Adversity causes some men to break — others to break records. That’s going to be the story as the 2018 regular season comes to a close. With the cancelation of the Chesapeake Bay, that will mathematically take some guys out of the AOY race end their efforts to reach the Classic. However, there are a few guys who will look at this as an opportunity to break down what others might see as impossible and make some monster moves to get back inside the cut.
The St. Lawrence River is known for big smallmouth, but make no mistake, there are some really big largemouth that live here too. It’s also known for massive numbers of fish.
After this event, B.A.S.S. will have visited this fishery four times in the last six years, and with each event, it’s evident why they would want to come back. Great crowds and even better fish catches make for a solid, energy-filled race to the trophy.
BUCKET A: PALANIUK
There are a couple dozen guys in the Elites that I would consider to be smallmouth studs. Over the past several seasons, Brandon has risen quickly to the top of that club. He has a win on this system and backs that up with third- and 19th-place finishes as well. Add to that another eight top 20 finishes on smallmouth lakes and you have a recipe for success. He’s not a bad bet on the momentum side either and sits comfortably in 20th in the AOY standings.
Also considered: KVD
How could I not pick KVD? Good question. I mean he won this event last year for goodness sake. In general, any time smallmouth are swimming, you should consider him. I’m just leaning slightly over to Palanuik for now. There is plenty to place a bet in KVD’s direction though. He cashed checks in the two events he didn’t win here and his number of high finishes on smallmouth lakes…well let’s just say I can’t count that high.
BUCKET B: PIPKENS
There are surprisingly few guys that I would consider favored for the northern events in this bucket, but a few definitely stand out. It won’t surprise me to see four or five guys take up the majority of the ownership here. Chad Pipkens is a solid choice though. He is in 24th in AOY right now, and generally the northern swing is where he kicks it up a notch, so look out. He has done very well on this system each time we’ve been here posting 10th-, 32nd- and 48th-place finishes.
Also considered: Brent Ehrler
The words dropshotting and Brent Ehrler go hand in hand. He scored a fourth-place finish here in 2017 in his second trip with the Elites. His first shot made him $10,000 too with a 31st. He is definitely a tempting choice with decent momentum, sitting in 29th in AOY and coming off a 10th on Oahe.
BUCKET C: COMBS
If you’re in Bucket C, it’s likely because you’ve had an up-and-down year. Keith Combs is one of those guys who is close to being locked out of the Classic cut. However, I have seen him do some pretty incredible things throughout his career and a top 10 finish here should bump him into the AOY Championship, and a good finish at the championship could see him fishing the 2019 Bassmaster Classic. His results on this body of water are sneakily impressive. He has cashed a solid check each time, and his records boasts a ninth, 23rd and 31st.
Also considered: Adrian Avena
Avena is another guy who when his back is against the wall, will likely come out swinging. He is in 45th in AOY points right now and he needs to move up the standings if he wants to see the Classic next year. He’s certainly not out of it, but he needs to have a good showing here so he can fish the AOY Championship. If he does well here, a good event at Chatuge could see him through. Last time on the St. Lawrence River, he finished in a dismal 76th place. He had a great event on Oahe though, with a 15th. With the pressure of the bubble and his momentum, I bet we see him make a charge.
BUCKET D: MOSLEY
Brock Mosley has had a tough season, only cashing two checks in Elite Series competition. However, he is a proven stick with a couple second-place finishes on smallmouth lakes in his short Elite career. He finished second here in 2017 and has a second-place finish on St. Clair. He finished near the bottom at Oahe, but will be looking to finish his season on a high note.
Also considered: Dave Lefebre
Dave is almost mathematically out of the Classic cut by points. If he lands a top 10 here, there is a chance for him to have a shot at the AOY Championship. He finished 23rd for his first event on this river in Elite competition. Bottom line, he is a Pennsylvania native who knows how to catch brown ones and that makes him dangerous.
BUCKET E: SCHULTZ
Bernie Schultz, now is your time. Schultz has had an incredibly difficult 2018 season. He unfortunately finds himself at the very bottom of the AOY race for those still competing this year. However, he will fish his last event this season on a fishery that he consistently does well on. Since the turn of the century, he has not finished worse that 15th here. Besides that, he has five other top 20 finishes going back to 1990. He has tournament records dating back to 1987 on this fishery. All that to say, this guy knows his way around this river and will certainly give it everything he’s got.
Also considered: David Walker
It’s hard to follow up Schultz when it comes to tournament results on this river, but David’s record is nothing to scoff at: He cashed a check all three times the Elites visited the St. Lawrence River in the past with 14th-, 22nd- and 40th-place finishes. He has been known to find some monster smallmouth. If you can’t bring yourself to pick Schultz, Walker is certainly a pick to be proud of.