Fantasy Fishing: Ride the momentum train at Ross Barnett

There’s absolutely no question about how important momentum can be to a top-tier professional angler. Just ask them. Plus, when the Bassmaster Elite Series visits a venue with relatively low history, momentum seems to be one of the biggest components to an anglers continued success.

I expect no different at the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite at Ross Barnett in Ridgeland, Miss., April 27-30.

I’m also considering guys who are good with a jig and postspawners, which will certainly play a role at the end of April. Putting together skillset and momentum seems like a good combination, but we all know anything can happen.

I’m coming off a solid Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing finish at Toledo Bend where I managed to produce 1,140 points and ended up in the 92nd percentile for the event. With hopes of building on my own momentum, I’m picking lesser-owned anglers that will help me continue my climb up the standings, if they do as well as I expect them to.

BUCKET A: ELAM

Oklahoman James Elam has been enjoying a very consistent season so far, and he’s currently holding down the fifth spot in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. As a relatively young angler, he’s no spring chicken to the Elite Series, plus he was in the Top five at the Classic. Momentum is on his side, and he’s good with a jig.

Darkhorse: Jordan Lee won the Classic — old news — but he’s good in this region of the country. And he just began his reign as world champion, I doubt he’ll wait until next year to further solidify his dominance in the sport.

BUCKET B: HITE

Postspawn, grass and a vibrating jig (I never said the jig couldn’t be dragged horizontally with a vibrating lip), are two elements that have Brett Hite written all over it. He’s been close to a win several times over the past two seasons, and this event is right in his wheelhouse.

Darkhorse: Kevin VanDam is an easy choice here, and a safe selection at that. But I’d keep an eye on Brandon Palaniuk, as he finally returned to contention with a solid finish at Toledo Bend. He knows he’s struggled lately, and my guess is he’s righted that ship and will continue to climb back into a place where he belongs.

BUCKET C: THARP

Randall Tharp suffered the worst finish in his career at Toledo Bend. It’s situations like that where he gets mad and comes back with a vengeance. He’s highly owned in this bucket, but that won’t deter me from making him my primary selection — he’s a deal in Bucket C. I’d not be the slightest bit surprised if he wins Ross Barnett by 20 pounds or something crazy like that. I bet he’s that mad at ‘em. Plus, how good is he with a jig? One of the best ever, period. Talk amongst yourselves.                              

Darkhorse: I heard Stephen Kennedy say that he’ll win one, if not two postspawn tournaments out of 10 tries. I don’t doubt him, and he’s been great last year and this year, including a close second-place finish at the Classic. Look for Kennedy to stay consistent, especially with a jig rod in his hand.

BUCKET D: HERREN

The Alabama angler has been uncharacteristically quiet this year, but he’s made it perfectly clear to me he’s far from out of it, and his future will include an Elite Series win. Herren is hungry for a victory; like Tharp he’s very consistent and won’t continue to struggle much longer. I’m willing to bet he turns 2017 around at Ross Barnett.

Darkhorse: Cliff Pirch is good at catching postspawn bass, and I know he isn’t scared of dragging a big jig around rock and wood, much of which makes up the primary structural elements of the Mississippi reservoir. He’s consistent, and that makes him a safe bet at this event.

BUCKET E: BIFFLE

I picked Tommy Biffle in Bucket E for Toledo Bend last time, and he finished in 50th place. I’m sticking with him for this one again based on his tenacity with a jig and his history on the lake. He finished third in 2015 at Ross Barnett during a Central Open. He’s generally quiet, but I bet he shakes things up this time around.

Darkhorse: Despite another difficult tournament, Justin Lucas will right the ship, and not betting on him will eventually catch up with you. He finished in seventh place during the 2013 Central Open on Ross Barnett, so he knows how to catch fish there. Expect him to be in contention this time.

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