This week’s tournament is different from last week. West Point was a new body of water. These guys have history on Lake Murray. They know it. That makes a difference.
More important is what kind of season they’re having, where their head is, their last couple of events and their specific angling skills. (I disregard general angling skills. They all know how to fish.)
Click here to set your lineup for this week's event.
Watch: Skeet Reese — Look for him to break out of his funk. There may be a solid swimbait bite — lots of guys have been calling me about that, anyway — and Skeet has a ton of confidence using them on the east coast. Don’t be fooled by his ugly season. Skeet’s ready.
Another thing is his head. I assure you no one is anymore upset by his season than him. He wants redemption. He’ll do everything possible this week to straighten things out and get back on track. He knows he doesn’t belong at the bottom of the pack.
Watch: Steve Kennedy — Nothing makes a winner like winning. He’s on a roll.
Avoid: Alton Jones — I still say everyone has a bad tournament, even though he proved me wrong last week. Jones is overdue for his.
Watch: Boyd Duckett — Boyd’s coming off a positive event. He had a lousy practice last week on West Point, but caught them pretty good the first day. After that, he just ran out of fish. Catching them in the tournament after not catching them in practice — even if it was for only one day — made him feel good about himself. Look for him to do well.
Avoid: Derek Remitz — He’s just not catching them. I’ve played a lot of poker with him. Things get into his head. I think fishing has gotten into his head right now. He’s in a tough situation. It’s not likely to get better this week.
Watch: Fred Roumbanis — Fred won here in 2008, so he has the confidence to catch them on this lake. Fred’s death when he’s confident. He’ll kill you. And, if the creek bite is on, he knows how to make that long run and catch them with a frog. Never sell Fred short when he feels good about himself.
Avoid: Rick Morris — He’s an emotional angler. He was outside the Classic before West Point and struggling. After a 98th place finish, his situation isn’t any better. Rick’s only hope is to go for broke. There’s a reason they call that a long shot strategy.
Watch: Ish Monroe — He finished third last week. I’ll keep picking him until he proves me wrong. That might happen, but I don’t think it’s likely.
Ish is a guy who was really down when the season started. I talk to him on a regular basis. He’s a new man — positive, upbeat and confident. That spells trouble for the other anglers. He has swimbait and frog skills and knows how to put them together when his head is right. It’s right.
Watch: John Murray — He’s overdue for a big performance and ready to make a move. That’s a gut reaction, something I feel when I watch him and talk to him. It’s not based on anything objective. Take this pick for whatever you think it’s worth.
Avoid: Clark Reehm — This guy is tanking. He’s in big trouble. I like him personally, and there’s no doubt he has the skills to succeed. It’s just that he’s in a deep funk and it doesn’t look to improve. I’d stay away from him until he gets a break — longer than two weeks — and puts his fishing back together.
Watch: Ott DeFoe and Brandon Palaniuk — I’m not sure why these guys are in Group E other than the fact that they’re rookies. They sure don’t fish like they belong here. They’re catching them and giving a pretty good accounting of themselves this year. Until that stops, there’s no reason to look anywhere else in Group E.
DeFoe is currently ranked 9th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings; Palaniuk is in 39th place. That tells you they have the bass catching skills to be in the Elite Series, and that they’re not intimidated by the big boys. That’s a good combination. This one’s a gimme as far as I’m concerned.
Avoid: Scott Ashmore — He’s just not catching them. He needs a break, some time to get everything back together and start over. That’s not going to happen at Lake Murray. It’s the sixth tournament out of eight, and it’s right behind West Point. Scott has no time to work on things or to regroup.
He’ll get straightened out, but not this time — and probably not this year.