Alright everyone! It’s time to dust off the ole’ picker and gear up for the 2017 Fantasy Fishing Season! Even though it’s not the first event of the season, we wanted to get an early look at whicgh techniques and anglers will be a major factor at the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Conroe in Houston, Texas.
I must say, I attended my first Classic last year at Grande Lake. It is definitely something I recommend any angler take a trip to see. From the Expo to the weigh-ins to the on-the-water action, there will be something for everyone!
With that said, let’s jump into some preliminary picks. Without a psychic meteorologist to tell us who will have momentum and what the weather is going to be like, I’m going to base my picks for now on what techniques will play. I’m going to pick two anglers who I feel have the best shot and we’ll throw in one more for good measure.
BUCKET A: COMBS
Reaction Pick: Keith Combs
When we talk about home-water advantage, there is no angler with which that rings more true than Keith Combs. His record is unreal on Texas waters in general, but his record on Conroe is second to none. His history on Conroe is insane in the Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) with first, third, first, and fourth place finishes. Only issue is, these were in September and October … not March. Still, he has something figured out.
Safe Pick: Edwin Evers
Last year, he showed us he can put together some winning pre-spawn fish with his 29-pound, final-day heroics. He is stellar with just about any lure in his hands, but his sight fishing prowess and history on Conroe could put him above par. His TTBC record is pretty impressive as well, including: 16th, fifth, seventh, sixth and 38th.
My only concern is that historically, past Classic champs rarely do well in subsequent years. The exception is KVD. Edwin has already established himself as among the greats. Maybe he will be an exception as well.
Don’t Forget About: Kevin Van Dam
My Pick for Now: Keith Combs
BUCKET B: POWROZNIK
Reaction Pick: Jacob Powroznik
If the water is clear enough to see some fish, which I’m sure it will be, you can bet this guy will be on some sight fish. He is great on any water, any time of year with just about any bait, and he has proven to be a stick on Conroe with a third-place finish in the 2013 TTBC.
Safe Pick: Matt Herren
Without a doubt, the flipping and dock bites will be a factor. Herren is a master at picking docks apart, and you can bet he’ll have a jig in his hands looking for big staging females.
Don’t Forget About: Skeet Reese
My Pick for Now: Jacob Powroznik
BUCKET C: HITE
Reaction Pick: Brett Hite
Pre-Spawn and bladed jigs go hand in hand. Bladed jigs and Brett Hite go hand in hand. That being said, Hite has a chance to make some noise here. Spring weather, staging fish and stained water could equal success.
Safe Pick: Bobby Lane
Again, a strong, early-season flipping master who is known for catching bigguns could be a contender. With as many sticks, docks, rocks and brush piles to pick apart, look for “Big Fish” Bobbly Lane to put the puzzle together.
Don’t Forget About: Ish Monroe
My Pick for Now: Brett Hite
BUCKET D: LINTNER
Reaction Pick: Jared Lintner
All I can think about is Toledo Bend a few years ago when he flipped and sight fished his way to a great finish. I expect the Milk Man to have a few tricks up his sleeves at Conroe.
Safe Pick: Chris Zaldain
This California angler got his first win 2015 and is ready for the next step, a Classic victory. He may not go all the way, but he has a knack for getting bites when it gets really tough. He might even bust out a finesse drop shot and flip bushes again like he did at Norfork last year if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Don’t Forget About: Brent Ehrler
My Pick for Now: Jared Lintner
BUCKET E: JONES JR.
Reaction Pick: Alton Jones Jr.
This is the bucket that will set you ahead of the pack with a shot to win the Fantasy Fishing grand prize. We’ll start with Alton Jr. The proverbial apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree and Alton Jones Jr. is looking to blaze a trail to greatness. His successes over the last few years have put him in position to take down the biggest title in the sport. Usually the Bucket E anglers are not used to the pressure and media attention. If there is anyone who wouldn’t be fazed by this, it will be Jones. He has some mad Texas Bassin’ skills too. I think he will top this bucket.
Safe Picks: Darrell Ocamica & Tim Klinger
I’m going to lump these guys together because their records are very similar. They both finished extremely well in the Federation Nation Championship on Conroe with second- and third-place finishes respectively. If they can get over the pressure of the Classic, they could definitely make a run!
My Pick for Now: Alton Jones Jr.