So far this year, I’ve picked Justin Lucas for every event, aside from the Classic. Before the season kicked off, I guessed that he would be the most likely pro to make a strong bid for the coveted Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
And he’s proven me right so far. He’ll be starting in second place in the AOY race at the Huk Bassmaster Elite at Upper Chesapeake Bay presented by Mossy Oak.
He’s widely recognized as a tough river fishery specialist, and the Chesapeake is exactly that.
Some of my fantasy pundit brethren have accused me of hiding a “BroMance” of some sort, and I find it laughable to be accused of such nonsense when Lucas simply pays off regularly for my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing season.
The question is, why wouldn’t I put him in my lineup this time?
Going against my naysayer Fantasy Fishing buddies, I’m placing Lucas in my Bucket A once again — with confidence.
You should too.
After the Chesapeake Bay event wraps up, there will be one remaining regular season event in Waddington, N.Y., before the annual AOY Championship in September, which is taking place in Georgia.
There isn’t much time to salvage difficult seasons, but the AOY leaders could make catastrophic mistakes that cost them the shot at the title. In other words, at this point in the season there’s very little room for error, and those at the bottom of the points list have nothing to lose — making them dangerous.
Things are going to be interesting.
Let’s dig into my choices.
BUCKET A: LUCAS
Justin Lucas won the last time the Elites were in the area at the Potomac River. He won’t be fishing the same spots, but the overall fishery should fish very similarly. Plus, with the tidal influence — something he’s good at reading — and considering his momentum coming into this event, he’s a solid choice. Plus he’s a steal at 5.4 percent ownership (at the time of this writing.)
Dark horse: Bradley Roy is leading AOY, and is a good deal at only 5.6 percent ownership. Momentum is on his side, and I’d expect him to ride that out until the AOY championship.
BUCKET B: SWINDLE
Gerald Swindle has been consistent this year once again, and he’s done well at Chesapeake scoring a top five the last time the Elites visited the area. I’ve picked Swindle several times this year, and each time it’s paid off. Plus, as I often say he’s due for a win, and this could be it.
Dark horse: Mike Iaconelli makes sense here, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Ike make a run at this thing, but his ownership is dominating the bucket. For that reason, I’d suggest considering Mark Daniels Jr., or Greg Hackney.
BUCKET C: CONNELL
The 2017 Bassmaster Rookie of they Year cut his teeth fishing current, and the tidal fishery he’ll be competing on at this event really plays to his strengths. Connell is outside of the Classic cut at this point, and a good showing at this event is critical to making the 2019 Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville. He’s no stranger to pressure, and I see him showing up to win.
Dark horse: John Crews is also just outside the Classic cut, I’d look for the Virginia pro to make a serious move at Chesapeake, as well.
BUCKET D: MENENDEZ
This tournament has Mark Menendez written all over it. He needs a good showing to put his season back on track, although a Classic berth at this point is unlikely. If he makes a Top 12 at both of the final two regular-season events of the season, he has a shot. The veteran pro knows the area and has done well here before.
Dark horse: Dave Lefebre’s momentum has been slowly getting better, and I think that’ll continue at Chesapeake. The Classic might be a tough result for the Erie, Pa., native, but he’s one that will go down swinging.
BUCKET E: MORRIS
Rick Morris might be the most likely to make a serious run at this event coming from Bucket E. He’s a veteran pro but is struggling to get a solid grip on his first season back on tour in several years. He has extensively fished the region and could challenge any angler on the Elite Series at this event.
Dark horse: Russ Lane has been especially quiet this year, but he should never be counted out. I think he’ll fish the last two events of the season to make the best out of a tough season. Watch out for R. Lane at this one.