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Thursday, January 29, 2009
Updated: February 3, 2:56 PM ET
Fantasy Classic for the ages

By Rob Russow
ESPNOutdoors.com

There's no better way to usher in the new fantasy fishing season than with a preview of the upcoming Bassmaster Classic on the Red River in Shreveport/Bossier City, La.

Accurately prognosticating who does well at the Classic is difficult this year. All 51 qualifiers have a legitimate shot to win and this year's talent pool is very deep.

On top of the constantly changing early spring weather, qualifiers will have to contend with variable river levels and water clarity. Locks, water hazards and river current top the list of adjustments the 51 anglers will have to make to walk away with the $500,000 top prize.

Check out the preview of this year's fishery.

Here are the best bets if you are looking to put together a fantasy team that's going to flat out catch fish on the river.

Big Money:

KVD — He has finished in the top five in the Classic the last five years and there is no reason to think he won't continue that trend in Shreveport/Bossier City. When you think of lightning fast adjustments and breaking down water quickly, KVD is probably the first name that comes to mind. Those strengths will most likely come into play at the constantly changing Red River. Don't leave him off your team.

Greg Hackney seems to be on the top of everyone's fantasy list for the Classic.
Greg Hackney — The "Hack Attack" has been highly inconsistent at the Classic, but putting him on a river in his backyard should give him a great chance to walk away with his first Classic victory. His experience on the Red River and growing up on the Arkansas River makes him the clear favorite for this event.

Scott Rook — Rook calls the Arkansas River home and his experience there will give him an advantage with the constantly changing river conditions. Reading the river will be so important during this tournament, and almost nobody does it better than Rook. Not only that, but he has a solid history on the Red, finishing in the top 20 in three of four tournaments he fished there.

Bill Lowen — Lowen is a great river angler and might fly under the radar, at least until he starts slamming big sacks of bass. Not only did he cut his teeth on the Ohio River, one of the toughest rivers in the country, but he also has a very solid record of high finishes on the Elite Series when he can find river-like conditions (think, Old Hickory in 2008).

No Money Down:

Matt Herren — I'm picking this horse and riding him all the way through the Elite Series season. For a minimal salary you can get a very talented "rookie," who spent several seasons fishing professionally on another circuit before winning the Southern Open points last year. He excels in the type of situation that anglers will be facing at the Red River, and he will be looking to make his mark with BASS. This pick is so good, it will be unfair to anyone who doesn't get him at the Classic before his salary begins to skyrocket.

Open Angler to Watch:

Michael Burns — This Plano, Texas, pro quietly won the 2008 Central Open points and had a decent finish in the first tournament at the Red River. Being only three hours away, he has spent some time in Shreveport, and while he's not a local, there are few anglers closer than Burns. He's a quiet force to be reckoned with as Central Open anglers found out this year and with no intention of turning pro at this point, the pressure will be off for him in Shreveport.

Federation Nation Angler to Watch:

Terry Fitzpatrick — If you haven't heard of Mr. Fitzpatrick, he happens to be a stick on the Mississippi River. If you are looking to put a Federation Nation angler on your team, someone with river cred is a good bet. The big problem for any Federation Nation angler will be handling all the attention, media and pressure that comes with bass fishing's biggest spotlight. The low cost will be enticing if you already filled your team with expensive, heavy hitters.

Past Winners:

Brent Chapman, Davy Hite

Think you know more than me? Fine, I would love to hear your thoughts. Humble me anytime on the Fantasy Fishing Message Board.