Fantasy Fishing: How is this going to go?

In my few years of publicly making my Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks, one of the things I’ve learned is the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors rarely turns out the way I think it will. As I look through each Bucket to make my picks, I realize it’s hard to suggest some anglers catching them better than others. The easiest explanation to this is simply making the Classic is so difficult, and none of the anglers look out of place.

Another reason it’s so difficult to make Fantasy Fishing picks for the Classic is because springtime events are so hard to predict. Months ago, I would have predicted this event would strictly be a prespawn shootout where forward-facing sonar would be a big factor. While that could still be true, the warm weather the Grand Lake region has seen to this point, and is predicted to see until the start of the event, has me considering other possibilities.

For now, I’m expecting this event to be a power-fishing showdown where the Classic competitors will catch them shallow and even potentially target some fish on beds. There’s still a lot to be determined between now and then, with factors such as water level, water temperature and weather being at the top of the list.

Let’s get into some Fantasy Fishing picks.


Jason Christie is the overwhelming favorite to win the 2024 Bassmaster Classic, and the risk of not picking him in Bucket A doesn’t seem worth it, despite the fact that the Bucket is loaded with hammers. Not only does the Oklahoma pro have a ton of experience on Grand Lake, he also seems to step up during the biggest moments on the biggest stage. Christie may have won a Classic, but I imagine he still believes he has unfinished business at Grand Lake.

Solid secondary selection: Grand Lake has always been referred to as a “pattern lake,” meaning if an angler can figure out a pattern, he can exploit that pattern across the lake. In my mind, that sets up perfectly for Kyle Welcher’s style. At a much lower player percentage, the reigning Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year is a solid choice in Bucket A.


Bucket B is loaded with anglers who are more than capable of winning the Bassmaster Classic, but at 5.0% player percentage, Kenta Kimura seems like a steal of a pick. In two B.A.S.S. events at Grand Lake, Kimura has a second place and fourth-place finish on his resume. Kimura’s power fishing style should play well at this time of year.

Solid secondary selection: In his short stint fishing B.A.S.S. events, Ben Milliken has yet to let the pressure of performing on the biggest stage get to him. If you don’t mind the extremely high player percentage, Milliken is a strong pick in Bucket B.


Bucket C was a difficult Bucket to choose from, but my gut tells me that Scott Canterbury is due for another good Classic performance. After coming close to hoisting the trophy just a year ago, the Alabama pro has to be hungry to make it happen. Canterbury is another angler who has the ability to run a pattern for multiple days.

Solid secondary selection: Joey Cifuentes’ Elite Series season hasn’t gotten off to the strongest of starts, but the Classic can change everything. As an Arkansan, Cifuentes is familiar with plenty of lakes that set up similarly to Grand Lake which could play to his advantage.


While Grand Lake is not on the White River chain of lakes, it does share a lot of the same qualities of White River impoundments. With this in mind, Cody Huff could be a steal in Bucket D. The Missouri pro has proved to be a force when utilizing his electronics, and the possibility of the majority of bass still being in the prespawn period, Huff could be a force.

Solid secondary selection: Justin Hamner has proved on multiple occasions how deadly he can be with a jerkbait in his hands, and Grand Lake has proved to be an excellent lake for jerkbait fishing. Seems like a dream Classic for the Alabama pro.


Bucket E is full of young guns who are off to a blazer start in the Bassmaster Elite Series, but I’m putting my faith into shallow-water, power fisherman David Gaston. My two gut picks were Alabama anglers, which could be a good thing or a bad thing.

Solid secondary selection: At this point, I have no reason to believe Easton Fothergill won’t step up to the challenge of the Bassmaster Classic. The Strike King Bassmaster College Series representative is already on a roll in the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens.

Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

• Jason Christie
• Bob Downey
• Kenta Kimura
• Easton Fothergill
• Hank Cherry
• Matt Arey
• Brock Mosley
• Jeff Gustafson