Well, after another dismal tournament, I’ve decided to bench Gerald, that often-overbearing voice in my head. For the Bull Shoals/Norfork event, I heeded his advice and tanked horribly. This time, I’ve seen a psychiatrist who prescribed some meds—radio silence between my ears.
Well, not really. But, for this event I think taking the simplest route possible makes the most sense. If I were you, I would take what I say and do the opposite. In fact, I’ll share my picks, but go with the dark horse. It doesn’t make any sense at all, but if you’ve seen my recent Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing results, it’s sad.
I cry myself to sleep at night …
But, I digress. I made my selections mostly based on AOY points, but also considered geographic location. This time of year plays well to several strong early summer patterns like dragging a jig, throwing big worms into brush, cranking edges and working topwaters near emergent vegetation. The presentations that I’ve just described appeal to the vast majority of the Elite Series field.
I’m righting my ship at Wheeler
BUCKET A: HACKNEY
I just haven’t been betting on Greg Hackney, and he’s continuing to do well. Each time I expect him to falter and have a tough tournament, but maybe he’s just that good. Actually, it’s not a question of “if” anymore. He is. Having said that, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Bill Lowen win his first Elite, Gerald Swindle or Justin Lucas take this one home.
Second Choice: Randall Tharp is hungry, and I don’t expect him to coast through this next event. He’s got his eye on the AOY title, and he’ll do well on Wheeler, especially with the momentum that comes with winning Bull Shoals/Norfork
Dark Horse: Kelly Jordon has had a solid season so far; he just might win this one while riding his momentous wave.
BUCKET B: MENENDEZ
Menendez is a Tennessee River wizard. He’s been doing very well this year, and I totally expect him to cash another check in Decatur, Ala., if not win. He has lots of history on all of the TVA rivers, with a lot of impressive results.
Second Choice: Aaron Martens has been quiet this year, and that’s very uncharacteristic of him. He may get furious and win.
Dark Horse: Matt Herren has been doing very well at each of this year’s events, including the Classic. Just like Bill Lowen, he’s way overdue for a victory, and after a painful loss in Arkansas, I think he’ll fish Wheeler mad, and that’s not a good thing for the big bass population.
BUCKET C: HORTON
Tim Horton lives in Muscle Shoals, which is right on Wheeler. He has experienced a tremendous amount of success on the Tennessee River impoundments, and he’s been especially quiet in recent seasons. Horton is dropping the gloves and going to work this week.
Second Choice: Kevin VanDam is one of, if not the best Tennessee River angler ever. He’s been in a slump lately, but if there was ever a time and a place that could turn things around for the Michigan angler, it’s at Wheeler this week.
Dark Horse: Brandon Lester has been fishing very well, and he lives just up the road from Wheeler. In recent tournaments he’s been so close he can taste it, even leading Day 1 on St. Johns. Is it Lester’s time?
BUCKET D: R. LANE
In keeping with a moderate local-angler flavor, Russ Lane is no stranger to Wheeler. He’s been quiet, but never count him out, I think this could be the tournament where he makes some noise.
Second Choice: Aussie Carl Jocumsen has smelled bloody waters, and he’s hungry. After a disappointing finish at Winyah Bay following and early Day 1 lead, he’s fishing hard, and he’s due for a Top 12 finish or the “W”.
Dark Horse: Gary Klein didn’t make the Classic this year and he started his season in Bucket E, that’s just not the Klein we know. He’s improved his Fantasy standings at each event, and you can rest assured that he’ll continue the trend at Wheeler. He knows the fishery very well after years of tournaments on the Tennessee River chain of lakes. Perhaps, as Clunn did in Florida, the old guard might show up and win another.
BUCKET E: M. LEE
Matt Lee grew up just down the road, and it’s surprising to see him in Bucket E. He’s much better than that, and I know he’ll find a way out of the bottom of the barrel. In fact, I think he’ll end up in the Top 12 on Championship Sunday in Decatur, Ala.
Second Choice: David Walker won Wheeler the last time the Elite Series visited, he’s been awfully quiet over recent seasons, and I think that’s about to change.
Dark Horse: Chad Pipkens has been on my roster at least twice so far this year, and he’s not done well at all. That’s not the Pipkens I know as an angler, and I fully expect to see him pull himself back up the AOY ranks at this tournament.