Fantasy Fishing: It all comes down to weather

Bob Downey

They say that weather is what every tournament depends on; I’d reason this one is no different. Past Bassmaster events on Grand Lake have seen everything from bitter cold and snow to fish pulling up to spawn. A lot can happen between now and the first day of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors, but the weather this time around is shaping up to be somewhere in the middle with a warming trend later in the week as the tournament begins. This leaves the door open to what patterns could be at play. The big question in everyone’s mind is whether it will be won off the bank utilizing forward-facing sonar or fishing the bank.

Like every Classic, nobody remembers second place. Anglers keep that in mind when they prepare for and fish this tournament. I tried to base my picks off of combination of momentum and gut feeling.

Let’s get down to it.


It’s hard to pick someone other than Jason Christie in Bucket A, but I’m doing it. Bob Downey has an Opens victory here in the fall of 2019, he’s used to fishing cold water, and after a tough start to the 2024 season, I think he’s ready to turn it around.

Backup: Brandon Palaniuk is a no-brainer pick in Bucket A. He has a second-place finish in the 2013 Classic on Grand and is comfortable on the biggest stage in bass fishing.


Kenta Kimura only has one Classic under his belt, but after a 45th-place finish last year in Knoxville, I believe he has a better idea how to approach the event. Kimura also keeps his boat up at Grand Lake and has a strong knowledge of the vast, unique lake.

Backup: Stetson Blaylock has the crazy ability to fly under the radar in big events. The Arkansas veteran has had a great start to the 2024 Bassmaster Elite season finishing 15th and third. Look for Blaylock to carry that momentum into the Classic.


Bucket C was the toughest Bucket to pick. I went with my gut, Jay Przekurat. He’s proven that he can do more than catch smallmouth during his time on the Elite Series. In 2021, Przekurat wrapped up his Opens season with a 21st-place finish at Grand. He’s been to Grand before, and he knows how to win.

Backup: Brandon Card has fished the previous two Classics on Grand. He’s off to a good start in the 2024 making both cuts in the first two events. The Tennessee pro has plenty of experience and is long due for a good Classic.


Don’t call me a bandwagon picker; I’ve been team Hamner for a while now. It’s no secret that Justin Hamner is crafty with a jerkbait and forward-facing sonar. With two top 15 finishes this season including a third-place finish at Lake Fork, it’s easy to see why Hamner is the highest percentage pick in Bucket D.

Backup: Pat Schlapper is a sleeper pick in Bucket D. Schlapper seems to always catch them in big weight tournaments, and he is due for a good Classic.


Easton Fothergill is taking the world by storm in his young fishing career. After winning the College Classic Bracket and earning his berth to his first Classic, Fothergill added three solid finishes in the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens to his resume, including a Top 10 at Lake Okeechobee. He seems to find success anywhere he goes. I can’t remember a college angler ever having as high player percentage — Fothergill currently has 7.7% of the picks in Bucket E. Im not a betting man, but I wouldn’t bet against Fothergill on Grand.

Backup: Cole Sands has had a solid start to his Elite Series career. He’s a guide on Lake Chickamauga, making him no stranger to catching big ones. Look for Sands to put that experience to use on Grand.

Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

• Jason Christie
• Bob Downey
• Kenta Kimura
• Stetson Blaylock
• Paul Mueller
• Pat Schlapper
• Easton Fothergill
• Jacob Powroznik