Fantasy Fishing: Expect a mixed bag

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James Overstreet

Josh Stracner is the current Rookie of the Year leader and has an abundance of Coosa River knowledge.

The Bassmaster Elite Series should be hitting Neely Henry Lake at an exciting time in early May. Whether water clarity will allow anglers to see them or not, there should be a healthy population of bass on beds. At the same time, there also should be a good segment of fish both coming and going from popular spawning areas. This should really allow most anglers to find fish in a way they are comfortable fishing. I do think spawning fish will play as a factor in this tournament, but I don’t think sight fishing can win this event by itself.

It is not uncommon for single-day tournaments to be solely won on either largemouth or feisty Coosa River spots, but I think it’s almost certain that over a four-day event, the winner will have to weigh in a mixed bag of both.  

Factoring in that this is a river system where current heavily dictates bass behavior and feeding and having bass in all stages, I expect the winner of this event will tap into multiple areas and styles of fishing to bring home a blue trophy this week. 

Also, don’t forget to get your Drain the Lake Picks in for Neely Henry this week, and make sure to scroll to the bottom to get my Drain the Lake picks as well. 

BUCKET A: STRACNER

Josh Stracner is not quite on Wes Logan’s level of local experience, but he is definitely in the conversation and has lots of strong finishes and checks cashed on the Coosa River. Not to mention, Stracner is quietly having a very strong rookie season and is your current Rookie of the Year leader over Matt Robertson. I’ve got a good feeling we will be getting to know Stracner this week on Bassmaster LIVE.

Almost picked: It was tough for me not to pick Kyle Welcher this week. Welcher loves fishing shallow and loves fishing current, and both should be strong this week. Welcher should be a kid in a candy store with a swim jig, frog and buzzbait this week.

BUCKET B: LOGAN

To me Wes Logan is quietly a great value hiding amongst some much bigger names from Alabama in Bucket B. Logan has a slew of wins and Top 10 finishes in single-day events on Neely Henry. Currently sitting at less than 8% ownership, Logan is a can’t miss in my eyes. 

Home-state heroes: Both Gerald Swindle and Steven Kennedy are dominating ownership percentages for Bucket B. Sometimes anglers get high percentage picked just because they are popular names and they are from the home state of the event, but in this instance, I think this event actually sets up for both of these anglers to be in contention this week. G-Man could easily junk fish his way to a great finish, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Kennedy flinging his big white jig and horny toads around crushing bass this week.

BUCKET C: PALMER

Outside of a few bad events on fisheries that don’t match up well for Luke Palmer, he has been very consistent the last few seasons on the Bassmaster Elite Series. Palmer is known as a very strong shallow water power fisherman and that style should mesh with the Coosa River in May. I have visions of Palmer bagging nice mixed limits at this event on a spinnerbait.

Chalk pick: Scott Canterbury has already got about half of Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players picking him this week at Neely Henry and that is a for good reason. Canterbury definitely has plenty of tournament experience on the Coosa River as well as some strong finishes. Also, it feels like it should match up with his fishing style. Power fishing with jigs and buzzbaits could carry Canterbury a long way this week.

BUCKET D: WHITAKER

I am going to be honest, Bucket D was the one bucket where nobody really grabbed my attention. That being said, I am going with Jake Whitaker and his propensity to put limits in the boat with a spinning rod to get me some safe points this week.

Alternate pick: Kenta Kimura had a top five finish in a Bassmaster Open here in October of last year. While Neely Henry is sure to fish quite different and much more wide open this spring than last fall, Kimura leveraged mostly shallow water and some of that will still translate for this event.

BUCKET E: WEIDLER

Bill Weidler lives about 90 mins from Gadsden, Ala., and is known for his affinity for a swim jig which should be a strong player at Neely Henry. This event really feels like Weidler should be able to shake his trusty swim jig through bank grass and shallow current seams to a solid finish.

Nostalgia pick: If you are a big fan of Rick Clunn, this could be one of the best weeks to put him on your roster. Much like the Sabine River, I think spinnerbaits will be a strong player on this Coosa River fishery in early May. Clunn’s performance on the water and on the weigh-in stage has me too nervous to pick him, but if you are looking for a fan favorite, this is the week to take a shot. 

For Drain the Lake at Neely Henry, I recommend loading your roster with anglers that are good shallow power anglers that are not afraid of river situations.

Neely Henry Drain the Lake picks

  • Scott Canterbury 
  • Greg Hackney 
  • Justin Hamner 
  • Steve Kennedy 
  • Wes Logan 
  • Bill Lowen 
  • Josh Stracner 
  • Bill Weidler