Bucket A has been my worst of the year by far, and Wheeler Lake was no different when I picked Todd Faircloth to do well—he finished in the low 80s. That was a blunder I can claim responsibly for, but apologies will get you nowhere in this game. At least you can bank on one of my wildcards coming through at every event, or so it would seem.
At Bull Shoals/Norfork, Steve Kennedy made it to the final day and was a great pick on my part, while James Niggemeyer and David Williams made me look smart again with 13th- and 19th-place finishes respectively.
Toledo Bend should look different than the last few years that the Bassmaster Elite Series has traveled there. The water is very high and should eliminate any historical advantages that anglers have enjoyed in past years.
With rising water due to massive rains and flooding in the Texas and Louisiana region, a lot of Toledo Bend bass should be shallow and in the wood. But there will be plenty of offshore fish to catch as well.
BUCKET A: LUCAS
Safe Bet: Keith Combs
The Texas native can do it all, especially close to home. Toledo Bend is one of the best fisheries in the country and has a substantial population of fish. Whether he finds fish offshore or in the bushes, he is more than capable of saving my Bucket A.
Worth a risk: Justin Lucas
Quietly, Justin Lucas has been a force this year. With a Top 12 at the St. Johns and three more checks this year, he is sitting in the Top 10 in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points. None of Lucas’ success is new, as he proved last year how good he can be and this year isn’t any different.
Gut tells me: Lucas
I need a solid finish from my Bucket A pick, and it’s hard to bet against Lucas and his resume.
BUCKET B: MONROE
Safe Bet: Ish Monroe
Shallow, gnarly cover on Toledo Bend fits Ish Monroe’s style like a good pair of shoes. He is renowned as one of the big-fish masters on the Elite Series, and Toledo Bend is a perfect place for a Top 12. Big flipping stick, heavy line and some thick cover should make Monroe feel right at home.
Worth a risk: Mike Iaconelli
Iaconelli is due for a Top 12 appearance, and although I don’t think history will help, I do think his pre-fishing experience at Texoma this week can help. Lake Texoma is 9 feet high, and although it is a totally different beast than Toledo, he’ll likely relate the two lakes and the common conditions to figure things out quickly.
Gut tells me: Monroe
Froggin’ and flippin’ almost certainly mean a high finish for Monroe.
BUCKET C: SHRYOCK
Safe Bet: Terry Scroggins
“Big Show” Terry Scroggins has seen it all and fished every condition possible throughout his career, which only means he’ll be prepared for what the Elites will face at Toledo Bend. Short stringing big bass is something he does at home on the St. Johns River, so he is more than capable of using his flipping stick to get a check this week.
Worth a risk: Fletcher Shryock
Halfway through the season Fletcher Shryock sits in the Top 50 of the AOY Standings and is in prime position to make the AOY Championship later this year. I think with Shryock’s deep love for flipping thick cover, he could find his happy place this week on The Bend and finish strong.
Gut tells me: Shryock
He has momentum on his side this year, and I think he’ll keep it going at this event.
BUCKET D: BIFFLE
Safe Bet: Tommy Biffle
Any momentum at all can help keep an Elite Series angler on a roll. Biffle started the year with two tough derbies and zero checks to show for it, but in Arkansas and Alabama he cashed a couple of checks. Flipping shallow cover is on the docket this week, and Biffle should be primed for another Top 50.
Worth a risk: Timmy Horton
He didn’t get it done close to home at Wheeler Lake, but I guarantee he will be sitting behind his electronics and looking for some deep-water pigs that are lurking at Toledo. Horton will certainly find some schools offshore.
Gut tells me: Biffle
Biffle has over $2 million in career earnings, and most have come fishing shallow cover. Toldeo should be no exception.
BUCKET E: PREUETT
Safe Bet: John Hunter
Hunter showed his skill with a flipping stick and a frog rod at Winyah Bay when he notched the first Top 12 of his career. This event sounds like another chance to spool up the heavy line and do it again.
Worth a risk: Brett Preuett
He may be a rookie, but Preuett knows Louisiana fishing. Growing up in Louisiana has thrown many different conditions his way, but one thing he does know is how to fish deep into the wood and shallower than most will go. The Ouachita River is a perfect example of how he showcased his skills in flooded conditions. Look for Preuett to be a solid wildcard pick.
Gut tells me: Preuett
He missed out on his first career check by just one spot at Bull Shoals/Norfork, but I think Preuett’s wait will end at this event. Toledo Bend is a familiar place for the former college angler.