Have you ever been on a diet, and when you hit your goal you go celebrate with a big juicy steak? And you know the entire week before that it’s coming, and it’s all you can think about? That’s exactly what I am experiencing right now. We’ve been on a strict diet of YouTube (grapefruit) and old Bassmaster tournament footage (hearty salad), but I’m ready for some Wagyu.
That said, we are just a few short days away from resuming our 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule and a lot has changed. Given the circumstances, B.A.S.S. has put together what could end up being the most exciting run we’ve ever seen. We are coming back strong with a famed body of water that has a history of kicking out big bass. It’s not uncommon to see stringers of more than 20 pounds get nothing but a quick glance.
The Elites will be hitting Lake Eufaula at a great time. It is a huge reservoir to begin with, which will have the anglers spread out, but the fish should be everywhere from 6 inches all the way out to 20 feet — and more. There is plenty of shoreline grass that is sure to hold quality largemouth. The likelihood that it will be won shallow is slim, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see three of the Top 10 on the final day bringing shallow fish to the scales.
While it will be tempting to fish the lush banks, I’m predicting the win will come offshore. This lake used to have hydrilla, but since it’s disappearance, brush piles and ledges have become the main attraction once they move out after the spawn. I’m hedging my bets by placing three guys I’m assuming will stay deep with a couple shallow-water masters. But ultimately, all of my picks have one key attribute: versatility. Hopefully this team will let me maintain my first-place position among my pundit buddies.
BUCKET A: PALANIUK
This tournament is setting up a lot like the last tournament where Brandon Palaniuk hoisted a blue trophy, that being Texas Fest on Sam Rayburn Reservoir back in 2017. Brush piles and ledges mixed with some morning topwater action sounds like a recipe for another win. Palaniuk is great with his electronics and is a master at breaking down large bodies of water. Since this is the first time he’s been to Eufaula as an Elite angler, efficiency will be key.
Also consider: CREWS
If you are looking for a shallow-water stick in this bucket, look no further than John Crews. Any time he can fish shallow grass, you can bet he’ll be bringing some big ones to the scales. Most of his Top-10 finishes came from shallow grass lakes.
BUCKET B: COX
There is one angler whose boat will spend the entire event in less than 4 feet of water and that’s John Cox. He lives and dies in the shallow water more often than not. If he can find an area to flip and frog, he’ll find every quality bite to be had. He won an FLW event earlier this year fishing a crankbait, which he would admit he didn’t expect. That gives me a ton of confidence that he can mix it up if he needs to. Having options could be the difference between a big bag and an empty bag if the weather throws some curveballs.
Also consider: LESTER
Brandon Lester is one of the most versatile anglers on tour. It seems like when he gets on a roll, it’s hard to stop him. He was close to a win at the last stop on Guntersville, finishing seventh. If anyone has momentum despite the break, it would be Lester. He has cashed checks in both of the Elite events so far this year, plus landed 15th at an Eastern Open in Florida.
BUCKET C: DAVIS
Back in August of 2018, Clent Davis won a little derby known as the Forrest Wood Cup. His primary weapon was a 12-inch pink worm fishing points and brush piles. That is exactly the kind of set up that could blow this thing out if he can find 20 bites throughout the week. He isn’t afraid to go for it and certainly knows his stuff when it comes to fishing offshore and using his electronics.
Also consider: SWINDLE
It’s tough for me to not pick Gerald Swindle in this bucket. It’s going to take a solid amount of gut instinct and the experience to both listen to it and know how to apply it. He will likely be ready for anything in every depth range and all types of cover. If anything is certain, he will burn a lot of fuel and cover a lot of lake to find his bites. If it’s a tough bite, covering water could be key.
BUCKET D: CORY JOHNSTON
While most of the Fantasy Fishing folks are going with Seth Feider and Hank Cherry, I am not convinced this event sets up well for them. Up north, those Canadian fellas can fish a Tuesday nighter in a deep, clear smallmouth lake and then hit up the weekend jackpot in a shallow grass largemouth fishery. His Florida history shows me he has the ability to key into the shallow bite, and while I think that’s where he’ll be, he can certainly find offshore structure and go to work on the deep schools too.
Also consider: MENENDEZ
Mark Menendez definitely shines in shallow water. He struggled in Florida this season, but last year, he nearly won it. He also has wins on stained shallow fisheries like Dardanelle and West Point. I’d expect him to stay shallow and keep a spinnerbait, swim jig and Texas rig honest. He could certainly stumble across the right ones doing that.
BUCKET E: LIVESAY
Call it a man crush if you want, Pete Robbins, but I would be shocked if we don’t see this angler holding up a trophy very soon. I’m not sure there is another angler who is chomping at the bit to get back out there more than Lee Livesay. He’s been guiding during the break and has followed the fish as they transitioned from the spawn out to the deeper water. Fork is full of brush piles that hold quality fish, and he knows how to find them. He may end up finding a solid shallow bite as part of his strategy. But either way, I suspect we won’t see his name in Bucket E any more after this event.
Also consider: ZALDAIN
It’s hard to not pick him in every event, and that seems to prove true for a majority of the Fantasy Fishing players as more than 40% of them have him on their teams. He loves to fish a topwater and that certainly could be a great way to come across a big bag. He is also no stranger to finding offshore structure and fishing ledges. If he can get them to bite a big spoon and a swimbait, it could be lights out.
Welcome back, everyone.