Fantasy Fishing: The law of averages

And just like that, we are a third of the way through the 2024 Bassmaster Elite season. The Harris Chain was quite exciting, leading to one of very few wire-to-wire victories in a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament in Florida. It seems like there are always a handful of guys who get around a different caliber of fish and fight it out to the end. John Garrett found himself in the rare situation, being the only one to find those consistent three- to five-pound bites to give his bags a little more weight.

With the gang moving a stones throw north to the St. Johns River, it will be a completely different playing field than the Harris Chain. The spawn should be almost completely finished there, with maybe a straggler or two hanging behind to be plucked. One could assume most fish will be caught without the need for electronics, but rest assured, someone will figure out how to catch a bass with forward-facing sonar.

I’ve spent enough time banking on the old guard to prove me wrong, but it seems like the rookies are here to stay and are bringing their own bag of tricks to the game. Sitting in the 70th percentile doesn’t feel good. I will not be overlooking the new-school anymore. Let’s jump right into it.


JT Thompkins isn’t scared of anything. In 2023, his average finish across nine opens events (fields of +/-200 typically) was 14th place. That is flat-out insane. So far, he has a 30th, 13th and 2nd for his three openers as an Elite. These new kids have got the skills and flexibility to get it done just about however they have to.

Don’t Forget About: Trey McKinney

Forward-facing sonar with giant glide baits? No sweat, says Trey McKinney. The bass here have been caught the same way for 50 years. Fresh ideas will give some guys an advantage.


There were some impressive stats thrown out for Brandon Lester when it comes to Florida tournaments and his average finishes. He started strong and finished ahead of the bulk of the field landing in 12th. His track record in Florida is nothing to joke around about. In 17 tournaments, he has an average finish of just over 16th. That includes a win and a handful of Top 10 finishes. His average finish on the St. Johns River specifically is 20th across five events here dating back to 2016.

Don’t Forget About: KJ Queen

KJ Queen is a bit of a dark horse, but has some great potential here. His only run at the venue was in February of 2021, his rookie year, where he finished in 29th. He built a significant portion of his resume through his sight-fishing prowess and while that probably won’t be a huge factor here, fishing shallow grass will hit him right in the feel-goods too. He finished up last week in 3rd place, so will have some great Florida momentum.


John Cox was one bite away from fishing on Championship Monday on the Harris Chain. The likelihood of him ever turning on a graph is slim to none. In four events here, his average finish is 34th. If he can just manage that, he’ll be a great producer of points. It seems like everyone in Fantasy Fishing agrees with me, so if you need to make a move, you may look to a lesser owned pick to get you there.

Don’t Forget About: Jason Christie

Somehow Jason Christie is less than 10% owned. I’m not sure how that can be possible. After a tough start, he has righted the train and has back-to-back top 20 finishes including ninth at the Harris Chain. That’s quite the value pick if you ask me.


For a guy who tends to be excellent offshore, he sure has come to love this part of the world. His worst finish on the St. Johns River is 37th back in 2016. Besides that, he has 14th, 15th and 20th place finishes. He did have an abysmal finish on the Harris Chain. That will all but take him out of the AOY running, so he’ll be swinging for the fence now. That sounds like a guy to watch out for.

Don’t Forget About: Brad Whatley

Brad Whatley has been quietly hanging in there the last few seasons. He hasn’t made many splashes, but has been relatively consistent. That is until he landed a nearly 8-pounder on day one of the last event. That fish alone saw him all the way to Monday where he finished in 10th. I know that a big fish is never a guarantee, but there is absolutely something to say about confidence and momentum. That Top 10 could have been just what he needed.


Resident angler Cliff Prince will be on everyone’s short list this week. He calls Palatka, FL home and has more experience here than any other two anglers combined. He will also be one of the few Elites who have fished here in mid-April around the shad spawn. That should give him a pretty good advantage. Our trip here in 2022 was not kind to him, but it was plenty kind to him in 2021, 2020, 2019, 2016, 2012, and 2008.

Don’t Forget About: Scott Martin

It seems like Scott Martin is using all his juice up in the Opens because he is really struggling on the Elite trail. Given that he is a Florida native and won the first Open this year in Florida, he should be in better shape. I picked him on the Harris Chain at the last second and it bit me; while I feel like he should do well here, I can’t afford to get smoked again by a “shoe-in”.

Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

• John Cox
• Stephen Kennedy
• Scott Martin
• Trey McKinney
• Kyle Norsetter
• KJ Queen
• Bryan Schmitt
• JT Thompkins