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Pick Three

BUFFALO, N.Y.  The 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series tour begins its 10th event of the 11-tournament season Thursday with the Empire Chase presented by Farmer's Insurance. Lake Erie's 10,000-plus square miles  it's the 11th-largest lake in the world  and the Niagara River will be where the 106 Elites Series anglers compete for the $100,000 first place check.

Smallmouth bass will be the main target here. Edwin Evers won this tournament a year ago with a three-day total of 65 pounds, 7 ounces.

Since last year's event was shortened by a day due to high wind, and wind is almost always a factor on these big waters, everyone's eyes will be fixed on the daily weather reports this week.

The field will be cut to the top 50 after Friday's weigh-in and the top 12 after Saturday. The 8 a.m. ET take-offs and 5 p.m. ET weigh-ins will be held at Buffalo's NFTA Boat Harbor.

Thirteen pros were asked to pick the three most likely winners this week.

Grant Goldbeck

  1. Edwin Evers  if he gets left alone to fish where he caught them last year.

  2. Paul Hirosky  because he knows the Great Lakes very well, and he's caught smallmouth bass his whole life.

  3. Mike McClelland  he's a good offshore fisherman who seems to adapt, no matter what the situation.

Jared Lintner

  1. John Murray  he's good at fishing offshore structure, and he always seems to find the little subtle keys.

  2. Aaron Martens  along the same line as Murray, he's good at finding the subtle things that everyone else misses.

  3. Jon Bondy  he's got lots of experience up here. If it gets windy, he real efficient at finding fish here.

Paul Elias

  1. Dave Wolak  he's fished here a lot and can rely on that experience.

  2. Edwin Evers  because he won here last year.

  3. Gary Klein  just from talking to him, I think he's doing real well here.

Guy Eaker

  1. Kevin VanDam  because he's been fishing like this since he was a kid. He knows where they're going to be.

  2. Edwin Evers  he's a good drop-shotter, and he won here last year.

  3. Aaron Martens  he's also a good drop-shotter. This fits his style. He's one of the best finesse fishermen out here.

Ken Cook

  1. John Murray  he did well here last year, and this suits his style.

  2. Gary Klein  I think he's fishing in the right place.

  3. Skeet Reese  it's about time for him to break loose and have a good tournament.

Kevin Short

  1. John Murray  because he's handy with a drop-shot.

  2. Jami Fralick  for some reason, he does well on Erie.

  3. Kotaro Kiriyama  he's can do that crazy ninja stuff with a drop-shot here.

Bill Lowen

  1. Bryan Hudgins  he caught them last year here.

  2. Edwin Evers  he'll do well, if the weather will let him go to his spot again.

  3. Jon Bondy  he's real familiar with this water. He had them last year, but made some mistakes that cost

  4. him.

James Kennedy

  1. Glenn DeLong  he's very knowledgeable on the western end and this fishes the same.

  2. Edwin Evers  just because he won last year.

  3. Rick Morris  because he likes to fish deep, and he's really good at it.

Glenn DeLong

  1. Matt Sphar  he's forgotten more about this area than most of the other guys know.

  2. Aaron Martens  he's just a really good drop-shot fisherman, and he did well here last year.

  3. Edwin Evers  if there are still fish in the same area where he won it last year.

Steve Kennedy

  1. Edwin Evers  because of last year.

  2. John Murray  I've heard he's been doing some impressive things in practice.

  3. Aaron Martens  he loves that deep drop-shot, and he's due.

Alton Jones

  1. Steve Kennedy  just because I've heard he's on some good fish.

  2. Edwin Evers  I feel like his old stuff might be working again.

  3. Matt Reed  he spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania, finding the depth and the baits that were working, and I think that might lead to success here.

Mike McClelland

  1. Kevin VanDam  why not?

  2. Edwin Evers  he's spent a lot of time up here, and he knows it well.

  3. Matt Reed  I think he'll mix it up at a variety of depths, and it might work out well for him.

Jeff Kriet

  1. Kevin VanDam  this is his type of deal.

  2. John Murray  he did good here last year, and he's always good offshore.

  3. Aaron Martens  he's good offshore, and he's always real good at figuring out something to trick them into biting.

Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Empire Chase with weigh-in host Keith Alan, July 31-Aug. 3, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 5:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch "Bassmaster University" at 4:15 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get "Hooked Up" with hosts Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona at 12.00 p.m. and 4:20 p.m. ET, with the final day weigh-in and real-time leaderboard content starting at 5:00 p.m. ET.