As it’s been said, it’s been several years since the Bassmaster Elite Series has crested the 100-pound mark of four days of accumulative weight. It’s time for it to happen again. Any B.A.S.S. fans following Bassmaster LIVE will be in for a treat — the big-fish battles are about to ensue.
When it comes to Lake Fork, there are not too many fisheries that hold a candle to its history of giant encounters, and knowing the lake is on an upswing in productivity, I expect the best bass anglers in the business to really show the true potential the central Texas lake is known for.
I’d start with relying on competent experience. Experience on the lake is one thing, and shouldn't be ignored, but knowing big fish during the spring makes guys like Matt Herren and Mark Menendez dangerous.
But on the flip side, it’s hard to beat local knowledge, especially on a lake like Fork that has quite a few big community holes. The angler who knows some overlooked water, could run away with this thing.
Also, don’t forget to consider the momentum factor. It’s the time of year where the Toyota Bassamster Angler of the Year leaders are separating themselves from the pack, and that momentum really seems to play during the second half of the season.
In the end, I think intimate knowledge of the lake will pay out for Fantasy Fishing players, but will it be enough to beat experience? That’s the Lake Fork factor …
Let’s dig in:
BUCKET A: LESTER
The young Tennessee angler is far from inexperienced; in fact I think he’s on the cusp of having his career explode into full-on stardom. He’s been very consistent over the past few years, and when big fish are the target, he relies on his very capable topwater and flipping skills to maximize his opportunities. Brandon Lester is due, and he’s quite experienced and very talented—I could see him stealing the entire show.
Dark Horse: You absolutely can’t overlook Lee Livesay here, and my pundit counterparts are all-in on the Elite Series rookie, but I’m bucking the norm and suggesting Cliff Pirch from Arizona as a backup to Lester. Like Lester, he’s really coming into his own, he’s consistent and he’s way overdue. Look at his performance at St. Johns this past spring; he clearly knows how to handle big fish. And there are numbers of big fish in Fork.
BUCKET B: HERREN
Matt Herren has won in Texas before, and he’s having a solid 2019 overall. He’s from the old guard, but if the bass will be eating a jig, swim jig, crankbait or swimbait, you better not overlook Herren. He has experience, and he’s got momentum — that combination on Fork could pay big-time dividends. Look out for Herren in Texas.
Dark Horse: It’s hard to overlook the youth and panache of Seth Feider, and yes, even Drew Benton — both are capable and overdue, but Mark Menendez would make a fine follow-up to Herren if you’d prefer. Mark’s experience with “biggins” and tenacity will keep him in the hunt at Lake Fork.
BUCKET C: COMBS
I am picking Keith Combs here. But not for the same reason I’m not picking Livesay in Bucket A. Rather, I’m going with Combs because he’ll finish strong at Fork, no doubt, and I don’t want to get passed by the 65-plus-percent that have already selected Combs. Plus, there’s a very good chance he’ll blow everyone away at this event, so he’s a safe choice.
Dark Horse: Bill Weidler is a highly skilled swim jig angler, which is how he earned a spot on the Elite Series. If Combs is too high of a risk, consider Weidler too. He’s accomplished at postspawn bass fishing, which will certainly be the key factor. Weidler has been consistent this year, and I expect him to show up at Lake Fork with motive to advance his AOY standing.
BUCKET D: GUSTAFSON
The Canadian newcomer may not seem like a natural choice, but Jeff "Gussy" Gustafson is no stranger to flipping and cranking. I think it will be easy to overlook him, but I also feel that would be a big mistake. He knows that to earn a coveted Classic berth, he’s got to turn his season around at this event. I firmly believe he belongs on the Elite Series, but he still has to prove that to himself. When he does, look out.
Dark Horse: Rick Clunn brings the experience it takes to manage a victory on a lake like Fork. He proved to the world already once this year that age is no factor in upper echelon tournament bass fishing, and with a lake with so much history like Fork, Clunn's history might play too.
BUCKET E: KENNEDY
Steve Kennedy has had a tough season on the Elite Series. It’s uncharacteristic of him to be in this position, and I think you’ll see him turn it around at Fork. He may not win it, but I’d not be one bit surprised if he makes the Top 10 and turns a lot of heads with a 100-plus-pound limit.
Dark Horse: Frank Talley or Harvey Horne are solid selections in Bucket E if Kennedy isn’t right for you. Both are rookies, but both are looking to prove they belong. Plus, Fork isn’t far from eithers’ front door, and it’s a great time to have the impact they are looking for.