Fantasy Fishing

Fantasy Fishing: Pick anglers who have bass coming to them

We finally get to see the early summer Pickwick Lake event we wanted last year before the dates had to be switched to accommodate the Bassmaster Classic.

We are also changing ends of the lake. For this time of year, taking off from the Tennessee end of the lake should make shorter runs to the prime offshore fishing areas which should help most anglers. Be aware: If you are banking on anglers to score big below Wilson Dam, they will have a very healthy run to get there and that will eat into their fishing time.

While I am sure there will be lingering shallow fish, the offshore grass and ledge anglers should be the areas with the fresh, hungry fish coming to them for this event.

BUCKET A: MULLINS

Deep cranking and the Tennessee River go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. If David Mullins is going to make a move on Brandon Palaniuk for Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year, he probably needs a Top 10 here at Pickwick. Mullins is one of the most dedicated crankers in the Elite field, so I am going to ride with him this week after a solid Fork event.

Prodigy pick

Not sure how much longer Dave Mercer can refer to Brandon Palaniuk as “The Prodigy,” but I like the alliteration this week. Palaniuk is one of the few anglers currently fishing that fished both Bassmaster Elite stops on Pickwick in 2011 and 2021 with an average finish of 18.5. Match that with his propensity to dial in fish with his electronics in the postspawn and momentum for the current season, and he is an easy pick in Bucket A.

BUCKET B: GROSS

Nothing fancy for me in this bucket. It’s no secret that Buddy Gross is a force on the Tennessee River in the postspawn into summertime, and he has high level wins on Pickwick on his resume. There’s no reason to outsmart myself here, going chalk in Bucket B.

Grassy pick

Pickwick was Seth Feider’s second worst finish of his 2021 AOY campaign, but that was still a 25th. The grass bite should be emerging, and the water is not likely to rise 6 feet over the top of it the night before the tournament. I like Feider’s chance to flip up some nice bags at Pickwick.

BUCKET C: DAVIS

It’s been a minute since Clent Davis notched a Top 10 in an Elite Series event, but I got the feeling he may just 10-inch worm his way to one this event at Pickwick. Offshore fishing is definitely one of Davis’ strengths, and this event should line up well for him.

Hair pick

Chad Pipkens seems to make hay when the postspawn offshore bite shines, and that should be a major player at Pickwick. He’s coming off a strong event at Fork, and I noted that his only Top 10 in 2021 was here at Pickwick.

BUCKET D: HUFF

I don’t feel like the schedule has really aligned to this point to showcase the talents of Cody Huff, but I think that changes at Pickwick. While there will be good fish caught in and around midrange grass, there should be enough moving offshore every day for Huff to shine.

Sleeper pick, take two

Lake Fork stymied my Sleepy Assassin take last event, but this time my Fantasy senses tell me Austin Felix will find enough solid schools of offshore bass with his electronics to carry him to a solid finish at Pickwick.

BUCKET E: SCHMITT

Safe to say that Bryan Schmitt is pretty ticked off on how his Bassmaster Elite Series season has gone after they left Florida. Regardless the time of the year, grass seems to be a factor in tournaments on Pickwick, and I like Schmitt when there is current and grass in play. On top of that, he posted an eighth-place finish in 2021 even in flooding conditions.

Home cooking

While Justin Atkins is going to have to get up a bit earlier to get to the Counce, Tenn., ramp rather than the Florence ramp, make no mistake, Pickwick is his home pond. Atkins did not have a stellar performance in last year’s Elite Series stop here, but he did bounce back with a solid 11th-place finish in the May Bassmaster Open.

Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

Now onto Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge. This additional fantasy fishing game not only offers a fresh way to play the game, but a separate prize pool. Drain the Lake is an elimination or survivor-style game where you can only use an angler once all season. 

Every event you play, now leaves us all with a smaller pool of anglers to add to rosters and the angler pool is down to half at this point.

Here’s my Drain the Lake roster for Pickwick:

• Josh Stracner
• Justin Atkins
• Brock Mosley
• Matthew Roberston
• Clent Davis
• Justin Hamer
• Joseph Webster
• Brandon Lester