Fantasy Fishing

Fantasy Fishing: Unfamiliar Fork

The title of this column may be a little misleading because the Bassmaster Elites have visited Lake Fork every season since 2019. Each event has been during a little different time of the year, with the 2019 and 2021 events being held in the spring and the 2020 event in the fall.

Naturally, this time around will be a little different because of the fact that the event will be held later in the spring, but that’s not going to be the biggest difference. Lake Fork has been 5 to 6 feet low for a while now, and it looks to be roughly the same by the time the Elites show up.

From a Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing standpoint, this makes it very difficult to predict which anglers will do well. Looking back at prior history could still be helpful, but who knows which anglers will adjust the best to the completely different water levels. If water levels were normal, there’s a good chance that the event would have been a mixture of shallow fishing as well as deep fishing. But the lack of shoreline cover could make the shallow, bank fishing much more difficult.

Having a hard time remembering to set your Fantasy Fishing team? Sign up for the new text alert feature! Haven’t created a Fantasy Fishing account yet? No problem! Sign up and play for free at BassmasterFantasy.com. Players win prizes at each specific event, and there are prizes for overall winners at the end of the season as well. You can still play the remainder of the season even if you missed out on the earlier events.

Let’s get into some Fantasy Fishing picks.

BUCKET A: BLAYLOCK

While Stetson Blaylock is not technically a local to Lake Fork, his experience on this famed fishery is vast. The Central Arkansas pro used to offer guided trips on Fork, as it’s just a short drive down Interstate 30. Fishing offshore is one of Blaylock’s biggest strengths, and he should certainly be able to put that on display this time around. In three Elite Series events on Lake Fork, Blaylock has yet to finish outside of the top 30.

Solid secondary selection: It’s hard to argue the success that Patrick Walters has experienced on Lake Fork. Although his player percentage is the highest of anyone in Bucket A, the South Carolina native will likely be able to navigate the abundance of standing timber with his forward-facing sonar to another solid finish at Fork.

BUCKET B: FEIDER

After a dominant, Bassmaster Angler of the Year crowning season in 2021, Seth Feider has experienced a slower start to the 2022 season. With that said, the schedule is starting to turn in his favor the rest of the way. Most associate Feider with his dominance up north, but his success at Lake Fork is extremely impressive. In three Elite Series events on Lake Fork, the Minnesota pro has never finished outside of the top 12.

Solid secondary selection: If you’re looking for a solid pick that is currently at a much lower player percentage, look no further than Elite Series rookie Cody Huff. Despite his young age, Huff is an expert at utilizing his electronics to find deep, offshore bass. At 0.3%, the Missouri pro could be a solid dark horse in Bucket B.

BUCKET C: GUSTAFSON

Much like Seth Feider, most associate Jeff Gustafson with northern smallmouth fishing, but the Canadian pro is excellent at finding schools of offshore fish on southern fisheries. In 2019, Gustafson finished fifth at Lake Fork, primarily targeting offshore fish which he should be able to do this time around as well. At under 4% player percentage, Gustafson is a solid value pick in Bucket C.

Solid secondary selection: It’s become expected that if there is a population of fish living offshore during the postpawn period, Brandon Card is going to factor in the event. In the 2021 Lake Fork Elite event, Card was able to target schools of offshore fish to finish the event in fourth after leading the event on Day 2 and 3. Look for Card to have another solid finish – hopefully without getting another hook in his hand.

BUCKET D: LIVESAY

At nearly a 68% player percentage, Lee Livesay may have the highest percentage of anyone in the history of Fantasy Fishing. Usually, I would try to go against the grain in a situation like this and pick an angler with a lower percentage in hopes of gaining points on such a large percentage of players. But it’s too big of a risk here because if Livesay does what we all expect him to, he will likely be the highest scoring angler in the bucket. Having so much knowledge of the fishery will help Livesay make the right moves despite the low water levels.

Solid secondary selection: If you’re willing to make a risky pick in Bucket D, Chad Pipkens may be your guy. In three Elite Series trips to Lake Fork, Pipkens has never finished outside of the top 30.

BUCKET E: ATKINS

Bucket E is where I’m going to take my calculated risk with Justin Atkins. The North Alabama pro is no stranger to fishing offshore for schools of fish, with plenty of experience on the Tennessee River. Keith Combs is taking up a large number of percentages in Bucket E, and for good reason, but expect Justin Atkins to get back on track at Lake Fork as well.

Solid secondary selection: If you don’t want to take the risk in Bucket E, play it safe with Keith Combs. The Texas pro has a long history of success on Lake Fork, and the timing is setting up extremely well to play into his strengths.

Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

• Darold Gleason
• Keith Combs
• Brandon Card
• Lee Livesay
• Masayuki Matsushita
• Jamie Hartman
• Stephen Kennedy
• Cody Huff