Analyzing the 2022 Elite fisheries

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<b>Lake Fork</b><br>The spawning cycle was in all phases at Lake Fork, where part-time guide and now two-time Elite Series champion Lee Livesay joined the Bassmaster Century Club with a winning weight of 112 pounds, 5 ounces. His Championship Sunday limi
B.A.S.S.

The spawning cycle was in all phases at Lake Fork, where part-time guide and now two-time Elite Series champion Lee Livesay joined the Bassmaster Century Club with a winning weight of 112 pounds, 5 ounces.

The 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule tracks across the best times to fish on some of the nation’s top fisheries during the prespawn, spawn and postspawn cycles. 

All anglers stand to gain even more knowledge about new tactics they can use to catch more and bigger bass by watching the coverage on FOX Sports and Bassmaster.com. 

Here is the lineup of fisheries, background on previous events and an analysis on what could play out during the competition.  

St. Johns River, Florida; Feb. 10-13

History: The season kicks off for the fourth consecutive year at the St. Johns River. The previous events, all held in mid-February, yielded catches of bass in the prespawn and spawning stages of the cycle. Rick Clunn’s 98-pound, 14-ounce win in 2019 stands as the heaviest winning weight, as several 30-pound bags and countless 6- to 8-pounders were caught as the big females moved shallow to spawn. In 2020, the river didn’t show out as expected after foul weather postponed two days. A massive cold front following a strong line of storms all but shut down the spawning migration. Paul Mueller won with a three-day total of 47-6, catching four keepers on the final day. Last year, winner Bryan New caught prespawn and spawning bass to win with 79-7 under more normal conditions. 

Analysis: The river always has the potential to show out as it did in 2019. A winter cold front during a tournament can shut down the spawning migration. A moderate winter is most favorable for a replay of 2019. 

Harris Chain of Lakes, Florida; Feb. 17-20 

History: The St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series fished the chain in 2017, 2019 and 2021. Cold fronts plagued the first two events, with the winning weights 59-4 and 57-8, respectively (2019 was a two-day event). Both were fished under prespawn conditions, with the bigger fish positioning in the warmer refuges of thick grassbeds. Last year was completely different. Unseasonably warm weather before the tournament had the bass in postspawn mode.

Analysis: Each of the lakes in the chain is different, with various depths and types of vegetation providing options to anglers when continuous adjustments are required due to cold fronts. That’s a positive. Like anywhere else in central Florida during mid-February, it all comes down to the weather conditions in the weeks leading to the tournament. 

Santee Cooper Lakes, South Carolina; March 17-20

History: Santee Cooper, which includes “the inland sea” of 110,000-acre Lake Marion and 60,000-acre Lake Moultrie, is well over twice the size of 69,000-acre of legendary fishery Lake Guntersville, but the lakes produced similar numbers to Guntersville in October of 2020. Elite pro Brandon Palaniuk amassed a four-day total of 72 pounds, 2 ounces for a dominant win during a season plagued by postponements and rescheduled events.

Analysis: Everyone is looking forward to this stop for the same reason: the potential for heavy weights and big bass. The winning weight was 98-9 at a tour-level event held in March 2003, and the field weighed a total of 4,971 pounds of bass. Like anyplace else in the South, the early spring weather conditions leading up to the event will set the stage for where the spawning cycle will be during the mid-March event. 

Lake Chickamauga, Tennessee; April 7-10

History: Elite Series pro John Cox won an Opens event in May 2019 with 68-3, catching all his fish sight fishing in less than a foot of water. The bass had flooded the shoreline with the spawn well under way. 

Analysis: The bass will likely be more in prespawn mode. Intercepting those fish as they migrate through the major creeks and tributaries connected to the main river channel will be the most likely strategy in play. 

Lake Fork, Texas; May 19-20

History: In 2021, Lee Livesay won on his home lake with 112-5, including a final day limit weighing 42-3. He concentrated on secondary points where bass chased big gizzard shad. Runner-up Patrick Walters had 104-12, focusing on creek mouths where prespawners staged on shallow flats near deeper water. 

Analysis: The 2022 event will be two weeks after Brandon Cobb scored his epic 2019 win with 114 pounds. Cobb caught the bulk of his weight fishing around offshore shallow shellbeds where bass fed on spawning shad. Running a circuit of points and flats supported his pattern all week. He alternated that strategy searching for spawning bass in shallow water, catching an 11-1 monster that ranked as the biggest bass of the week. That could pan out again, as could a postspawn bite as the bass migrate back to deeper water. 

Pickwick Lake, Tennessee; June 2-5

History: It took 58-2 to win the 2021 Opens event held the last week of April on Pickwick. The bite was in all phases of the spawn, with winner Joey Nania focusing on main river bars featuring mixed milfoil in the strike zone. Other top finishers fished the main river, finding success over shell bars and islands with mixed vegetation. 

Analysis: The time of year lends itself to a postspawn slugfest out on the main river ledges. Timing will mean everything, as the bite turns on during power-generated current. Mid-lake milfoil will be a player, too, while the story yet to be told is how the community holes will factor into the mix. 

St. Lawrence River, New York; July 14-17

History: The Elite Series completed a long run of events fished out of Waddington with the 2021 event won by Taku Ito with 90 pounds. In 2020, Canadian Chris Johnston won with 97-8, with the weigh-ins held in Clayton. Both winners caught their fish in Lake Ontario, previously off limits to the anglers. 

Analysis: Previous history leads to the tournament being won in Lake Ontario, with the river around Clayton factoring in for largemouth and smallmouth.  

Lake Oahe, South Dakota; Aug. 18-21

History: The previous event at Oahe was in late June 2018, with a winning weight of 69-9 dominated by smallmouth. The majority of the field was drop shotting for postspawn bass congregating on points adjacent to shallow spawning flats. 

Analysis: The 2022 event is nearly three months later and near the opposite northern end of the 231-mile lake. Little is known about that end, as limited fuel services prevented the anglers from venturing that far, although there was no reason to travel great distances in 2018. 

Upper Mississippi River, Wisconsin; Aug. 26-29

History: A three-day weight of 43-3 won the Open held in August 2019 at La Crosse. After several weeks of high water, the river lost nearly 4 feet, repositioning the smallmouth sought by most of the field. Attention shifted to largemouth, where top finishers used frogs fished in the shallow vegetation, a pattern that won the last Elite Series event held there in 2018.  

Analysis: With adequate water spreading throughout the river’s vast backwater areas, expect the soft plastic frog fished in the wide variety of vegetation to be a key pattern. If the river stage is low, the bass will pull out nearer the river channel, making it a possible player.