It is the end of the 2023 Bassmaster Elite Series season and there is a lot on line at the Minn Kota Bassmaster Elite at the St. Lawrence River. Between Kyle Welcher and Brandon Cobb battling for Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year to angler’s vying for 2024 Bassmaster Classic berths or angler’s just trying to requalify for the Elites in 2024, there is a lot going on.
With rumors of this event possibly taking more weight than it did in 2022, we are in for a show nonetheless. Most likely, one would assume this tournament will be dominated in Lake Ontario as it will be open to competitors to fish. But Mother Nature might have a different story as winds are projected up in the 20s on Lake Ontario on Thursday. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out during the final stop of the 2023 Elite Series season.
I’m not ashamed to say it, but the last two events I went pretty chalk on my picks for Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, and it has done me well I would say. I went from around the overall percentage of 85% all the way to 97.9% in the matter of two events. And with that being said, I pretty much plan to do the same at the St. Lawrence one more time. I want to win the Bassmaster/JM Associates office Fantasy Fishing group which I am in second in, even if Bassmaster Digital Content Editor Kyle Jessie heckles me about taking chalk picks.
Part of being a Fantasy Fishing pundit I guess would be providing the reader with picks that are not chalk and are kind of outside the box. I believe with smallmouth events especially it is difficult to go against some of the chalk picks. The way I see it is, if you take someone who isn’t a chalk pick up north it’s a bigger gamble than taking them in a southern largemouth fishery. One lucky bite can change an angler’s entire event, but up north you just don’t really have that big fish factor that can set you apart on the leaderboard. It’s more about an angler’s smallest fish instead of their biggest fish.
So, with that being said let’s jump into some picks.
BUCKET A: CIFUENTES
Joey Cifuentes has been on a tear with smallmouth during this Northern Swing, and one could expect that isn’t going to change at the St. Lawrence River. With forward-facing sonar most likely playing big time in this event, Cifuentes, who is a genie with it, should have no problem finding himself at the top of the leaderboard. Also to note, I talked to him in the hotel lobby Monday morning, and he claimed he was more excited for the St. Lawrence event than he has been for any event up north yet.
Alternate: Kyoya Fujita
BUCKET B: CHRIS JOHNSTON
It’s kind of hard to go against Chris Johnston in this one. It’s equally as hard to go against Cory Johnston too, but unfortunately, they are in the same bucket. The Johnston brothers combined have a wealth of knowledge on the St. Lawrence River. In fact, each time Chris has been to the St. Lawrence River with the Elites, he hasn’t finished worse than sixth. Cory has never missed the cut and finished second in the St. Croix Bassmaster Open held there in July. Count on the Johnston bros in Bucket B.
Alternate: Cory Johnston
BUCKET C: CODY HUFF
Cody Huff will be one to watch for in his second appearance on the St. Lawrence River with the Elites. I guess you could consider him “not a chalk pick” in my lineup but one I believe will be sneaky good in this event. In 2022, he finished up in 42nd at the St. Lawrence, but with the lake in play and his momentum right now from Lake Champlain, one could expect it will carry over well for him at the last event of the season.
Alternate: Taku Ito
BUCKET D: FOUTZ
Jacob Foutz also hot off two Top 10 finishes at Lake St. Clair and Lake Champlain should fare well in this event. Foutz, who has been a force on the northern fisheries this year I think, will feel right at home on Lake Ontario this week. He scored a 27th here in 2022, but why not make it three Top 10s in a row?
Alternate: Alex Redwine
BUCKET E: PIPKENS
Chad Pipkens will look to turn it around this week on the St. Lawrence River. Pipkens, who has great track record on the St. Lawrence River with seven cuts and a Top 10 finish, is a great pick in the final bucket. He recently finished 13th on the river in July at the St. Croix Bassmaster Open.
Alternate: Bradley Hallman
Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge
- Jay Przekurat
- Cory Johnston
- Chris Johnston
- Clark Wendlandt
- Cooper Gallant
- Paul Mueller
- Taku Ito
- Alex Redwine