Fantasy Fishing: History is helpful

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Fantasy Fishing: History is helpful

The 2022 season will mark the fourth consecutive year that the Bassmaster Elites have opened up the season on the St. Johns River. Palatka, Fla., ha

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The 2022 season will mark the fourth consecutive year that the Bassmaster Elites have opened up the season on the St. Johns River. Palatka, Fla., has become a second home for B.A.S.S., and based on the incredible crowds that show out every single year, I’d say that they have adopted B.A.S.S. as well.

One of the most interesting things about visiting a fishery multiple times is getting to see how the fishery develops and changes year to year. Each year we have seen this play out, as the Elites have been faced with different conditions every time they’ve put their boats in the water on this beautiful river system. This year is sure to be no different, as the southeastern United States hasn’t truly experienced a winter. How will the fish react to these unusual conditions?

Although the conditions have changed year to year, the one thing fans can count on is big bass and a high level of entertainment.

Drain the Lake

Given the fact that the 2022 season will be the first full season of Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake, players will need to make a strong effort to lay out which anglers should be used for each event. Once you use an angler for an event, you can no longer use him for the rest of the season.

My first instinct was to load my roster with sight fisherman given the fact that we’re talking about Florida in February, but the remaining first half of the season still sets up well for sight fishing.

Here are my picks:

  • Cliff Prince 
  • Scott Martin  
  • Mark Menendez 
  • Bryan New 
  • Jesse Tacoronte 
  • Derek Hudnall 
  • Bryan Schmitt 
  • John Crews 

BUCKET A: HACKNEY

I’m not going out on a limb by selecting Greg Hackney in Bucket A, but it seems like a “can’t miss” pick. In five trips to the St. Johns River, Hackney has never finished below 16th and has three Top 10 finishes. It’s fair to say that the St. Johns River fits his style in pretty much every way. Also, Hackney has a track record of starting the season on a positive note. It’s been over a decade since the Louisiana pro has started an Elite Series season with a finish outside of the Top 50.

Solid secondary selection: Coming off his best season as a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, look for Wes Logan to start the 2022 season strong. In two trips to the St. Johns River, the Alabama pro has finished 32nd and 15th. Logan’s strength of power fishing makes him feel right at home on this Florida fishery. At a 0.7% player percentage this could be a steal of a pick.  

BUCKET B: CREWS 

Out of seven Elite Series events on the St. Johns River, John Crews has a couple of Top 10 finishes and several other finishes in the Top 50. Oddly enough, Crews had an uncharacteristically bad finish here in 2021. Look for the Elite Series veteran to have a strong showing in the Elite Series opener on a river where he has plenty of experience fishing.

Solid secondary selection: Given the history of this event, there will almost certainly be bed fish to be caught, and Drew Benton is one of the best there is at catching them. The Georgia pro has a history of success at the St. Johns River with four Top 30 finishes, including a fourth-place finish in 2016. 

BUCKET C: CANTERBURY

After an uncharacteristically bad season in 2021, it seems inevitable that Scott Canterbury will bounce back in 2022. The 2019 Bassmaster Angler of the Year has two Top 10 finishes on the St. Johns River in three trips, so it could be a perfect location for Canterbury to break out of his slump. 

Solid secondary selection: Clark Wendlandt is another former Bassmaster Angler of the Year who had an unexpectedly bad season in 2021 and will look to bounce back in 2022. If that’s not enough reason to select the veteran Wendlandt, he does have two Top 20 finishes on this body of water in the last three seasons.

BUCKET D: PRINCE 

I generally try not to select anglers that have a ridiculously high player percentage, unless it’s Cliff Prince on the St. Johns River. I’d likely still select the Florida native if his player percentage was at 100%. In six Elite Series events on his home body of water, Prince has only finished outside of the Top 20 once. It’s been said a lot, but it’s only a matter of time before The Prince of Palatka gets a win at the St. Johns River.

Solid secondary selection: It was really disappointing to see Mark Menendez in Bucket D, because I probably would have selected him in any other bucket. The Elite Series veteran has a history of using his old-school tactics to do well on the St. Johns River with two Top 10s and a handful of other solid finishes.

BUCKET E: ATKINS

Despite the high player percentage, and the fact that other anglers in Bucket E have more experience on the St. Johns River, I’m selecting Justin Atkins. The Alabama native had a solid finish on the Florida fishery in 2021, but ultimately, I believe he’s going to be extremely motivated to get out to a good start in 2022. 

Solid secondary selection: At only a 4.4% player percentage, Clent Davis could be a steal of a pick in Bucket E. After a season-ending injury in 2021, I’m sure Davis can’t wait to get back out there. Beyond that, the Alabama pro has posted several solid finishes on the St. Johns River. 

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