One of the greatest attributes to this wonderful sport we love is you really never know who could win at any given tournament. There are expectations and educated guesses to be made, but in the long run this is a sport that is greatly impacted by another unpredictable party, the fish. Especially after the spawn.
The Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend presented by Econo Lodge will put forth various hurdles the 110 Elite Series anglers must overcome to have a shot at winning, and the best will always rise.
Last year, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., won in a big way, and he’s the type who thrives on the kind of pressure to win again. He’s likely the best in the world at catching postspawners, and following a warm winter and a warm spring, it’s safe to assume the bass will be on a very similar pattern as they were last year.
Momentum must also be considered. Jordan Lee is just coming off of a monumental win at the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, so will he continue to ride that momentum into the next event? Time will tell.
I’m going to make my selections this week based on a combination of momentum and expertise. I think a few of my choices will be obvious ones, but anglers who I feel have the skills to do well at Toledo Bend.
BUCKET A: DEFOE
Tennessee native Ott DeFoe continues to have a dominating season after his third Top 10 of the year with a fifth-place finish at the Classic. While the Classic doesn’t count towards a season total in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year scoring (it does for Fantasy Fishing players), the momentum continued for DeFoe, and I expect to see that continue — dare I say eventually claim the AOY title at the end of the year. Plus, he finished in 14th last year, so he knows how to catch Toledo Bend fish.
Darkhorse: Randall Tharp continues to be on my radar this year, and I think rightly so — he’s currently holding down fourth place in the AOY race. He’s very accomplished during the postspawn and has plenty of momentum coming into the third regular season event of the year. Never count Tharp out. And of course, Jordan Lee, the 2017 Bassmaster Classic champion. Will he continue his streak? He sure could.
BUCKET B: K. VANDAM
This is my selection for obvious reasons. The guy had an epic reemergence last year after an extended dry spell without a win. VanDam showed up and won big at Toldeo Bend, and I’m confident he’ll be a major contender again this year as the lake sets up well for his preferred style of fishing.
Darkhorse: Todd Faircloth is always in the mix, especially on a lake so close to his hometown of Jasper, Texas, which is just down the road. Any time big fish, like those that swim in Toledo Bend, are a factor, Faircloth can’t be counted out.
BUCKET C: LEFEBRE
At the Classic Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., made it clear to me that he feels as though he’s been overlooked at recent events. Although I hate to admit he’s right, ever, he’s correct on his assumption: Fantasy pundits for far too long have overlooked him. He has the resume to be considered a major contender at Toledo Bend, including a solid 17th-place finish at last year’s event. He’s also got the momentum on his side. Expect big things from Lefebre at Toledo Bend, and this year in general.
Darkhorse: Another guy to not overlook is Edwin Evers. He has momentum and history to be placed high in your Fantasy selections. The 2016 Bassmaster Classic champ finished 10th last year at Toledo Bend, and he’ll be looking to improve on that time around. Also consider Steve Kennedy. The guy is alwasy good postspawn and did well at TB last year. I think it's safe to say he'll make at least one of the cuts, if not both.
BUCKET D: PALANIUK
The Idaho native has been quiet for far too long. I am making him my Bucket D selection for that reason alone. I know it kills him to struggle at several events in a row. He’s hungry and I think we’re going to see a new Brandon Palaniuk this season, beginning at Toledo Bend.
Darkhorse: It’s a toss up between Jacob Powroznik and Cliff Crochet for me here. Powroznik won at Toledo Bend in 2014, and is overdue for his next win. He’s also not having the best start to his season, and this is where I think he’ll turn that around. Cliff Crochet is getting closer and closer to his first Elite Series victory, and I think he could make a strong showing, if not finally run away with a W.
BUCKET E: BIFFLE
Oklahoman Tommy Biffle is pretty quiet for several tournaments in a row, and then he shows up and steals the show, or comes dang close to it. I think he’s due for a win or another strong finish. He finished ninth last year at Toledo Bend and I expect the conditions to set up perfectly for the veteran angler.
Darkhorse: Justin Lucas has had a difficult season so far. It’s very uncharacteristic for the young pro, and I think he’s done tolerating the slump he seems to be in. Toledo Bend is just the place to have another dominating performance, and Lucas knows that. Don’t expect him to be quiet for much longer.