Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bass Master Classic 2011 Preview: Who Will Win?

By Luigi De Rose

On the eve of any main sporting event there is always water cooler talk about who will win?  Making predictions is fun but it takes a bit of educated guessing to get it right. Here are my choices. These anglers are selected for a variety of reasons. All are very skilled and could easily win. Winning the most important bass fishing tournament in the world is not a simple matter. This is the BASS MASTER CLASSIC.

Greg Hackney

photo: BASS
The man is from Louisiana! Home state is never a guarantee you'll succeed but the Delta is not your average river. Plus, Greg can fish. A super, strong angler with a life time of knowledge of the swamp will go a long way. Past Classics here were in the summer. Heat, wind and weed growth dictated fish presence and activity levels.  Early spring will be a totally different animal. So if you consider how many are seeing the Delta for the first time plus all the changes from Hurricane Katrina, Greg Hackney does seem to have an advantage.  He might be my #1 choice and I would bet money on a Top 5 showing but I don't think he'll take it. My head says yes and my gut is undecided. 

Gary Klein

photo: BASS
 I would love for Gary to win. The guy is a walking legend and he's done very well during past trips to the Delta.  Gary knows everything about catching bass throughout the entire spawning period which makes him even deadlier. I'm not picking him because I think the guy rocks but because he can really fish well during awkward cold front, pre-spawn periods. 

If this becomes more of a pre-spawn situation with some colder weather blasting in, Mr. Klein is my man. Why? Past history and his determination. If Gary feels he is on the right fish to win he might be unstoppable. This is the guy who got shot at during a Delta Classic and didn't even flinch. He's tough! 

His past wins speak volumes. During the 1993 Bassmaster Alabama Invitational (Feb 17 to 19) on Lake Eufaula he won by flipping and pitching in river eddies to edge out everyone during a very cold and stingy tournament. Same again at the 2003 Bassmaster Lake Seminole (Feb  6 to 9) event where Gary punched matted weeds. This was before anyone at the national level was punching mats. Both were February win during poor conditions. 

Also, he is Yoda with a flippin' rod. He was swinging one at the 1979 Classic and almost won; so how can you not pick Gary Klein. I might not bet the farm on him but if he has a heavy limit on Day One,  I might have to look under my mattress for an extra $50.   

Mike Iaconelli
photo: BASS
Ike is always dangerous. He finished second at the 2009 Bass Master Classic and the 2009 FLW Forest Wood Cup making the desire factor at an all-time high. Missing two championship wins in the same year would build a fire under anyone plus it is Mike. He doesn't need a reason to get pumped up. 

Why I like him? Two main reasons: history and mind set. He seems to always do well early in the season. There are hundreds of photos of him screaming with a toque on his head and a lunker in his hands. His mind set excudes determination. This time around his life is stable and full. A focused angler who has nothing to worry about is just as dangerous as the old Iaconelli who had the worries of the world and nothing to loose.  In my opinion I expect a top showing. I give him 40% chance of winning but 80% for a Top 5 place. 

Kelly Jordan

photo: BASS
 Kelly is a very strong angler from Texas who loves power fishing the shallows. The ledges and humps of Lake Fork, his home lake, will not give him an edge here but his knowledge of how bass use brush, weeds and stumps will. A keen shallow water angler,  the Delta should be an area where he can excel. If the fish are biting spinnerbaits or on a shallow flipping bite,  I expect him to do well. Jordan has a life time of skill from fishing east Texas during the spring so the Delta shouldn't be that confusing. One thing I worry about is the immense pressure of the Classic might be too overwhelming.  The bite might come and go and the stress of waiting hours between fish could get the better of him. I hope not. He is my long shot. A true dark horse.

Morizo Shimizu

photo: BASS
Being from Japan might be a plus of the personable Morizo Shimizu. This skilled angler knows how to strain bass from areas and grind them out. Several pros think it might be won on the flats with cranks. Evergreen International, one of his main sponsors, is a huge crankbait manufacturer so Morizo has the skill and the cool baits to catch these Delta bass. Another plus is that many tournaments held in Japan are on rivers or lakes with canals or channelized systems. He knows how to dissect water and make the best of an average location. With the enormous size of the Classic boundaries, if you commit to an area then you've committed the entire day there. Forget the Spanish moss, alligators and airboats, the brackish water of the Delta might be surprisingly familiar to Morizo. Considering he has anchored a Top 5 finish on Guntersville (Elite) and Lake Mead (The WON US Open) two wildly different lakes this year, he might to do well in the geographically unique Delta. He is my wild card. Everyone has a wild card and he is mine.

Kevin Van Dam 

photo: BASS
 Why not! He already has 3 Classic wins (one on the Delta) and a fourth is just around the corner. He has back to back Angler of the Year titles so why not back to back Classics. Really, if this is a pre-spawn, shallow water cranking tournament why wouldn't Van Dam be a front runner?  If Gary Klein is Yoda with a flipping rod then Van Dam has to be Varder with a cranking rod.  Also, he's been at the top of his game for the past three years. Considering the way Kevin for been racking up trophies, he is one of my top picks.  My mind says he'll win but my heart says Klein or Hackney.

Well there are my choices. As I write this I feel ill-equipped to really judge some of the meeker Classic qualifiers. I just don't know them well enough to call one a sure winner. Bill Lowen is someone who catches my eye. He loves shallow water river systems.  He might be one I should pick but I don't know him well enough. If Takahiro Omori qualified for this Classic I would have him in my top picks for sure. Even with his busted hand.  There are a few others but that's the fun of guessing.

We'll have to wait for Day 1 of the 2011 Bass Master Classic. 
Stay tuned.

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