Well that stung.
For Toledo Bend, I picked five guys who were shoe-in’s to have a strong finish. Tharp, who had some momentum, and the skills to do well, ended in an extremely uncharacteristic 109th place. Rojas, who has not just one, but two wins on this body of water, tanked. Chris Lane, too, ended way down in the standings.
Jacob Powroznik and Dave Lefebre were my “saving grace” if you can call it that. I still took a nosedive in the standings, which was a tough pill to swallow after a strong start to the season.
Ross Barnett is going to be interesting. Lots of options and lots of hungry anglers should make for an action-packed event. Traditionally this time of year, the fish are in all stages. With the warmer-than-average winter, my guess it will be another event where a few anglers key in on the subtleties necessary to catch them good and a few will be left scratching their heads.
My goal is to be conservative, but outside the box. There are great low-owned picks in every bucket and if trends continue, you’ll see some surprise names at the top on Sunday.
A little disclaimer for my picks: I am assuming there will be an offshore bite, but in case it’s a bank-beater tournament, I’m picking guys who can do both.
BUCKET A: WHEELER
My pick: Jacob Wheeler
Wheeler not only won on Cherokee, but he finished strong at Toledo Bend as well. Given his skill set and determination, at currently owned at eight percent, this guy is a steal. He has a knack for finding the small things that make a difference.
Also Consider: Seth Feider
The Minnesota pro seems to thrive when paying attention to very small details offshore is a requirement. He’s won fishing away from the bank in the six- to 10-foot range on break lines and rock beds. He also has some momentum with a fourth-place finish at Cherokee and 10th at Toledo Bend. This might be the year he really breaks loose on the Elite trail.
BUCKET B: PALANIUK
My pick: Brandon Palaniuk
Palaniuk has done well when offshore structure is a key element. My guess is with the fish in all stages, there will be some shallow in the vegetation, but finding the staging spots for pre- and postspawn fish will be key. Brandon claims he doesn’t have much confidence throwing a crankbait, but with every one of his wins and several of his higher finishes, a crankbait was critical and I think it will play here, too.
Also Consider: KVD
All I can picture is a helicopter view of KVD throwing crankbaits on shallow ledges at Kentucky Lake on his way to a win. Granted that was in the summer, but grinding gravel has made him a boatload of money over the last few decades. I might regret not picking him because truthfully, at 21 percent, he’s still a value. But for now, I need to keep my ownership low.
BUCKET C: POWROZNIK
My Pick: Jacob Powroznik
Like death and Taxes (sorry to bring those up), Jacob Powroznik finishing above average is almost a guarantee. He is kind of an insurance policy for when I need to pick someone risky in another bucket. He likes to do everything that should be in play here and seems to do extremely well at lesser-known venues. Some of his wins and highest finishes are on lakes that he had barely ever even been to. I expect a good finish here for the Virginia pro.
Also Consider: Scott Rook
He has some great history on Ross Barnett and has decent momentum. He’s one of those picks that might surprise everyone and make the few players who pick him really happy.
BUCKET D: PIRCH
My Pick: Cliff Pirch
I might be putting a lot of stock in the offshore bite, but that’s what I’m banking on. Mind you, when I say offshore, I don’t mean 25 to 30 feet deep. There are super productive ledges on this lake in the 3- to 6-foot range. Pirch has got the skills to find the productive spots within a spot and milk it for big bites. He’s a little bit of a gut pick, but I can see him being in it to the end.
Also Consider: Cliff Crochet
Cajun Baby has some good history here and has decent momentum. He’ll do his thing and hunt for big bites and chances are, he’ll find a few. Maybe even enough to take down a Top 12.
BUCKET E: OMORI
My Pick: Takahiro Omori
Tak got a little taste of success with a few decent bags early on at Toledo Bend. It’s not very often he finds himself in Bucket E, and currently with single digit ownership, he’s worth snatching up. This lake fits his style and I can see him doing well.
Also Consider: Chris Lane
He is too good to stay down for much longer. Mark my words: Historically, as soon as I jump off the Lane Train, he has a stellar event. He will do well at Ross Barnett. There should be plenty of shoreline cover to make him feel right at home.