Fantasy Fishing: Are they coming or going?

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Fantasy Fishing: Are they coming or going?

The AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River did not disappoint as the season kicked off in Palatka, Fla., and the good news is we don’t have to wa

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The AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River did not disappoint as the season kicked off in Palatka, Fla., and the good news is we don’t have to wait long for the Elites to get back out there. Overall, the weights at the St. Johns River were lower than we’re accustomed to seeing, but that is largely due to the challenging conditions that left the fish in a limbo of sorts. We saw early signs of the spawn, as some anglers were able to catch fish off beds, but the cold nights and less than ideal water temperatures seemed to hold the majority of fish from spawning.

With a full moon scheduled to happen as the event starts and predictions of warmer weather, the fish could be in full-blown spawning mode for the start of the tournament. While the prospect of bed fishing is extremely exciting, the Harris Chain is also well known for its offshore bite, so that could be a huge player. If you didn’t watch The Juice video series from the Strike King Bassmaster College Series at Harris Chain presented by Bass Pro Shops in January, watch it here, and you’ll see what I mean about the offshore bite. 

Like most, I get excited for every single Elite Series event, but when the schedule was announced for this season, the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at Harris Chain was the event that I was most excited about.

Let’s get into some Fantasy Picks. 

Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake

  • Brad Whatley
  • John Cox
  • Koby Kreiger
  • Chad Morgenthaler
  • Drew Cook
  • Ray Hanselman
  • Matt Herren
  • Micah Frazier

BUCKET A: COOK

Selecting versatile anglers like Drew Cook is a big part of my game plan for this event. The former Florida native is one of the best sight fishermen in all of bass fishing, but he’s also versatile enough to switch it up if fishing for spawning fish isn’t a strong enough pattern. If you look back at the 2021 Bassmaster Open at the Harris Chain, Cook had a less than stellar finish, but the way the conditions are setting up this week may be right in his wheelhouse. Cook is also coming off of a Top 10 finish at the St. Johns River.

Solid secondary selection: I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see John Cox do well or even win this event. Selecting a couple of anglers with high player percentages burned me last week, so I’m going to stray away from his extremely high player percentage. Cox has plenty of experience on the Harris Chain and is regarded as one of the best sight fishermen to ever do it, making him a really solid pick for this event.

BUCKET B: JOHNSTON

Despite being known as a smallmouth guru, Chris Johnston has an undeniable track record fishing in Florida. Johnston is an extremely good sight fisherman, and he even won a tour level event on the Harris Chain back in 2018 during the same time of year as this event. Really, it’s a little surprising to see his player percentage at only 10%.

Solid secondary selection: After a win in the St. Croix Bassmaster Southern Open at Kissimmee Chain and a 28th place finish at the St. Johns River, Brandon Lester has to be as connected with the Florida fish as anyone in the entire field. At only a 7% player percentage, Lester could be a steal in Bucket B. 

BUCKET C: COBB

It seems as if every event where a bed fish has been caught, Brandon Cobb is somewhere high up in the standings. The South Carolinian posted a solid 27th-place finish at the Harris Chain in the same tour event that Chris Johnston won a few years back, and it’s not hard to see why given Cobb’s fishing style. 

Solid secondary selection: If you’re looking to select an angler with a lower player percentage, look no further than Ray Hanselman. The Texas native is a big bass specialist, and at only 0.5% player percentage, he could be great pick in Bucket C.

BUCKET D: BENTON

As we get down to the lower buckets, there seems to be a theme with selecting anglers who are bona fide sight fishing hammers. Drew Benton is another angler who has proven over the course of his career to be one of the best sight fishermen on tour, so expect him to be able to find bedding bass and manage them over the course of the event.

Solid secondary selection: Hunter Shryock may be one of the most underrated sight fishermen on the Elite Series. Back in 2017, the Tennessee native posted a third-place finish in a Bassmaster Open at the Harris Chain that was held during the same week of the year as this event. At only 2.7% player percentage, Shryock could be getting overlooked.

BUCKET E: WHATLEY  

At only 0.5% player percentage, I’m going with Brad Whatley in Bucket E. The East Texan seems to always factor when big fish are present. Whether he’s targeting prespawn fish or cruising the bank looking at bedding fish, I think Whatley will have a solid comeback event after a tough event at the St. Johns River. 

Solid secondary selection: Another angler with a low player percentage that could have a big event is Elite Series rookie Jacob Foutz. The former College Bracket Champion posted a fourth-place finish at the Harris Chain just a year ago in a Bassmaster Open.

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