Thursday, January 29, 2009
Updated: February 4, 5:37 PM ET
Red River predictions, forecasts and prognostications
By Rob Russow
The 2009 Bassmaster Classic is the fantasy fishing challenge of a lifetime. Take the world's best 51 anglers, put them on a river system with constantly changing water levels and clarity, current, locks, and the backwater/main river dilemma, and it creates a puzzle that will challenge every ounce of talent these anglers have.
Plus, it's early spring, which means much depends on the weather. Will it warm up and make the big pre-spawn females easier to catch? Will the weather turn cold and make every day a grind? Will spring rains muddy the water, crowding the few clearer backwaters?
These are the questions that are going through the minds of each of the anglers as they prepare for one of the biggest challenges of their life.
Thus, it comes as little surprise that our pundits had such widely varied opinions when it came to who they thought would do well on the Red River.
The easy favorite amongst pundits would have to be Gonzales, La., pro Greg Hackney, chosen six times between our seven pundits. As the only Louisiana pro in the field, the spotlight will be on him to perform under the home-field pressure. Working in his favor is his knowledge of the Red River and his experience growing up on the Arkansas River.
No surprise that fantasy phenom Kevin VanDam is the easy choice to do well at the Red River, picked five times. KVD had a surprisingly poor finish the last time he visited the river, but that doesn't seem to bother him or our pundits.
Pay close attention to one of the sleeper picks that self-proclaimed fantasy expert Mike McKinnis threw out there: Kim Bain-Moore. Many eyes will be on the talented young female, as she has been the media darling in the months leading up to the Classic. How will all the attention effect her fishing? For an idea of the hectic schedule the lone woman angler in the field is going through, click here to read Kim Bain-Moore's blog.
All obstacles aside, there are always a few favorites that rise to the top of the pundit pile.
Here's a look at who our pundit's like at the Red River:
ESPN Outdoors Photographer
Scott Rook One of the best shallow water, river fishermen in this field, or any field. The venue sets up perfectly for Rook's style of fishing. He can pitch a tube or jig with the best of them, and knows when to pick up a medium or shallow running crankbait.
Bobby Lane Last season's Rookie of the Year could become this year's Bassmaster Classic winner. Lane is fearless and has never been intimidated by the field since joining the Elite Series. He started last season with a fourth-place finish in the Classic; he could start 2009 with a win on bass fishing's biggest stage.
Todd Faircloth He went head to head with KVD for the Angler of the Year title until the bitter end last year. He proved to the bass fishing world, and most importantly to himself, he's one of the best bass fishing anglers in the world.
Mike McClelland He's already won three times on the Elite Series. Only KVD has won more. McClelland's one of the best jig fishermen in the world, and I suspect he will make sure those Louisiana bass are looking at one.
Greg Hackney He grew up just up the road from Shreveport in south Arkansas, and now lives in Louisiana. If he nails down an area with a good flipping bite, it wouldn't surprise me if he blew away the field.
Senior Editor, BASS Publications
Greg Hackney He's a "local" in the sense that he lives in Louisiana (he was born and grew up in Arkansas), but more importantly he's strong on rivers. Last year he broke through with his first strong Classic performance, and I think he learned something about how to approach the championship. I don't think he'll be affected by the "home state jinx." He had two very strong performances on the Red River in 2002 and 2008.
Todd Faircloth He's coming off a strong Elite Series and wants desperately to make a good showing after fading down the stretch last year. Faircloth is very solid on the Red River, with good finishes in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Brent Chapman He's strong in this part of the country and on the Red River in particular. He's also versatile and will slip through the crowds without a huge flotilla following him around. He has mental toughness and won't let the hype of the Classic distract him. He may not win the tournament, but I think he'll be in contention going into the final day.
Aaron Martens I like Aaron's chances best if the fishing gets tough. He always seems to catch fish, and a tough tournament would play into his (and Hackney's) hands. If it takes less than 40 pounds to win, look out for this guy.
Kevin VanDam KVD is on the strongest Classic run in history. He's been in the top five in each of the last five Classics. No one else has ever done that. I think he can make it six for six. He's smart enough to choose his areas based in the crowd of boats he'll draw. Few of the other competitors are savvy enough to do that. There's no type of water he can't fish effectively, and if he can get on a spinnerbait or jerkbait bite, look out. I wouldn't bet against KVD to win his third Classic.
ESPN Outdoors contributor
Kevin VanDam He should be on everyone's list.
Kelly Jordon This is my sentimental pick. KJ is buying the tickets to the next Robert Earl Keen show if he wins the Classic.
Greg Hackney Hackney honed his skills fishing the lower Arkansas River as a youngster, and while the Red ain't exactly the Arkansas, Hackney knows the ins and outs of river fishing as well as anyone in the field.
Byron Velvick Another sentimental pick, but I'd feel bad not throwing in for my former ESPN colleague. Stranger things have happened.
Scott Rook Rook has the river-fishing credentials to adapt to whatever the Red River throws at the Classic contenders.
Bassmaster TV producer
Mike Iaconelli Ike knows how to win big events and has past success on the Red River.
Gary Klein Sentimental pick here. He has 26 Classics and not one win. And he was shot at by a disgruntled bayou-man and beaten by the likes of Iaconelli "by that much" in 2003. If the weather and water levels are kind, Gary can catch 'em on this playing field.
Greg Hackney This is a gamble here as you don't know which Greg will show up. The one that's been missing for over a year and a half, or the "hack-attack" that claims "Godzilla ain't got nothing on me." He's as close to a home-field player as we have in this year's classic.
Kim Bain Why not. She has the passion and will to win. Not sure if she can handle the full-on-press of media and madness at the classic but what the heck.
Kevin VanDam Just covering my #%& here. Only a fool doesn't have him in their picks-to-win of any event
ESPN Outdoors Editor
Scott Rook When it comes to river fishing experience there are none better in this field than Rook. He cut his teeth on the Arkansas River and the Red River is like a second home. He's had success there and if conditions start changing, like they are apt to do on a river, Rook will be tough.
Matt Herren I don't know anything about this guy outside of the fact that he's obviously good enough to make the Classic. But his record has been exceptional on river systems and a good friend, Dave Krantz, who knows him well says "The boy is strong as pot ash." That's a stellar recommendation and one you can normally take to the bank.
Todd Faircloth He's not only one of the quietest best anglers in the world, he's pretty salty on the Red River. He has experience and he knows how to put his head down and get to work without a lot of flash. He will be a factor in this event.
Michael Iaconelli Here the flashy side. But the boy can fish and prepares well for big competitions. His success on this river and others like it started his career in some ways. Plus he's got this new little weird beard that is sure to draw the ire of a lot of folks. Every time he does something like that he shows out.
Greg Hackney Hackney has had the Classic curse riding his back. But along with Rook, he knows theses river systems better than anyone. He will be prepared and be able to make adjustments. If he can shake the curse, this might be his event.
Others to watch Alton Jones, Davy Hite, Gary Klein and Rick Clunn. All old school guys with old school river experience.
ESPN Outdoors Editor
Kelly Jordon He lives about an hour and a half from the Red River and he's had some success there in the past. And if there are big fish to be caught, he usually shows up with one.
Greg Hackney Outside of VanDam, this is going to be who everyone is picking (I'm guessing). He's good, he's from Louisiana and he's a river guy. I hate to jump on board, but I don't like being stupid either.
Scott Rook The man knows his rivers. He'll at least finish in the top 10. If the conditions change significantly from day-to-day, top 5. If he gets lucky too, top 1.
Brent Chapman Here's a pick that might be manageable within the Fantasy Fishing points system. He won there with BASS in 2000, and he's one of those guys who should be able to fly slightly under the radar and avoid a lot of the draining extras that accompany the Classic.
Dave Wolak This is another possibly affordable pick. He's got a decent history on the river, he fishes well in big tournaments (Majors), and I know a guy that knows a guy that said to pick Wolak. How's that for crappy and vague information?
ESPN Outdoors Editor
Bobby Lane This old river rat may not be on anyone's radar but he'll be confident in these conditions, most likely with a jig in his hands.
Kevin VanDam If you don't have him among your favorites then take up knitting.
Matt Herren Yes, a bit of a homer pick but he'll be confident, hungry for a win and has seen these river conditions often on the Coosa.
Terry Scroggins A Classic escaped his clutches at Toho. This time, the power game could swing in his favor.
Kelly Jordon I'm going on gut instinct with KJ, who is adept at figuring out transitional bass and making the most of it.
Bubble Picks Greg Hackney of Louisiana, Davy Hite of South Carolina and Gary Klein of Texas
ESPN Outdoors pundit upstart
Kevin VanDam I don't care that his only BASS tournament on the Red River resulted in a 93rd-place finish in 2001. The only surprise will be if he does not continue his streak of top-fives at the Classic.
Greg Hackney Now that the home-water jinx has been broken, we pundits can safely pick the only Louisiana angler in the field. He cut his teeth on the Arkansas River and he's one of the best river angler in the field. This is his chance to win the Classic after a streak of horrible finishes.
Matt Herren Does it seem risky that I've picked an Open pro to do well on the Red River? If it does, you don't know much about Herren. He flat out caught fish on rivers while fishing "that other tour," and he should be pretty cheap too. A winning combination in my book, especially if you already have KVD and the Hack Attack on your team.
Greg Pugh The Classic field is loaded with high-priced horses, but you need a dirt cheap pick with tons of talent, Pugh is that guy. He will be dirt cheap because he hasn't fished any Elite Series stuff before and let's just say he's been pretty good on another tour. After Herren, he is the best low-priced steal in the field, and I know he won't finish worse than 51st.
Bill Lowen Any angler that can catch fish on the Ohio river in the area that Lowen grew up in should be able to catch fish on ANY river in the country. That place is one of the toughest and most frustrating places to try and catch a 12-inch bass. It should have taught Lowen something about patience, which is something that will help on the Red River.
Elite Series angler
Greg Hackney My numero uno pick is all predicated on which Greg shows up in Shreveport. If the Hack Attack stomps into town; it is O-V-E-R. The 'Real' Hack Attack (remember "Godzilla ain't got nothing on me"?) is the Star City, Ark., Hack that grew up on the lower reaches of the Arkansas River when it was an incredible fishery. The Red River is a mini version of what the Arkansas used to be and if the Hack Attack rolls into town, he will know the where, the when, and definitely the how on catching enough to win. If Greg Hackney from Gonzalez, La., pulls up, then my numero uno probably won't be No. 1.
Matt Herren Matt Herren may be one of those guys who can fly in under the radar and do some serious damage. A solid stand-out on the FLW Tour the past few years, Herren has some background dating back to the mid-90's in the Bama & Choo Choo divisions of the BFL that could help him on the Red River. Not a stranger to high profile derbies, thanks to his five appearances at the FLW Championship, this will be his first trip to the Classic and its higher level of interest. If Herren can dodge the media blitz and hurdle the time constraints, he could drop a small bomb on the Red.
Rick Clunn There are a few out there who believe the Grey Loon to be past his prime. I'm calling BS on that one. If any of the 51 competitors could win this thing on brainiac power alone, it would be Clunn. I look for the Master to show up in Shreveport with a tin boat that will allow him access to some areas that his fellow competitors will have trouble reaching in their wider, deeper fiberglass rigs. Aside from the boat, who's won more Classics? Who knows more about what it takes to win the Classic?
Edwin Evers Oklahoma's E-squared has some solid history on the Red. He has cashed a check in every BASS tournament he has fished on the river since 2000. Thanks to his roots in Oklahoma mud fishing, he seems to have what it takes to find fish on the river. The only distraction that E2 may have to keep him from hauling home the wood will be the birth of his first child. Dude, could you not have timed that a little better? But wait
maybe he's banking on the baby pattern!
Bill Lowen A.K.A. The Turtle, Lo knows rivers. Lowen is a product of fishing on the stingy Ohio River. He can utterly decimate an area with his molasses slow, methodical approach. The Red River suits his style of fishing perfectly. If he can find an area on the Red that's holding the quality of fish that it will take to win, he can definitely catch them. Look out if the rain starts in southern Oklahoma making the Red red, swollen, and the fishing tough, Lowen could definitely be at the top of the heap under those conditions. Could this be the Classic of the Turtle?