Last year KVD won an Elite Series event at Toledo Bend with 96 pounds of bass. This year John Murray won there with 77-plus. Some pros attribute the drop-off to the fact that this year the derby took place a month earlier, when the fish were in a funky in-between stage. Others say it was because of a change in the vegetation. But there has also been lots of grumbling that the fish population is not what it was.
Three tournaments into the Elite Series season and newcomer Jamie Hartman is sitting pretty in 10th place in the AOY race, thanks largely to top three finishes at both Cherokee and Toledo Bend, two wildly disparate lakes. Hartman’s story is a good one, not only because he’s a 40-something northeasterner bashing into a circuit where rookies are still largely younger and more southern, but also because he pretty much bet the farm on this as a career – selling almost everything, putting the rest in storage, breaking up with the girlfriend and couch surfing his way to this point.
Back in December I wrote a column arguing that the return of David Fritts to B.A.S.S. tour-level competition would be a story to watch in 2017, and then I more or less forgot about it. To be honest, given the Crankmaster’s most recent FLW campaigns, I figured there was a better than even chance that he’d end up as roadkill against the Palaniuks and Jordan Lees of the world. Nothing against the guy, whose credentials more than speak for themselves, and with whom I’ve spent some time in the boat, but this a take-no-prisoners league.