The 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule is diverse and full of great fisheries across the country. In this piece I'm previewing the second half of the events of the 2017 season and making my predictions for the patterns and weight needed to win.
Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest
Lake Sam Rayburn, Texas - May 17-21, 2017
The Texas Fest is a new event but it will be similar to the BASSfest tournaments we have had the past few years. I have had good results during that event and I think it’s because I like fishing that time of year. It is a little earlier this year but Sam Rayburn should still be a post-spawn tournament.
It is really close to Toledo Bend and fishes the same. The cover and layout is very similar and just like Toledo Bend it has giant bass. I feel that it will be won offshore with crankbaits and I love fishing that way that time of year. With the shallow grass in the lake, there should also be a strong topwater bite and this may be a factor.
Predicted Winning Patterns: Deep cranking, throwing topwater baits like the Yo-Zuri 3DB pencil or frogs in the grass.
Predicted Winning Weights: Just over 20 lbs. a day.
Lake Dardanelle, Ark. - June 2-5, 2017
I have been to Dardanelle before but barely made a check, landing in 50th place. That was a different time of year than the event this year and it was unseasonably cold. With the timing of this event I think the fish will be in the grass and there is also a chance of fish being caught offshore on ledges on the main Arkansas River.
I am excited about this one because the Arkansas River is very fertile and always has a good tint to it. We should be able to fish it using several different techniques with enough space to spread out from the rest of the field.
Predicted Winning Patterns: Frogs, topwaters and swim jigs.
Predicted Winning Weights: 16-17 lbs. per day.
St. Lawrence River, N.Y. - July 20-23, 2017
This is another one that gets me excited. On my last visit there I made a Top 5 finish by fishing my favorite way; frogs and punching in the grass for largemouth. Greg Hackney also finished in the Top 5 focusing on largemouth and I think more will try it this time based on our finishes.
It is a place dominated by smallmouth and I still think that is what species will win the event, but my plan is to target largemouth again. I will have to find some out of the way places because there is only so much largemouth habitat and miles and miles of prime fishing for smallmouth.
Predicted Winning Patterns: Drop-shot rigs in deeper water for smallmouth. The last time we were there it was won with shallow smallmouth, but I feel that the 20-30 feet range will be the winning pattern this time.
Predicted Winning Weights: The fish there are fat and healthy. A 20 lb. average will be needed to win this one.
Lake Champlain, N.Y. - July 27-30, 2017
I have been to Champlain several times and really like fishing here. It is a place where you can literally do whatever you want to and still catch fish. For me, that means heading to the shallow grass for largemouth in Ticonderoga.
I feel really comfortable in that area for largemouth, but feel that it will take a mixed bag to win. There are plenty of places for smallmouth too and you can catch them throughout the lake.
Predicted Winning Patterns: Frogs and punching for largemouth and a variety of techniques for smallmouth.
Predicted Winning Weights: An average of 18 lbs. per day.
Lake St. Clair, Mich. - August 24-27, 2017
There is so much great water to fish and past tournaments have been won on Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Recently, Lake St. Clair itself has become better after experiencing a downturn. The problem with St. Clair is there is no major structure. It is a bowl with some grass here and there. I always ask myself“where should I start?” and the answer is to just start and go fishing until you find them.
In all of my trips here I always spread myself too thin. In the past I would practice a day in each of those lakes and one in Lake St. Clair. This time I am going to stick with St. Clair for practice and figure it out. This is where it was won last time and I know it is possible to win it there again.
Predicted Winning Patterns: Crankbaits, Spy Baits and drop-shot rigs.
Predicted Winning Weights: An average of 20 lbs. a day.
The 2017 schedule will really test us because of the variety of fisheries we are going to. My goal for this year is to be more consistent and avoid the bad tournaments. In the past I have had really great tournaments and really bad tournaments and they cancel each other out. My goal this season is to become more consistent and do everything I can to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic and Angler of the Year Championship.