Lake Erie predictions, forecasts and prognostications

Talk about your big fish.Or in this case, at least your big fishery.Lake Erie is the home of the Empire Chase which will be held July 31-Aug. 3. One of the country's five Great Lakes, Erie covers nearly 10,000 square miles, making it (by far) the largest fishery the Elite Series anglers will compete on this season.Smallmouth bass are the normal catch. Expect the pros to focus upon offshore reefs for their lunkers.Here's a look at the guys our crack team of pundits believes can make the most noise on Erie.



Alan Clemons


ESPN Outdoors contributor


Greg Hackney — Just a wild hunch about a guy who probably isn't on anyone's radar screen (Then again, maybe some other pundits like him too!).


Derek Remitz — Should show up this week with a better effort.


Terry Butcher — He's no stranger to smallmouth and could pick up his second top 12 cut of the season.


Kevin Wirth — Gutted out a top 10 finish last season on Erie, always is a threat in tough tournaments and still hasn't come off the cloud of his first Elite win a few weeks ago.


Kevin VanDam — Hey, you always have to pick KVD when smallmouth are involved. Plus, he's going for an Angler of the Year title.



Trey Reid


ESPN Outdoors contributor


Todd Faircloth — It's been a dream season, but it's not over yet.



KevinVanDam — You have to believe he'll be in the hunt with Erie 's smallmouth and the TTBAOY title on the line.


Rick Morris — This week's gut pick.


Kevin Wirth — It's been a few weeks, but he still rides a wave of momentum into this derby.


Greg Hackney — He was fifth here last year, and he has the added motivation of needing to make up serious ground in the points to qualify for the Classic.



James Overstreet


ESPN Outdoors Photographer


Kotaro Kiriyama — Barely missed last year and sat on the hot seat for a long time of the final day. The guy is just a wizard with the drop shot.


John Murray — I have always thought he was one of the best on the Elite Series, but he doesn't have the wins to prove it. YET. Look for him to be strong again with the vertical fishing that will be a requirement on Lake Erie.


Todd Faircloth — He's only 18 points behind Kevin VanDam in the Angler of the Year race, and he's no slouch on Erie (finished 14th there last year). Remember, his first win came on Table Rock fishing vertically in 30-40 feet of water. Sounds a lot like a winning pattern on Lake Erie.


Aaron Martens — Finesse fishermen extraordinaire and was strong on Erie last year (finishing eighth).


Terry Butcher — Dark horse pick that seems to really fish New York well. He's a great pick for your fantasy teams. He should finish well and won't cost you a lot of points.



M.A. Fisher


ESPN Outdoors contributor


Greg Hackney — I'm with T. Reid on this one. The Hack Attack makes a showing 1,500 miles north of home.


Todd Faircloth — Looking for points toward that AOY title he's chasing.


Jeff Kriet — Likes those ledges, which are sure to be a factor this week.


Kevin VanDam — Hard not to pick him, regardless of where the tour visits.


Bill Lowen — One of the nicest guys on tour and a steady stick, at that. I've got a feeling he can do something impressive here.



Steve Wright


ESPN Outdoors contributor


Kevin Wirth — He's coming off his first BASS win in 14 years - in the Tennessee Triumph at Old Hickory Lake - plus he finished seventh at Lake Erie a year ago. That double-shot of confidence might be enough to fuel another big finish this week.


Skeet Reese — The defending Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year knows he needs a win here to make a serious run at defending his title. He's 136 points behind leader Kevin VanDam going into Lake Erie. Only with a top five finish, and one in which none of the other AOY contenders are ahead of him, can Reese accomplish the kind of move on the leaderboard that he needs to have a chance going into the finale at Oneida Lake.


Todd Faircloth — The Texas angler, like Reese, just missed making the top 12 cut here a year ago. He goes into the Empire Chase just 16 points behind VanDam in the AOY race, so he's got more than enough motivation to spark him to a good finish here.


Kevin VanDam — Though he's coming off a tough tournament at Old Hickory, where he barely survived two difficult opening days of the event, KVD was on a roll before that. It's likely that he'll resume his winning ways on Lake Erie, where he finished 16th last year.


Edwin Evers — Although this Oklahoma angler pretty much took himself out of the AOY race with his worst finish of the year at Old Hickory (82nd), Evers won here a year ago. The defending champion is highly motivated to make up for those tough two days in Tennessee, and he knows where the big bass hang out at Lake Erie.