It's Bassmaster Classic week. Yep, in just a few days, some of the top bass pros in the biz will converge on Lake Hartwell to fish one of the biggest tournaments of the season, the Bassmaster Classic. Local boy and Elite Series pro Casey Ashley won here last time and will be competing again.
Jacob Powroznik. (Joel Shangle/BassFIRST)
It's more of a stand-alone event nowadays than an actual championship. Ya know, since it takes place after the current season starts and many months after last season ended. But still, it has that historical importance because of the titles and qualifying, and of course a solid amount of cash. Though that's even lighter by $200,000 for the winner. Just a few years back, it was a $500,000 payday, but I digress. Here are the BassFIRST Pundits' Picks for the 2018 Bassmaster Classic happening this week on Lake Hartwell in Greeneville, South Carolina.
Joel Shangle (BassFIRST's Bass Nomad)
"The best behind-the-scenes story of the 2015 Classic was how perturbed Proz was about the two-hour weather delay on Day 1," said Shangle. "Powroznik had zeroed in on a first-light bite that he felt would win him the Classic, but that two-hour delay cost him. Powroznik finished fifth in 2015.
Jason Christie. (Joel Shangle/BassFIRST)
"This event is setting up to be a second-chance redemption for Proz. He knows Hartwell as well as anybody not named 'Ashley', and with water being 10 feet higher and 20 degrees warmer than in 2015, it's in his wheelhouse. Proz is the pick."
"Well, duh," said Shangle. "But, until somebody proves that they can beat homeboy on his home lake, you'd be a fool to bet against Ashley.
"Yes, the higher, warmer water will make this less of a location-dominated tournament, but Ashley knows where to go and what to do in every season and condition on Hartwell. If my life depended upon somebody catching a bass on Lake Hartwell, I would choose Casey Ashley."
Dave Mercer (Bassmaster Elite Series/Classic Emcee)
"He has had an amazing career by anyone's standards," said Mercer. "But, he has been so close so many times over the last few years to winning major titles such as the Classic, Angler of the Year and the Texas Toyota Bass Classic, you gotta believe it's coming."
Brent Ehrler. (Joel Shangle/BassFIRST)
"I had to pick him because he told me not to pick him," said Mercer. "Plus, what human being on earth does not want to see that victory celebration?"
"I think the warmer weather leading up to this year's Classic may lean to his power-fishing style," said Mercer. "But regardless, there is no reason needed, he is friggin KVD and winning Classics is what he does. Why not make this one number five?"
Mark Zona (Bassmaster Pundit Extraordinaire)
Editor's note: Zona was busy with television work, so his answers are uncharacteristically short and nowhere near as entertaining as you'd expect.
"He's been close before and the higher water suits his style."
"The conditions on Hartwell could be ideal for the power-fishing style of Hackney."
"Came close to winning last year. He's a hammer and has a legitimate shot at taking this title."