Pre-Pre-Classic Fantasy: Just go with your gut

I know it’s early to be considering Classic picks, but if you’re anything like me you can’t help yourself. So, we decided to take an early stab at the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Conroe in Houston, Texas, March 24-26.

This year is different with two Elite events before the Classic, which I believe will play a major role when considering momentum. But, for those of us who have religiously followed the Classic for years, little outside influence matters. It can literally be anybody’s game, any year.

With that, I think it’s worth considering who has a shot at becoming the next World Champion of professional bass fishing. I’m basing my guesses on who’s due to win.

BUCKET A: FAIRCLOTH

Texan Todd Faircloth has been to 14 Classics coming into 2017, and he’s a renowned Texas stick. He’s been close many times, and I think he’ll seal the deal this year.

Backup: Randall Tharp had a tremendous year in 2016, and I believe that will carry over into 2017, which may start out with a win on Cherokee or Okeechobee — maybe a world title. As the Classic draws nearer, I may swap Faircloth with Tharp, but it’s too early to tell.

BUCKET B: HERREN

Alabama pro Matt Herren has done well in Texas, and is a jig fishing machine, which will likely play on multiple levels at Conroe in March. I have watched Matt get better and better each year, and 2017 could be the year he earns the highest honor in competitive bass fishing.

Backup: Justin Lucas is an outstanding young pro, and he’s only getting better. It would not surprise me in the slightest to see him finish well, if not win the whole dang thing. He’s not necessarily due for a Classic win, but he sure could pull it off and he’d be a safe bet no matter how you cut it.

BUCKET C: B. LANE

“Big Fish” Bobby Lane is a veteran Classic competitor, and personally I think he’s due for a couple regular-season Elite Series wins, an AOY and a Classic title. He’s always very consistent, and one of these times he’s going to crack the first spot and win a Classic. 2017 could be his season.

Backup: Dave Lefebre has been at this professional fishing thing for some time, and while this is his second Classic appearance, he’s no spring chicken when it comes to dealing with the pressure and spectator boats.

BUCKET D: CHERRY

Hank Cherry has been in the mix since his appearance on the Elite Series in 2013. He’s a proven springtime angler, and if the Conroe bass are in spawn to postspawn, you can expect Cherry to load the boat with some big bass. I think he’s due for a career-changing win, and the Conroe Classic could be it. Regardless if that dream comes true for the North Carolina angler, he’ll be in the mix. That much you can count on.

Backup: Steve Kennedy is known to go for the win at every event. He’s not scared to strike out, and after a solid 2016 on the Elite Series, his momentum could continue to build and peak in Houston.

BUCKET E: STRADER

Going on straight experience, Wesley Strader has been in the game for a while and could easily be considered a veteran. He understands the media, pressure and spectator anglers that are sure to fill the lake, but he has a nose for winning. He’s a solid choice in Bucket E in my opinion.

Backup: It’s hard to not pick Little Alton here. He’s a Texas native, and comes from good stock. He’s sure to have received extensive training in crown management, media attention and how to play on the top level. He’s built for it, and could surprise a lot of people.

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