Every year the Bassmaster Elite Series has a midseason break before heading to northern fisheries. That break and schedule shift provides a great opportunity for those anglers struggling through a tough season to hit the reset button. Venue changes that include smallmouth bass often cater to those who are looking to spin the struggle bus 180 degrees.
The first stop of our Northern Swing is the Huk Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence presented by Go RVing. A fishery full of smallmouth bass, but the St. Lawrence River also has good numbers of fat largemouth bass, as well. So, there’ll be something for everybody, but expect the brown fish to dominate the scales.
This is also a turning point for Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players. If you’re looking to move up the leaderboard, consider low-owned anglers who need to turn their season around. With many of them too far out of contention for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, or possibly a berth in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, they’ll be fishing for money and not points. Typically, those anglers can be dangerous to those atop the AOY leaderboard.
You’ll also notice that the pundit writers seem to have similar choices this time around. In fact, we all seem to be on the same wavelength in a few buckets. The difficult reality by our agreement is ownership on a few anglers might increase to a point where a secondary selection might make better sense — if moving up the Fantasy leaderboard is your goal, and it should be.
The easy, obvious choices are strongly owned right now, and I’d suggest avoiding them as much as possible. My goal is to move into the Top 10 percent after this event, and my selections will reflect that goal.
BUCKET A: EVERS
Edwin Evers should be on everyone’s radar for this event. He won it last time, he’s currently quietly in ninth place in AOY, and he’s surprisingly indicating low ownership at 6.4 percent, (at the time of this writing). Typically, I don’t select Evers because he is usually highly owned, but he’s a dang bargain in Bucket A.
Darkhorse: Aside from the obvious choices like Kevin VanDam, Ott DeFoe and Brandon Palaniuk, I’d look strongly at Greg Hackney. In fact, I may swap Evers with Hackney as the event gets closer. Hackney finished third at Waddington last time, and he’s solidly holding down 11th place in the AOY race currently.
BUCKET B: FEIDER
Minnesota’s Seth Feider is a proven smallmouth machine, and he did great at St. Lawrence in 2015, posting a 12th-place finish. He’s a bit higher owned than I’d normally like, but I have to pick him with his renowned smallie prowess, plus I have deep roots in Minnesota. He’ll make a strong finish to the 2017 season.
Darkhorse: Clifford Pirch is a good bet, New York’s Jamie Hartman is an easy pick as well, but he’s already carrying a strong level of support. Hartman will finish strong and is a safe choice. But I think a solid backup would be Fletcher Shryock. He’s enjoying his best season yet, and I expect that to continue into the Northern Swing — plus he’s a northern guy. However, I say that, and I think about the times that Dave Lefebre jumped my case for not picking him, and I promise you he’ll make some noise in New York — in fact he could win. If there were one guy I’d consider replacing Feider with, it would be Lefebre.
BUCKET C: HERREN
Alabama’s Matt Herren is good on any type of fishery. He’s one of the most consistent anglers on the Elite Series, with this year being an exception being back and forth with his finishes: High, low, high, low. He’s due for a good finish, if not a win. He finished 14th in 2015, and he’s very confident with smallmouth, so I expect a quality finish out of him.
Darkhorse: Alton Jones would be a great choice, Aaron Martens is due for a big finish same with Bill Lowen and Brett Hite. But considering Steve Kennedy’s momentum this year, I think he’d be a very safe bet. If you need further Kennedy justification, read Pete Robbins’ pundit story for this event.
BUCKET D: LUCAS
Justin Lucas is continuing to pull himself out of the hole, and he’s traditionally done very well on smallmouth waters. I expect him to make a hard push in the final three regular season events to earn a Classic berth. He’s paid off for me a few times this year, and I expect that to continue.
Darkhorse: It’s a toss up between Tommy Biffle and Brandon Card on this one. Both are due for a big finishes. Card finished in fourth place in 2015, and I’d expect him to do well again in Waddington. But Biffle could also surprise his faithful with a good run up north.
BUCKET E: C. LANE
I’m going to take a big chance here and go with Chris Lane. He’s been having a very uncharacteristic season, and is flat out doing horribly. I don’t believe his bad luck will last much longer, and he’s done well in smallmouth waters before, including a win on St. Clair a few years ago. I think he’s tired of losing, and we’ll see a different Chris Lane in New York.
Darkhorse: Shaw Grigsby is also having a tough year. He’s done well up north before, in fact had a tremendous showing early in the event during the 2015 visit. There is a good chance there will be smallies still on beds, even in July, and you can bet that if sightfishing is a factor, Grigsby will be, too.