Fantasy Fishing: The Classic is a different animal

I can say without hesitation that this has been the worst start I’ve ever had in my nearly 10 years of being a pundit writer and Fantasy Fishing competitor. It seems like every intuitive pick this year has been a disaster and the unassuming rookies have dominated. I have some serious work to do to get myself back up in the standings.

The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey is a completely different beast compared to a standard Elite Series event. The grandeur of the event and the media attention alone are enough to distract even the most seasoned anglers. And yes, while the rookies have shown up in force, the wily veterans will likely at the very least have an edge when it comes to a solid plan, focus, and juggling everything that the Classic demands.

Oh yeah! They also have to catch bass. There are clear favorites, underdogs and plenty of opportunities for Cinderella stories. The current water temperatures and forecast look to keep things in more of a prespawn pattern. There are parts of the lake that are crystal clear, but for the most part, the lake is stained. The old-school philosophy would be to find bass on moving baits around rocks and docks as they move towards the spawning grounds.

The young guns may have other plans. It would not surprise me one bit if a handful of anglers manage to find bass cruising around in deep water feeding up and plucking them up using forward-facing sonar.

Now for the scariest part of this job – picking anglers.


Of all the Buckets, this one is hands-down the most stacked with plenty of guys that could do well. Brandon Palaniuk is one of the anglers with the most tournament history here, not to mention, twelve Classic appearances. In his three attempts here, his worst finish was 56th in an April tournament. His Classic appearances include a second and a 12th. What I am most excited about when picking BMP is that he doesn’t play it safe at the Classic. He is also hungry and has momentum after Lake Fork.

Don’t Forget About: Jason Christie

Surprising no one, Jason Christie would be foolish to overlook. He has not traded in his flipping sticks and spinnerbaits for spinning rods and tiny minnow baits yet. I’m not saying it will be won shallow, but Christie will absolutely keep that honest. At any given time, there are enough fish up shallow to win this event. He finished second and seventh in past Classics here. As the 2022 Classic champion, he will have plenty of fanfare, but knows how to manage it.


Another shallow angler worth considering is Matt Arey. He loves to throw shallow crankbaits and chatterbaits, also he has plenty of giant bass to his credit in less than five feet of water. His momentum isn’t great, but this tends to be the time of year he flourishes. He has spent a little time on Grand back in 2013, but that was in the summertime. I expect a March event will play to his strengths.

Don’t Forget About: Stetson Blaylock

Speaking of crankbait gurus, Stetson Blaylock shines with a flat-sided crankbait in his hands. In general, he tends to move around a ton to find as many high percentage spots as possible. This will not be an event where you can sit and milk an area for all it’s worth with very few exceptions.


Brandon Card is a bit of a under-rated gut pick and is a quietly consistent angler. On top of that, he is exceptionally versatile. With the bulk of the field choosing Kyoya Fujita who tends to be more of a specialist, the Classic will require more flexibility throughout each day to stay on top of the fish.

Don’t Forget About: Jacob Powroznik

I would be remiss to not mention there have been several anglers who have done well on Grand in the Bassmaster Opens. Jacob Powroznik, a hammer with a jig, is one of them. He finished in 44th and 25th place in 2018 and 2021 respectively amongst massive 200+ angler fields. These were both fall tournaments where jigs were the predominate technique. Don’t be surprised to see them shine this time too.


Hunter Shryock immediately came to mind when sifting through Bucket D. He showed off his shallow water skills at Lake Murray last year. He loves to flip docks and throw moving baits around rocks, plus, in the off chance that it warms up enough to catch a bass on a bed, he has eagle-eyes.

Don’t Forget About: Justin Hamner

If you want a momentum pick, look no further than Justin Hamner. He has fished seven of the eight days of Elite competition so far this year and is coming off a third place finish on Lake Fork.


For rookie Kyle Patrick, the next few weeks are likely to be a bit of a blur. He is one of those dominating rookies who came out of the gate full-blast. Looking back through his tournament history, many of his top 20 finishes are on deep water fisheries. Most of the field will be on the bank in this tournament which should give anglers like Patrick a lot more room to spread out ad hunt for five to eight bites a day.

Don’t Forget About: Tyler Williams

Tyler Williams is currently the highest owned angler in Bucket E. After showing everyone what he brought to Toledo Bend and Lake Fork (finishing 19th and 4th), no one is shocked by that. He is a self-proclaimed shallow water angler who prefers a big stick and a jig, but is a young-gun who has adapted to dominate with FFS too. If he can keep from spinning out with all the festivities of the Classic, he may just find himself with a whole lot more fans.

Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

• Stetson Blaylock
• Brandon Card
• Hank Cherry
• David Gaston
• Luke Palmer
• Hunter Shryock
• Kyle Welcher
• Tyler Williams