The first Bassmaster Elite Series event of 2018 at Lake Martin took place in early February. And if the pros didn’t make the 2017 cut to fish the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods at Lake Hartwell, they’ve had more than two months off thanks to the Sabine Elite being postponed due to flooding.
Will the time off affect how they perform? I’m sure it will, for better or for worse. My bet is a well-rested and eager-to-compete Elite Series field will show up to Grove, Okla., ready to smash the bass.
And, when considering the time of year, the fish should be biting well. I think we can count on seeing impressive numbers of fat Grand Lake bass each day.
With eager anglers meeting eager bass, the outcome is simple: Green fish galore.
Interestingly, however, if you look at the highest owned anglers in each bucket, they all make sense. And, I’ll be straight with you: If you’re looking to earn some points and be safe in your selections, just pick based on that fact alone.
A: DeFoe, B: Christie, C: Evers, D: VanDam and E: Wheeler.
That could be the perfect team at Grand Lake.
You can just about expect each of those dudes to score a check at Grand. But if you’re looking to risk more and climb higher on the leaderboard, I’ve got the combination below.
My selections for the 2018 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite at Grand Lake will indicate who I believe has an axe to grind after a tough showing at Martin or the Classic, and anglers who are especially effective at contacting big bass during all phases of the spawn.
Let’s dig into this:
BUCKET A: ELAM
James Elam won the final Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open of the 2017 season on Grand Lake. He’s a very consistent angler on his home waters also holding an Open victory on Oklahoma’s Fort Gibson the year prior. He’s on a tear lately staying in the hunt at most of the events he’s fished in the last six to eight months. Plus, he’s nurturing an epic beard, and like it or not, the beard plays.
Dark horse: Randy Howell was on the right fish during the 2015 Classic that Evers won, but he was a little late in acquiring his spot — Evers beat him to it. Howell is not only very accomplished during this time of year, but he’s overdue for a win. And, he’s been spending just about all of his free time fishing. And he’s been catching the snot out of them.
BUCKET B: M. LEE
There is no denying Matt Lee is long overdue for his first Elite Series victory, and he’s been close to taking one of the coveted blue trophies home more than once. In fact, he was very close to winning the Classic this past March at Lake Hartwell. His consistency and tenacity is what has my attention. I’ve been hesitant to pick him in the past, and it’s cost me dearly. This year, and at Grand Lake, I’m all in on Matt Lee.
Dark horse: Jason Christie is the obvious choice, and a good one. But Aaron Martens is one to consider as well. Not only is he very consistent all year long at just about any body of water, he’s a shallow-water, spawning bass specialist. You can count on him being in this one, for sure.
BUCKET C: KENNEDY
Whenever Pete Robbins fails to pick Steve Kennedy, he does well. So, I’m taking that fact and running with it. But, above that there really aren’t many anglers who can compare to Kennedy’s prowess during all phases of the spawn, especially postspawn. I think he’s not only sure to cash a check here, but also make a run at the title.
Dark horse: It’s easy to pick Edwin Evers here, and maybe you should. Brandon Lester is a massive deal at currently 2.4-percent owned, and I think the Tennessee pro will challenge the Top 12 at Grand Lake.
You can thank me later for that one.
BUCKET D: SWINDLE
Gerald Swindle has been wrecking the bass on Guntersville during the time off thanks to the postponement of the Sabine event. He enjoyed a solid finish at the Classic and is likely the most overdue angler for an Elite Series title. Would it surprise anyone if he won in Oklahoma? Especially with the fish up shallow? And when G has a jig in his hand?
The answer is no. Nobody would be surprised. And that’s why I’m picking him.
Dark horse: With the likes of Kevin VanDam, Brandon Palaniuk holding the vast majority of the ownership in Bucket D, it’s easy to see who the favorites are. But, if you’re looking to make a move under the radar, pick Matt Herren. You can bet he’s still a little salty after missing the Classic, and when it comes to catching them shallow on a jig during the spring, there are few equals to Herren. He’s coming to Oklahoma to right his ship. Mark my words.
BUCKET E: FEIDER
The time off allowed Minnesota pro Seth Feider to witness his baby girl coming into the world, (congrats Seth, by the way). And the Upper Midwest has been enduring one of the most brutal winters in over a decade. A result will be most of the lakes will likely still be covered by ice into late May or early June. Turrible. That means Feider will be well rested, happy with his growing family, stress free and beyond ready to jack a bunch of bass in a derby.
Feider has proven his salt lately, including catching the Classic’s largest bass, a near 6-pounder out of Lake Hartwell. I think he’s ready to get back on the water, and with a clear mind and lack of pressing issues at home, he’s as dangerous as anyone at Grand.
Dark horse: Randall Tharp has been far too quiet lately. But if you look back at his win at Bull Shoals/Norfork in 2016, this event sets up with nearly the exact same conditions. Except, it’ll all be on the same body of water, which plays even more to Tharp’s strengths. Look for a Honey Badger reemergence at Grand.