Fantasy Fishing: Fishing in a crowd at Wheeler

Wesley Gore

Wheeler Lake being a TVA river fishery definitely has a variety of angling options and areas that hold bass, but over the years tournaments are consistently won in a relatively small area known as the Decatur Flats. On a positive note, the Decatur flats are in close proximity to tournament take off, so many anglers won’t spend a ton on fuel and will maximize their fishing time.

Anglers that can find a few hidden gems or that excel at fishing in crowds should be strong this week and boat draws may have more impact on your Fantasy team this week than most events. I do think anglers that consistently produce on other TVA waters should be relatively safe picks on Wheeler.

It will be interesting to see if the rookies can stay hot and leverage their experience from the 2023 Bassmaster Open on Wheeler.


I hate to say this, but I am off the Patrick Walters in Bucket A every week train. Wheeler Lake was Wesley Gore’s worst finish (95th) of the 2023 Bassmaster Open EQs last season. Things can happen in bass fishing with big fields, boat draws and a little misfortune. I believe Gore has all the knowledge and tools to put up a Top 10 in the next two Bassmater Elite stops in Alabama.

TVA Pick

It was really hard for me to pick between these two anglers for Bucket A. There is not any tournament data for Jacob Foutz on Wheeler that I could easily dig up, but he has a string of three Top 5 finishes when the Bassmaster Elite series visits TVA lakes. Foutz has been solid when Bassmaster has visited Chickamauga and Pickwick. Foutz clearly understands how to catch pressured bass offshore with Chickamauga being his home lake.


Many Alabama pros are getting a lot of love from Fantasy Fishing players for the Wheeler event, but the TVA Alabama lakes don’t necessarily translate to other Alabama fisheries. Robert Gee is from Tennessee and cut his teeth on TVA fisheries growing up and finished 20th in the 2023 Wheeler Bassmaster Open.

Not far from home

Florence, Ala. is only about an hour’s drive from Decatur. Justin Atkins’ home pond is Pickwick and is downstream from Wheeler with Wilson nestled in between. It would not be a huge stretch of the imagination to think Atkins could be a strong player on Wheeler.


Logan Parks is having a solid rookie season outside of a rough Florida swing. Now the schedule brings Parks back to his home state and it should serve him well. Parks scored a check on Wheeler last season in the Bassmaster Open event and that knowledge should give him a good jumping off a point for this June stop.

When in doubt

One of my keys to Fantasy Fishing consistency over the past few seasons is consistently pick Luke Palmer. Palmer has been a constant performer when it comes to making weekend cuts and that keeps you in the game for Fantasy Fishing. Florida was not great for Palmer this season, but I feel strongly that he will return to his check cashing ways the rest of the 2024 season.


Bow Downey has made two Day 3 cuts since missing the Harris Chain event due to a new addition to his family. Ol’ Bob also has a strong track record in Alabama over the years. Look for Bob to put up some solid points on Wheeler and work his way back into the Bassmaster Classic qualifying point mix.

Tricks up his sleeve

Kenta Kimura finished 15th at the 2023 Bassmaster Open on Wheeler and is known for unique specialized offshore techniques to get bites where other anglers struggle. This could be a big differentiator in a potentially crowded Wheeler event.


Buddy Gross has not had many strong finishes the last two seasons, but I am pretty sure he still remembers how to catch summertime offshore bass on the TVA. I would look for Buddy to have a bounce back event at Wheeler.

Hairy Pick

Looking to think outside of the box in Bucket E, take a look at Chad Pipkens. Pipkens has a handful of Top 10s in summertime offshore events and he has done it on both Pickwick and Chickamauga which are also TVA lakes.

Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

We are well into season four of the Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge. This additional Fantasy Fishing game not only offers a fresh way to play the game, but a completely separate prize pool. Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake is an elimination or survivor style game where you can only use an angler once all season. 

In 2024 we will have 10 events and 104 anglers. You will need to use up 80 of the 104 anglers.  Hopefully you have saved a few favorites for the Alabama swing.

Here is my Wheeler Lake Drain the Lake roster:

Brandon Palaniuk
Buddy Gross
Cole Sands
David Mullins
Jordan Lee
Kyle Patrick
Logan Parks
Scott Canterbury