Following an unplanned and lengthy break after the Elite event at Oklahoma’s Fort Gibson that was postponed due to severe local flooding, the Bassmaster Elite Series competitors will dive back into the heat of battle at legendary Lake Guntersville. A tournament that is sure to wow Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players and big-bass fans alike.
With the season more than half over at this point, we are beginning to see anglers rise to dominance in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, and that indicates momentum. From this point forward, I’d suggest keeping momentum and good decision-making as key factors in selecting your anglers at each event.
But with a June event in the heart of Alabama, endurance also becomes a factor. How will the Southern summer heat affect each angler? Hard to say, but you can bet it will certainly be something that needs to be considered.
Having said that, you can’t pass judgment based on where one particular angler calls home compared to another. But as a Fantasy fanatic, you need to consider the toll it will take on an angler.
As far as patterns go, it’s safe to say just about every summertime tactic will be in play. There will be fish on the bank, there will be fish in the slop and there will be bass along the ledges. In fact, I’m hedging my bet on anglers acclimated to the heat and those competent at locating and catching deep-staging bass along the famous Guntersville ledges.
Let's dig in:
BUCKET A: CANTERBURY
Scott Canterbury is a former FLW pro who has risen quickly in the Bassmaster AOY ranks this year. He’s no stranger to the pressure, and he’s a veteran angler with piles of experience on Guntersville. Plus, being an Alabama native, he can handle the heat. I see Canterbury finishing well here for a multitude of reasons, but mostly I’m betting on his momentum to carry on at a lake he’s very comfortable fishing.
Dark Horse: Drew Benton could easily swing in and steal this thing away. He’s good with his electronics and a deep crankbait bite, and he’s good in the shallow slop — both of which could play. Plus, being from Florida, he knows what this summer heat is all about. If Benton or Canterbury don’t meet your expectations, I’d keep an eye on either Johnston brother, Clifford Pirch and Seth Feider. Those are dudes who create results during nearly every event they fish.
BUCKET B: COMBS
Keith Combs may be the best ledge fisherman on tour right now, and you can bet this event is setting up to play right into his wheelhouse. I’m actually surprised he’s not dominating the ownership in Bucket B. No more needs to be said. If you’re not going with Combs, you’re crazy.
Dark Horse: Brandon Lester is my backup here. Like Bucket A, this one is tough to pick through. I could see any number of these guys doing well such as Mark Menendez, Chirs Zaldain, Matt Herren (especially) and others.
BUCKET C: WHATLEY
Brad Whatley is an Elite Series rookie, but has shown he knows what it means to be consistent and perform at this level. He needs a good tournament to get back inside the Classic bubble, and I’m confident the heat won’t bother him one bit.
Dark Horse: David Mullins or Jeff Gustafson. This bucket is made up of guys who are on the cusp of being where they need to be vs. those who need a mid-season redirect. I see Mullins and Gussy as two of the top finishers in this bucket, but several others could produce surprising results, too.
BUCKET D: WEIDLER
Another Alabama native with a Ph.D. worth of experience on Lake Guntersville, let alone the ‘Bama heat, Bill Weidler is good with a swim jig, good with a crankbait and good with a frog. All of which will be factors. Now how he puts them to use is still to be determined, but being in Bucket D, the second-year pro needs a good showing to remain in the hunt for a Classic berth. I bet he shows up at this one.
Dark Horse: Rick Clunn could make a strong appearance at Guntersville. He’s a guy who likely has more tournament experience on this lake than anyone else on the Elite Series. If not Clunn, I’d look hard at Derek Hudnall and Brock Mosley.
BUCKET E: KENNEDY
Going against my dear pundit associate Pete Robbins, I’m betting Bucket E on Steve Kennedy. He’s been uncommonly quiet this year, and certainly not fishing to his ability. What better chance to turn the struggle bus around than at Guntersville — a lake he knows well. Plus, being another Alabama native he knows how to catch big bass under blistering heat. I’m calling Kennedy out for a Top 10, if not the “W.”
Dark Horse: The bucket of tough results is beginning to show it’s ugly head. It’s not too late for any of these guys to climb up the AOY leaderboard and earn a coveted Classic berth, but with each passing day of official competition, it gets less likely. I see guys who are very hungry, and Chris Groh stands out to me as a solid bet to do well at Guntersville. But that could likely be said about anyone in this particular list.