Fantasy Fishing: Wheeler will surprise us

I’m going to suggest that Wheeler Lake will surprise us as fans of the sport. Coming off of an amazing event at Lake Murray where winning weights were higher than expected and looking forward to the Northern Swing in a couple months can make the Alabama swing of the schedule seem like “grinders” type events.

There’s certainly some truth to the fact that the Elites will have to earn it at Wheeler Lake where temperatures are going to be hot, but the fishery provides a fantastic playing field. Some lakes on the Tennessee River tend to be extremely “ledge fishing” heavy during the summer months, and while that will still be a big factor in this event, Wheeler Lake provides a number of other ways to catch good limits of bass.

When making Fantasy Fishing picks, there’s a lot of factors to consider. History can be factored in for the rookies that fished the Opens last season as well as the anglers that fished the Elite Series events at Wheeler in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2016.

Otherwise, selecting anglers that are historically good on Tennessee River impoundments as well as anglers that excel in the summertime is a solid strategy.

Let’s get into some picks.


Currently sitting inside the Top 10 in Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, Jacob Foutz is off to a fantastic start to season. In addition to positive momentum, Foutz has vast experience fishing lakes on the Tennessee River and even finished 4th at Pickwick Lake in 2022 which was also in June. At a 2.3% player percentage, the Tennessee pro is a solid value pick.

Solid secondary selection: When we get past the half way point of the season, Bucket A is loaded with anglers with built up momentum, but none have outdone Trey McKinney. The Illinois pro notched a Top 10 at Wheeler Lake in the St. Croix Bassmaster Open just a year ago.


Bucket B is tough because there’s a number of anglers that you could make an easy case for selecting, but Brandon Palaniuk is getting the nod for my roster. Over the course of his career, Palaniuk has consistently shown the ability to excel in postpawn events where fishing offshore structure is a factor. Additionally, the Elite Series veteran was just seven ounces short of winning the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Wheeler in 2023.

Solid secondary selection: If you’re looking for an under the radar pick, consider Pat Schlapper in Bucket B. Much like Palaniuk, Schlapper has excelled on the Tennessee River and in offshore structure events.


It’s hard to pick a tournament that you wouldn’t feel confident having Greg Hackney on your Fantasy team, but it this feels like the type of tournament where the Louisiana pro can find some water all to himself and go to work. In four Elite Series events at Wheeler Lake, Hackney has two sixth place finishes and a solid 34th.

Solid secondary selection: Steve Kennedy is another angler in Bucket C that has historically done well at Wheeler Lake. In five B.A.S.S. events, Kennedy has only finished outside of the top 50 once at Wheeler.


Kenta Kimura’s power fishing prowess feels like a perfect match for Wheeler Lake. In addition to a stylistic match, Kimura notched a 15th place finish just a year ago at the Wheeler Lake Open.

Solid secondary selection: Although he’s currently sitting at a 29.9% player percentage, Brandon Cobb being in Bucket D is a tempting option. Cobb is an angler that could excel off the bank, or fishing shallow.


Bucket E is full of names that we’re not accustomed to seeing so low in the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings which makes it difficult to pick from. However, David Mullins feels like a steal of a pick at just 1.8% player percentage.

Solid secondary selection: Dating all the way back into the 1990s, Gerald Swindle has had success at Wheeler Lake. This could be the perfect opportunity to turn his season around.

Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

• Cole Sands
• Brandon Palaniuk
• Buddy Gross
• John Garrett
• Jacob Foutz
• Gerald Swindle
• Carl Jocumsen
• Scott Canterbury