish. That is all you need from your Bucket C pick.
Big bait backup: While Carl Jocumsen is still listed as Frisco, Texas, on his fantasy profile, he now lives near the shores of Chickamauga. He chose to make this move because he has spent some time on this body of water and formed a bond with it throwing big baits. I am pretty sure his personal best came on a glide bait on Chickamauga, and Jocumsen has proven he is a contender in the fall after winning in October last year on Tenkiller, a solid finish on Guntersville and a near win last week on Santee.
BUCKET D: MONTI
While Kyle Monti didn’t come through for me last week, I'm still going to give him a shot this week. He has a 21st in a 2017 Bassmaster Open on Chickamauga, and last year he had a top five on Tenkiller in October.
Local angle: Skylar Hamilton lives just 90 minutes from one end of Chickamauga, and I expect that he will be well suited to have a strong tournament. He showed out during the 2014 BASSFest event, and I believe his fishing style is more conducive to current fishing conditions than that summertime event.
BUCKET E: WEIDLER
Bill Weidler has a fair amount of experience on Chickamauga. He has a decent track record of success with solid money finishes, and he loves to catch them on a swim jig which should be a solid bet for this event. I feel he is the best blend of percentages owned and likeliness to weigh solid bags each day. Plus, he made the Day-3 cut at Guntersville, so there are a lot of positive indicators for Weidler this week.
Wiley vet: Believe it or not, John Crews made his first cut since the Bassmaster Classic last week at Santee Cooper. Maybe that was the turning point and you can cash in on his upswing in the last two Elite Series events of 2020.