Fantasy Fishing

Fantasy Fishing: Pick anglers who excel in-between times

Coming off of a slugfest at Lake Fork, you might think that the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers are due for a letdown. You’d be wrong. They’re headed to Pickwick Lake, one of the many gems of the Tennessee River. While it’s unlikely to produce 100-pound bags, they live there.

More importantly, it’s a great pattern lake, with both deep and shallow options available. And by “deep” I don’t mean classic river ledges like you might find on Kentucky Lake, but rather more subtle and slightly shallower offshore structure. You’re likely to see a healthy mix of power and finesse techniques.

So, what does that mean for Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing fanatics?

There’s no clear favorite like Lee Livesay was at the event last event. There wouldn’t be in any case, but the early June timing makes it even more perplexing. It’s not quite the heat of summer, but the spawn should be (almost) entirely done.

Someone or several someones will have a great tournament dirt shallow flipping or with a frog, but the real motherlodes will likely be on those first offshore stopping points. Look for anglers who excel with electronics, and then can find a way to keep the school fired up. I know that’s not a lot to go on, but the way my season is going, at this point everything is conjecture.

Here are my picks:

BUCKET A: HACKNEY

My pick: Greg Hackney won an FLW event on Pickwick this same time of year in 2014, and while he’s having a solid season (17th in AOY), with three top 20 finishes, he’s yet to contend for a win. Last year he was just on the wrong side of the midpoint in the standings at Pickwick, but don’t expect that to happen twice. His last B.A.S.S. win was at the Sabine in 2018, and that should change sooner rather than later.

Alternate pick: Brandon Lester always seems to do well in these Tennessee River tournaments where he can mix a range of techniques and cobble together some big bags.

BUCKET B: BLAYLOCK

My pick: After the first few events I was convinced that Stetson Blaylock was going to make a run at Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year, but he struggled at Chickamauga Lake and Fork. He’s too good to stay down for three in a row, and while he was just OK in last year’s Pickwick derby, I envision him putting his wacky worm skills and a variety of other techniques to the test in a mix that produces a top finish.

Alternate pick: Buddy Gross doesn’t live far away, and this is a time of year that showcases his skill set.

BUCKET C: PIPKENS

My pick: Chad Pipkens was ninth at Pickwick last year, and he seems to excel any time there’s a midrange cranking bite or if a spinning rod is in play. The humidity’s not bad enough to mess up the hair, so it should make for great pictures when he’s hoisting a couple of giants on stage.

Alternate pick: Matty Wong keeps surprising me. I don’t know if he’s ever been to Pickwick, but a lack of familiarity hasn’t hurt him elsewhere. This pick could be a gem or it could bomb — pick your poison.

BUCKET D: KENNEDY

My pick: OK, I’m going back on the Steve Kennedy hamster wheel, taking a big risk that he’ll catch big fish and give me big rewards. He was fourth last year at Pickwick, but he’s one of those anglers willing to gamble heavily on big baits. The results are therefore all over the map. In this case, I’m willing him to make it happen.

Alternate pick: At some point, Brock Mosley will get out of his 2022 funk. Will you be on the bandwagon when he does?

BUCKET E: ATKINS

My pick: Right now, Justin Atkins is fighting for his Elite Series life, and if he’s going to keep things going this is a good place for a testing ground. He lives fairly close, has tons of experience on the system, and based on his Forrest Wood Cup win, we know that he can excel when the pressure is on.

Alternate pick: After a great Classic, Kyle Welcher has struggled to match or perpetuate that kind of success. He’ll break out of his Bucket E rut at some point.

Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

• Scott Canterbury
• Brandon Card
• Hank Cherry
• Jacob Foutz
• Micah Frazier
• David Mullins
• Tyler Rivet
• Kyle Welcher