Brandon Card previews the 2015 Bassmaster Elite Series: Part two

The second half of the 2015 Bassmaster Elite Series really has me excited. We will be going to a place I am really familiar with and then three stops up north that are known for giant bass. It is going to be a great end to a season that takes us from coast to coast and showcases what the nation has to offer. This year’s schedule is a good mixture of different kinds of fisheries, and whoever wins the Angler of the Year title has proven that they can compete anywhere. Here’s my breakdown for each of the final four events and my predictions for both the winning weight and the patterns I believe will win each event.

BASSfest Kentucky Lake: June 3-7

Kentucky Lake has always been one of my favorites. I went to college at the University of Kentucky in Lexington and although it was a few hours away, I fished several big events there for college fishing and when I was fishing the B.A.S.S. Nation. It is one of my favorite lakes because it is really where I learned to fish offshore, which has become one of my strongest techniques over the last few years. When we go there, it is going to be prime for ledge fishing and I can’t wait.

This event is also unique because it is BASSfest, where anglers from the Bassmaster Opens will be fishing alongside the Elite Series anglers. It’s really a cool event and like the name says it is a festival, with vendors and tons of fans there. We will have a day off after two days, which we call half time. Those who don’t make the cut have another chance to fish on nearby Lake Barkley to get back into the main event. It’s a cool format, and I loved it last year at Chickamauga. I really enjoyed spending time with fans and talking bass fishing. If you are in the area, come by and say hi.

Winning Pattern
Kentucky Lake is a huge lake with over 160,300 acres, so the field will really be spread out. I predict the winning pattern will be fishing ledges in 15-25 feet of water with deep diving crankbaits. There are a few other patterns that might play a factor or even challenge for the win: a huge spoon or a swimbait like a Kalin’s Sizmic Shad on a 3/4-ounce to 1-ounce Kalin’s Ultimate Swimbait Jighead. Both of those techniques are great for fishing offshore and work really well for big fish.

Predicted Winning Weight:
93 lbs (4 day total)

The Elite Series heads to Kentucky Lake in June. (Credit: Egan Snow/CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Elite Series heads to Kentucky Lake in June. (Credit: Egan Snow/CC BY-SA 2.0)

St. Lawrence River: July 30-Aug. 2

The St. Lawrence River (AKA Thousand Islands) is a legendary fishery that I heard a lot about growing up. I would read about the excellent fishing up there in Bassmaster magazine and always wanted to go. At the time it was known as an excellent largemouth fishery, and it still is, but the smallmouth have really taken over and grown very big with the explosion of gobies and zebra mussels.

When we were there in 2013, Brandon Palaniuk made that long run to Lake Ontario each day and won the event. This year will be a different story though as they have made Lake Ontario off-limits in the interest of our safety. That won’t be a problem though, because the fishing in the river itself is excellent and I think the weights will be just as good as they were last time.

I finished 66th there last time, but that was really only the second time I have ever relied on a drop-shot exclusively during an event. It is a technique that won last time and I would guess that just about everyone was using it at some point. I have gained confidence in the technique and also in fishing northern waters since then. I am definitely ready to get up there again.

Predicted Winning Pattern:
The drop-shot is the king on this body of water and I expect it to play a big role in this event. A Kalin’s Western Weenie worm will be my primary bait because it is perfect for drop-shotting. I really like this worm because it has a good action and is also very buoyant, which makes it deadly on a drop-shot. I expect the winning pattern to be drop-shotting, but there are two dark horse picks that may play a factor as well.

The last time we were there, Steve Kennedy did well and actually had the biggest bag of the event by fishing shallow water with a small swimbait. He was targeting shallow fish that most of us ignored. This may be a bigger factor this time, and guys who fish shallow like he did with a swimbait or jerkbait might have a shot at the win.

Predicted Winning Weight:
88 lbs (4 day total)

Chesapeake Bay: Aug. 13-16

The Chesapeake is another excellent fishery and springtime tournaments are consistently won with bags in the upper 20s. It’s nothing to see a local one-day event take 27 or 28 pounds to win. With that being said, we are going to be fishing it a completely different time of year and I have heard that mid- to late-summer can be downright tough.

I went there last summer after the Delaware River event and it was nothing like I expected. It was basically miles of eelgrass, and I really did not do that well. I know the big ones are in there and have seen the results, but at this time I think it may end up being a tough tournament.

Another thing to consider is the tides. The tides play a major role, and with tides it is all about timing. I have not had too much experience with tides and know that I have to go in with the mindset that I have to not only find the right areas but also know when they are going to produce.

Predicted Winning Pattern:
This event will be won one of two ways, depending on the conditions. If the grass mats are up and the grass is healthy, hollow-belly frogs and buzz frogs like the Kalin’s Sizmic Toad will be great ways to catch them and win the event. If the grass is not matted, I believe it will be won fishing hard cover like docks, jetties, wood and anything else in the water. If this is the case, a 3/8-ounce jig pitched and flipped to the cover will be the winning pattern.

Predicted Winning Weight:
60 lbs (4 day total)

The bay’s rock jetties can appeal to bass anglers. (Credit: Mr.TinDC/CC BY-ND 2.0)

The bay’s rock jetties can appeal to bass anglers. (Credit: Mr.TinDC/CC BY-ND 2.0)

Lake St. Clair: Aug. 27-30

The final tournament of the year will be on Lake St. Clair, yet many of the competitors will end up fishing Lake Erie or Lake Huron. It seems like each year, one of them is better than the other. The last time we were there in 2013 for the Elite Series, it was won in Lake Huron by Chris Lane. Until we get up there I won’t know which of the lakes I will be fishing. They’re all world class smallmouth fisheries.

When the Elites Series went there in 2013, the bass on St. Clair looked thin, sick and just unhealthy, so the lake did not play a major role. But I fished a Bassmaster Northern Open there last year and St. Clair was excellent, so I am not sure where it will be won. I barely cashed a check last time for the Elites. I finished in 49th and hope to do much better this year.

Predicted Winning Pattern:
Like the St. Lawrence, this tournament will be dominated by the drop-shot. The other pattern that might do well is what Chad Pipkens used to win the Northern Open last year: fishing a crankbait in shallow water. He was fishing really shallow by Erie standards, 8-10 feet deep where the sand met the rock. I think this is a viable way to win this year and will be experimenting with it during practice. If St. Clair is on, I expect some guys to catch them shallow with jerkbaits, big spinnerbaits and crankbaits.

Predicted Winning Weight:
86 lbs (4 day total)

The conclusion of this year’s Bassmaster Elite Series really has me excited. BASSfest and fishing Kentucky Lake has something I have looked forward to all year and I think this is really my best chance to win an event as I know the lake and it really suits my style. Finishing up on northern waters with such history and huge bass is a great way to end the season.

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