Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing season is upon us!
For some it will be a season of revenge over their buddies after a tough 2015, while others flew high above the competition and want to stay at the top of their game.
The Classic is always the craziest event to try and predict because it is like the Daytona 500. There will be those drivers who always shine at Daytona and rise to the occasion, and the same goes for the Classic. Sometimes the styles suit some anglers better, but when the time is running out and decisions have to be made, anything can happen.
Here are my picks for the Grand Lake Bassmaster Classic.
Bucket A: Hackney
Safe Bet: Edwin Evers
You’ll be hard-pressed to find many anglers with more insight on Grand Lake than Edwin Evers. The Talala, Okla., native hasn’t won a Bassmaster Classic yet, but if you ask around the industry, he is one of the top anglers who hasn’t won bass fishing’s biggest tournament. With some of the pre-practice fishing time being washed out because of the Oklahoma flooding, probably half of the anglers competing didn’t accomplish as much as they would have hoped with that opportunity. With the wild weather this winter so far, I expect local knowledge to help out significantly.
Worth a Risk: Greg Hackney
Greg Hackney fared well in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, the last time B.A.S.S. traveled to Grand Lake. The recent inconsistent weather will likely continue up to the Classic. The last Grand Lake Classic was cold — not Lake Hartwell cold, but still cold. I think it will be much warmer this time around, and I think Hackney is one angler to watch for, especially if a jig plays a factor.
Gut tells me: Hackney
Something about Greg Hackney fishing a Classic that could possibly be a shallow water tournament sounds good with me. Plus if it turns into a cold weather event, Hackney’s beard ought to keep him warmer than most.
Bucket B: B. Lane
Safe Bet: Bobby Lane
In Bobby Lane’s eight Bassmaster Classic appearances, he has never finished worse than 20th. That is impressive for any tournament trail, but with it being the biggest tournament of them all, that speaks volumes. Coming off a 21st-place finish in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race and a second-place finish in last year’s Classic, I’d say Lane had a successful season, and if I was a betting man, my money would be on Big Fish Bobby Lane. A 15th-place finish at the last Grand Lake Classic also sweetens the deal even more. I know, Jason Christie could possibly be the safest bet in the entire field, but I guarantee his ownership percentage will be through the roof.
Worth a Risk: Skeet Reese
Skeet Reese is one of the best anglers in the world and one of the best closers in the game, so why not put confidence in him on the biggest stage? I could see this tournament turning into a shallow water event with the Classic slated for the first week of March. Shallow junk fishing and adapting every day to changing conditions sounds like Skeet Reese. He’s a heavy hitter, no matter the venue.
Gut tells me: B. Lane
Big Fish Bobby Lane may be one of the most underrated anglers in cold weather events. Even though he is a Florida angler who prefers fishing healthy green grass, a little cold weather never hurt, especially for Lane at the Classic. I expect another good showing and possibly another high finish.
Bucket C: VanDam
Safe Bet: Ott DeFoe
Four Classics with four Top 11 finishes for Ott DeFoe is not too shabby. After talking to DeFoe last year, I found out he enjoys fishing colder Classics because they are truly prespawn events, something he doesn’t get to fish often on the Elite Series. Most of the time, the Elite Series season starts down south and is dominated by the spawn or at least a warmer prespawn pattern. In the 2013 Grand Lake Classic, DeFoe finished 11th, and if history translates, then he should factor in once again in the top half of the field.
Worth a Risk: Kevin VanDam
It’s been far too long since Kevin VanDam has hoisted a Bassmaster Classic trophy above his head. With his history on Grand Lake, eighth in the 2013 Classic, he is a threat. I could see VanDam doing some damage by shallow cranking and running and gunning.
Gut tells me: VanDam
“On the move” may be my gut phrase for this Classic. I think bouncing around areas and making as many casts as possible will be successful in this Classic. It genuinely depends on the weather and how it sets up, but I think VanDam will really shine and prove any of the doubters wrong.
Bucket D: Iaconelli
Safe Bet: Michael Iaconelli
It’s the biggest stage on a body of water Iaconelli has done well at before; that is almost too good to be true. It seems that every Bassmaster Classic Iaconelli fishes, he has a chance to really impact the final outcome. There were those moments in the Lake Hartwell Classic as well as Grand Lake in 2013.
Worth a Risk: Brandon Card
Card had a fantastic season this year on many diverse fisheries, and on a confidence level, he is ready to compete in the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing. There are always wildcard anglers who come out of the shadows and excel in the big moment.
Gut tells me: Iaconelli
Big moment = Iconic Ike. I expect a crisp and crazy Iaconelli to play a big factor in another Classic. He is always trying to adjust, and this tournament will be about bouncing around and not necessarily grinding it out in one or two areas.
Bucket E: Watson
Safe Bet: James Watson
For Watson, there isn’t anything new about Grand Lake, other than the high muddy water he faced during the pre-practice period. He doesn’t live in Oklahoma, but his knowledge of Grand and lakes like Table Rock is certainly noted. Bucket E can be a toss-up at times, especially for the Classic because this is where all of the Opens winners, Nation anglers and College champion are tucked together. I’d expect Watson to do well and carry his iconic smile with him all over Tulsa that week.
Worth a Risk: Albert Collins
Many won’t know his name, but Collins has excelled in the B.A.S.S. Nation over the last few years, and in 2015, he took home the title. Collins has done well from Texas to Ohio and basically everywhere in between. This also isn’t his first Bassmaster Classic rodeo — he competed at Grand Lake in 2013 as well — and I think he will correct any mistakes he may have made a few years ago.
Gut tells me: Watson
I’ve passed on some of the anglers who will know Grand better, but I personally like to avoid high percentage anglers if I can. Watson is a comfortable choice for me in Bucket E.