Fantasy Fishing: Finish strong at Texas Fest

Fishing was downright tough for a recent Berkley Big Bass event on Lake Fork, but hopefully, that was the bottom and now fishing will steadily pick up as the Bassmaster Elite Series angler roll into town for their final 2020 regular-season event — the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Sounds like the lake has recently gone through its turnover and now should be clearing up and settling into the fall patterns. Water temps should also start to dip into the 60s which often gets the bass feeding a bit more aggressively.

As far as patterns, it truly sounds like fish will be caught from super shallow out to deep humps and everywhere in between. Anglers should be able to find a bite that fits their strengths and be competitive this week. 

There are a ton of reasons to tune in to this event, beyond the big bass potential. We have a tightly contested Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, and a bunch of anglers will have their last chance to punch a ticket to the 2021 Bassmaster Classic via the points or via winning the event. This Texas Fest event carries a Classic berth with the victory. So don’t expect many anglers to fish conservatively this week with all that on the line.

BUCKET A: WELCHER

Kyle Welcher has been so strong for me on this Southern Swing, and I feel like there is no reason to deviate from the plan now. While he has never been to Lake Fork, I feel like it will line up nicely for how he likes to fish, and I look for him to finish strong fishing shallow grass and wood. 

Sneaky good: As usual there is a ton of talent in Bucket A. Clark Wendlandt being a Texas native is grabbing a high percentage of fantasy ownership, but if you are looking for somebody that is sneaky and has the potential to win this offshore, look no further than Taku Ito. If you want that ultra-low percentage with big-time upside, he is your pick.

BUCKET B: ZALDAIN

After a rough start to the year, Chris Zaldain has climbed his way back into 2021 Classic contention and has about a 40-point cushion, so he still needs to perform this week. Hopefully, that will bring the perfect blend of focus and risk for him to knock out some giant bags at Texas Fest.

Huge upside: Buddy Gross is exactly the kind of guy that will spend the majority of his time graphing offshore for this event. He won’t have the local history and knowledge of the grass mats he had on Chickamauga, so I expect him to lean on his strength and that is offshore and that could be a deadly combination this week. 

BUCKET C: COMBS

I know it can be really hard to pick locals when they come with such a high price tag of ownership, but I can’t pass up Keith Combs in Bucket C this week. I am guessing he is highly motivated to finish this year strong and on top. Look for him to do some serious damage dredging a big plus on Lake Fork.

Card trick: Brandon Card nearly weighed 100 pounds on Lake Fork last April. It's a completely different time of year, but I'm not sure that performance can be totally ignored.

BUCKET D: LIVESAY

It is not very often that anglers win back-to-back, but Lee Livesay is about 100 points back of the Classic cutline. He basically needs to win to get in, so he will be pulling out all the stops on his home pond this week so he can fish the 2021 Bassmasters Classic in his home state on Ray Roberts next March. 

Hanselmania: Ray Hanselman has been way too quiet for way too long. What better place to unleash the beast that is Hanselmania this week? Home state, big bass factory and pent up potential seems like a recipe for success.

BUCKET E: DIPALMA

Greg DiPalma has not had the year he wanted in 2020, but he prides himself on leveraging his electronics. Lake Fork should give him plenty of opportunities to use his Birds and 360 to try to salvage his season and end on a high note. He had a decent middle-of-the-pack finish on Fork last season.

Safety: John Crews feels like the obvious pick almost every week in Bucket E but for the most part, but that hasn’t panned out. There is safety in numbers with ownership this week, and Crews clearly has the best resume in his bucket. He definitely has the talent to punch his ticket to the Classic with this one last chance.