We are one week away from the 7th stop of the Bassmaster Elite Series on Smith Lake in Cullman, Alabama. While the Elite Series has never been to this destination, the Bassmaster Opens has visited there several times, the last time being in October of 2021. We will likely see topwater walking baits playing a role for schooling bass along with swimbaits, shakey heads, jigs, drop shots, and the “jig head/minnow” forward-facing sonar technique. Smith Lake is full of big largemouth, but the main species is spotted bass as they roam around eating blueback herring. We will suggest two anglers per bucket based on their strengths, momentum, tournament history on Smith Lake and other blueback herring/spotted bass fisheries, and more! Let’s dive into it!

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We are one week away from the 6th stop of the Bassmaster Elite Series on Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Alabama. The last time the Elite Series has visited this Tennessee River impoundment was in late April/early May of 2016. This will be a different fishery this time around as many of the bigger schools of bass will be on deep offshore structure. We will see anglers have success with lures such as deep diving crankbaits, big worms and jigs, drop shots, swimbaits, spoons, and hair jigs. And of course, we will most likely see the “jig head/minnow” with forward facing sonar play a role for suspended bass. We will suggest two anglers per bucket based on their strengths, momentum, tournament history on Tennessee River impoundments, and more! Let’s dive into it! Read more


There are many different fishing tournament levels that an angler can choose to compete in, and a lot of them are dependent on the individual’s age. However, there are also several different types of fishing tournaments: team series, boater vs. boater, co-angler vs. co-angler, and now even kayak events. There will definitely not be a shortage of fishing tournaments any time soon. Knowing the costs is one of the most important factors that will influence an angler of making his or her decision of which tournament to compete in. The total costs for each tournament can vary depending on how much money is spent on gas, food, lodging, and fishing tackle. For the sake of keeping this blog as less overwhelming as possible, we are simply just addressing the three major national organizations: Bassmaster, Major League Fishing, and The National Professional Fishing League. Read more

We are one week away from the 5th stop of the Bassmaster Elite Series on Lake Murray in Columbia, South Carolina. So far, the rookies are showing out as there are 6 of the 10 rookies in the top 20 of the AOY standings, and 8 of the 10 rookies are in the top 26. Could this be a continued trend throughout the rest of the season? Read more

Do you have a passion for bass fishing and want to start doing it competitively? There are many different avenues of doing this. It is important to remember first, however, to make sure you are ready for the competitive aspect. If you haven’t been successful in catching big fish when you go fishing for fun, then you might need to practice more. Ways of doing this are simply to spend more time on the water to get an idea of what the fish are biting and where they are positioned, and to practice your fishing mechanics and boat navigation. Fishing with many different anglers is a great way to learn a lot, and one way of doing this is through fishing as a co-angler in tournaments like the Major League Fishing BFLs or Toyota Series, Bassmaster Opens, and many other tournament organizations! Every professional angler will tell you that more time spent on the water is the best way to improve your fishing skills. So, if you are practiced up and want to fish tournaments, here are some tips on how to get started!

  1. Start small, then grow.

Fishing tournaments can be intimidating when there are 200-300 boats on the water, literally. Bassmaster and Major League Fishing high school, college, and semi-professional tournaments often have at least 200 boats competing. Before jumping in a big tournament, it is good to start fishing with a local club that has 10-20 boats fishing against each other. Many of these local clubs fish a lot of the same lakes that are nearby, so there is a lot less traveling required. While fishing on several different lakes across the country can be a great learning experience further down the road, it could be wise to start out fishing more local tournaments to get your feet wet. With social media at our fingertips, it is fairly easy to find local tournament opportunities through joining a Facebook group for example. After getting comfortable fishing smaller tournaments, you can then start competing in bigger tournaments that are offered through tournament organizations such as Bassmaster, Major League Fishing, American Bass Anglers, and The Bass Federation as examples! To learn more about paths to becoming a professional angler, click here to read a blog we wrote about it!

  1. Stick with what you are confident in!

When competing in fishing tournaments, it can be easy to listen to what is referred to as “dock talk”. Dock talk is a term used that simply refers to all the chatter amongst anglers about things like what the fish are biting or where they are positioned. Listening to dock talk can often make an angler overthink his or her game plan. However, dock talk can be beneficial if you don’t rely solely on it and still stick to your guns. The bottom line is to fish the way that you are confident in fishing come tournament time! Tournament day is not an ideal time to try and gain confidence in new techniques, but it is a time to fish your strengths. Learning and trying new techniques are what practicing is for. Even the pros don’t fish certain techniques on tournament day unless it’s something they’re confident in doing. When it comes to utilizing forward-facing sonar, Buddy Gross said in a recent Bassmaster article, “I don’t have that confidence to do that. Until I get it, I won’t be able to do it. I’ll always think I have to be on the bank or a ledge”. This is a prime example of a professional that feels like he needs to do the things he’s confident in to be successful.

  1. Don’t overthink your approach to fishing!

Tournament fishing can often be stressful or overwhelming if you let the pressure get to you but remember that even the pros have bad days of fishing or even multiple bad tournaments in a row! Even the greatest angler of all time, Kevin Van Dam, will tell you that you must learn to lose if you want to be a tournament bass fisherman. The best thing to do after a bad day of fishing is to keep fishing until you figure out what the fish are doing! Lure selection is perhaps one of the biggest things that anglers often overthink. When they’re not catching fish, they often blame it on the lure. While it can be good to try different lures until you find the one the fish wants, if it ever comes to a point where you’re spending too much time tying on lures than fishing that’s when it gets excessive. Another thing that many anglers often overthink is the area they are fishing in. They often blow through an area fishing their lure too fast with the trolling motor on high. The best thing to do when fishing in an area is to either pick it apart or leave it if you don’t have confidence there. Tournament bass fishing can often cause doubts, especially when you know that other people are catching them when you’re not. However, the best thing to do is just trust your gut, keep fishing, and don’t worry about anyone else!

To conclude, we would like to include a few things that anglers should bring to tournaments that can often be overlooked, other than rods and tackle of course!

Things to bring to tournaments:

  • Lifejacket—make sure to always wear it when the outboard motor is running!
  • Plenty of water—drink plenty, especially when it’s hot and sunny!
  • Bags of ice in hot weather—for ice and livewells!
  • Plenty of food (especially protein)—lack of food can cause an angler to lose focus.
  • Fish care formula for livewells—this produces oxygen in the livewells and can often save an angler’s tournament.
  • Fin clips and fizzing needles for fish caught deep—fizzing the fish releases the gas from their swim bladder as it expands when the fish is brought to the surface. Fin clips keep the fish upright in the livewell.
  • Rainsuit—not just a light rain jacket, but an actual heavy duty rain suit.
  • Fishing license—make sure it’s renewed!
  • Navigation mapping—most depth finders have this capability, but the mapping chip is often sold separately (CMap, LakeMaster, or Navionics are a few examples).
  • Culling beam or scale—this makes it easy to see which fish is the smallest when you are culling!
  • Sunscreen and/or protective clothing—especially in the summer!
  • Polarized sunglasses—especially when the fish are spawning!

We are one week away from the 3rd stop of the Bassmaster Elite Series on Harris Chain of Lakes in the beautiful state of Florida. When the pros visit Florida, it’s usually in February for the first two events of the year. During that that time of year, the fish are often either spawning or feeding up for the spawn since Florida is so much warmer than the rest of the country. In April however, most of the fish will be done spawning. Offshore grass and shell beds will hold schools of giant bass, and anglers might also be able to capitalize on a shad spawn early in the morning. Read more

The fourth Bassmaster Elite Series event of the 2024 season is at St. Johns River in Palatka, Florida. There could be anglers in this event who typically struggle there in February, but their post-spawn strengths might lead to success in April. Because this is a different time of year than when the Elite Series typically visits Palatka, how anglers approach this tournament could be completely different than in the past. However, St. Johns River is still a shallow water angler’s paradise, so don’t expect big fish to only be caught offshore. Read more

We are roughly one week away from the 2024 Bassmaster Classic and the biggest question is can the winning fish be caught up shallow or must an angler rely on forward-facing sonar to win? We’ve seen shallow water anglers like Jason Christie, Bill Lowen, and Greg Hackney have success the last time the Classic was at Grand Lake in March. However, most of the fish will likely still be pre-spawn so forward-facing sonar will no doubt be a player whether it is the winning pattern or not. For this tournament, we will suggest 2 anglers per bucket. One of these anglers will be a forward-facing sonar guru, and the other one will be known for their shallow water strengths. This gives you the opportunity to choose between the two! Let’s dive into it!

Bucket A: Jason Christie or Patrick Walters

(Photos Courtesy of Bassmaster)

When it comes to Grand Lake and the Bassmaster Classic, 2022 Classic champ Jason Christie is always the favorite. Christie is famous for throwing a spinnerbait and a jig up shallow, but he proved in the 2022 Classic at Lake Hartwell that he can catch fish utilizing forward-facing sonar as well. Ever since Bassmaster announced that the Classic was returning to Grand Lake in 2024, there is no doubt that Christie has been craving another Classic win. Not to mention he finished in 2nd at the 2016 Classic after leading for 2 days, so you can bet that he is wanting some revenge there. When it comes to Patrick Walters, he is on as much of a hot streak as anyone right now. His last 4 Elite Series tournament finishes are 12th, 2nd, 1st, and 7th. He is also great with forward-facing sonar and a jerkbait, which will be a huge player for those pre-spawn bass. You can bet that Walters will be one to keep an eye on.

Bucket B: John Cox or Stetson Blaylock

(Photos Courtesy of Bassmaster)

There is no doubt that John Cox is a successful shallow water angler, and he has even claimed that he would rather not have forward-facing sonar on his boat. With all the boat docks and other types of shallow cover on Grand Lake, Cox could be one that could figure out the shallow bite. Sure, he has had a rough start to the 2024 season, but spring is his time of year, and he usually has a few good tournaments early in the season. Stetson Blaylock on the other hand has had a great start to the 2024 season with a 15th place finish and a 6th place finish in the Texas swing. He has also had two 3rd place finishes in Bassmaster Classics, one at Guntersville in 2020 and one at Hartwell in 2022. While he is a great shallow water angler, he is also successful with forward-facing sonar. Because Blaylock is a versatile angler, this could really suit him well for the Classic.

Bucket C: Tyler Rivet or Kyoya Fujita

(Photos Courtesy of Bassmaster)

A shallow water angler like Tyler Rivet could do well at the Classic, especially since he has fished better than he ever has throughout the last year or so. He finished 9th in the 2023 AOY standings, and he is fresh off a 2nd place finish at Lake Fork. He is also great with a jerkbait and forward-facing sonar, as he proved at Lake Fork and his 2023 win at Lake Okeechobee. On the other hand, Kyoya Fujita is the favorite in this bucket. The Japanese angler had a win at Toledo Bend earlier this year, a win at Lake Champlain in 2023, along with three more top 3 finishes in 2023. The forward-facing sonar guru has made a name for himself ever since his rookie year last year.

Bucket D: Justin Hamner and Cody Huff

(Photos Courtesy of Bassmaster)

Because this bucket is dominated with forward-facing sonar guys, we decided to pick 2 of them even though they are different in how they typically approach using it. Growing up fishing on the Coosa River, Justin Hamner is used to fishing shallower dirty water. Cody Huff on the other hand, grew up fishing deeper clear lakes like Table Rock and Bull Shoals, but he did finish in 8th place at Grand in a Bassmaster Open in 2021. Hamner is known for utilizing forward-facing sonar with a jerkbait, and Huff is great with deeper finesse tactics. Both of these anglers could be great choices for Grand Lake. However, if you want to ride the momentum train you should choose Justin Hamner who has not finished worse than 21st place in his previous 5 tournaments. He is also fresh off a 3rd place finish at Lake Fork.

Bucket E: Tyler Williams and Kyle Patrick

(Photos Courtesy of Bassmaster)

These two anglers are both young rookies on the Bassmaster Elite Series, and their first 2 events this year have been no worse than a 21st place finish for the both of them. They are both northern anglers, one from Maine and one from New York, but they obviously excel all over the country. Tyler Williams is known for his success with a jig, which can be a huge player on Grand Lake in the springtime. Kyle Patrick is great with his forward-facing sonar, but he is also skilled with a jig and other shallow water techniques. Tyler Williams’s previous 5 finishes dating back to the 2023 Bassmaster Opens are 4th, 19th, 9th, 8th, and 1st. Kyle Patrick’s finishes in those same 5 tournaments are 9th, 21st, 79th, 1st, and 22nd.

We are less than a week away from the first event of the 2024 Bassmaster Elite Series season, and there is still time to create your Bassmaster Fantasy team for the first event to win prizes! Before each event, we will be making our suggestions on which anglers to pick by giving you the option between two anglers per bucket. These picks will be based on anglers’ history on certain fisheries, momentum, strengths, and more.

NOTE: Since Toledo Bend and Lake Fork are back-to-back events, we went ahead and published our picks for Lake Fork as well.

Let’s dive into it!

Bucket A: Jordan Lee or Patrick Walters

(Photos courtesy of Bassmaster)

These are two great picks for Toledo Bend no matter the time of year. Lee is looking to pick up right where he left off with his accomplishments as a Bassmaster angler in his early career, and Walters is looking to pick up right where he left off with his win at the final Elite Series event of last year. Of course, Greg Hackney is the favorite as he is known for his success in Texas and Louisiana, but if you want to set yourself apart from the other Fantasy Fishing players then you might want to consider these other two anglers. Jordan Lee has had much success in Texas and Louisiana on the MLF Bass Pro Tour, and not to mention the first of his back-to-back Bassmaster Classic wins was in Texas during the pre-spawn. The Elites haven’t visited Toledo Bend since Patrick Walters joined; however, Walters has had a tremendous amount of success on fisheries like Fork, Ray Roberts, and Sabine River. Walters is also great at throwing a jerkbait while utilizing forward-facing sonar, which could be a huge player this time of year.

Bucket B: Jason Christie or Ben Milliken

(Photos courtesy of Bassmaster)

There is no doubt that Jason Christie will be a player at any lake in the early spring, especially when it’s a shallow water fishing paradise like Toledo Bend. If there is any sort of warming trend leading up to the event, Jason Christie will catch them. Put a spinnerbait or jig rod in his hand and he will find the fish. While Christie is one of the most feared names in bass fishing, Ben Milliken is a rookie in 2024. Don’t let this fool you however, as Milliken has had much success in his home state of Texas, including his Bassmaster Open win in 2023 on Toledo Bend qualifying him for he 2024 Bassmaster Classic.

Bucket C: Gerald Swindle or Clark Wendlandt

(Photos courtesy of Bassmaster)

According to bassmaster.com, Gerald Swindle has fished 5 Bassmaster events on Toledo Bend. Of those 5 events, his worst finish was 51st place and his best finish was 17th, and he has improved each time. He has also had great finishes on other fisheries in Texas like Fork, Sabine River, and Sam Rayburn which can fish like Toledo Bend. Swindle is also a great shallow water angler which can be beneficial to him especially if there are warm days leading up to an event. Similar to Swindle, Clark Wendlandt is also a shallow-water power fisherman. While he has no Bassmaster or MLF tournament history on Toledo Bend, he lives in Texas and has much experience with lots of lakes that fish similar to it. Just last year, he finished 2nd at Sabine River. Don’t be surprised if Wendlandt gets his revenge at one of the first two events as he is hungry for a win.

Bucket D: Keith Combs or Ray Hanselman

(Photos courtesy of Bassmaster)

When it comes to fishing in Texas, Keith Combs and Ray Hanselman are both forces to be reckoned with. While most of Combs’s success has been on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, he did have a 4th place finish at Toledo Bend in 2016. He is a crankbait fanatic, which could be a huge player at Toledo Bend as we have seen it be a winning factor in the last 2 Elite Series events held there. Texas native Ray Hanselman has also had many wins on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, along with wins on Amistad and Texoma. Don’t count these two anglers out at the first two Elite Series events of the year.

Bucket E: Buddy Gross or Wesley Gore

(Photos courtesy of Bassmaster)

With all the offshore areas that Toledo Bend has to offer, Buddy Gross could be one to bet on. After a rough season last year, he looks to rebound with a good start to the season. While most of his success has been in Florida and Tennessee River fisheries, the first two events could set up well for him. A lipless crankbait and a big swimbait, two lures that Gross is confident throwing, can be big players during the pre-spawn. Another offshore angler, Wesley Gore, could be very successful in his very first Elite Series event. While he is extremely skilled utilizing forward-facing sonar, he is also a very versatile angler growing up fishing in Alabama. Gore also had an 11th place finish in a Bassmaster Open event on Toledo Bend last year. Expect Wesley Gore to cover plenty of water and search for those giant bass that Toledo Bend is known for.

For the second Bassmaster Elite Series event of the season on Lake Fork, there are many anglers who could be successful this time around. With this being a different time of year than the Elites usually visit Lake Fork, don’t be surprised if new anglers who haven’t had success on Lake Fork put the pieces of the puzzle together based on their pre-spawn success at other lakes.

NOTE: At the time of writing this, we do not know which buckets the anglers are going to be put in, so we are listing 10 anglers in no particular order. We chose them based on their history at Lake Fork and other Texas fisheries, signature strengths that could play a role at Lake Fork, and recent success that can cause the momentum train to roll. We did this because Toledo Bend and Lake Fork are back-to-back events. Click here to check out our Toledo Bend picks.

Let’s dive into it!

Seth Feider

(Photo courtesy of Bassmaster)

The 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series AOY champ had a disappointing year last season finishing 55th place in the AOY standings, his worst finish since his rookie year in 2015. He will be looking to rebound in 2024, and the first 2 events at the beginning of the season could suit well for his strengths. It is also important to note that his last 4 finishes on Lake Fork are 25th, 6th, 11th, and 12th. These are all great finishes, which gives him a reason to do well in this event.

Greg Hackney

(Photo courtesy of Bassmaster)

When it comes to fishing in Texas, there is no doubt that Greg Hackney could be a huge player. He has fished two Bassmaster events on Lake Fork, finishing 38th and 13th. It is also important to note that Lake Fork is usually visited in the post-spawn when the bigger fish are usually offshore. He is also a shallow water fisherman which could be beneficial for him this time of year, especially if there is a warming trend. Expect him to do even better at Lake Fork this time around with the fish moving up to shallow areas getting ready to spawn soon. Of Hackney’s 65 Bassmaster top 10 finishes, 10 of them were in Texas. He has had more top 10s in Texas than any other state. Just know if you do decide to pick him, he will be one of the higher-percentage picks, so you won’t be the only one betting on him!

Chris Johnston

(Photo courtesy of Bassmaster)

When the last name Johnston is heard, it is usually seen on the leaderboard at northern fisheries. This is proven as 10 of his 18 Bassmaster top 10 finishes has been during the northern swing at the tail end of the season. However, 4 of his top 10 finishes have been in Texas, and 2 of them were on Lake Fork the last 2 times the Elite Series visited there in 2021 and 2022. Because of his recent success on the lake, it could be wise to pick Johnston this time around.

Lee Livesay

(Photo courtesy of Bassmaster)

It is no secret that Lee Livesay is the favorite to win this event. Why is this? Perhaps it is because he won the last 2 Elite Series events held on Fork. He has fished 4 Elite Series events on Lake Fork and has finished in the top 10 in 3 of them. If you pick someone else over Livesay, you might know something that other people don’t know!

Bryan New

(Photo courtesy of Bassmaster)

Bryan New didn’t have the start to the 2023 season that he wanted as it was a rough start to the first half. However, he had a solid second half of the season which caused him to almost qualify for the Bassmaster Classic being the third man out. Because momentum is a huge factor in tournament success, expect Bryan New to start out the 2024 season with a bang. His previous event on Lake Fork resulted in a 6th place finish, so he has had recent success on the lake. Bryan New is a junk fisherman which can either benefit him or hurt him, so it could be a gamble picking him. However, we are confident that New will have a much better start to the season than he had last year!

Brandon Palaniuk

(Photo courtesy of Bassmaster)

The 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series AOY champ had a less than average season last year for his standards even though he still qualified for the Classic. When it comes to fishing on Lake Fork, he has had great success there as his past finishes are 2nd, 14th, and 4th. He has also won an Elite Series event at Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Expect Palaniuk to continue his success in Texas and make another run at AOY this season.

Luke Palmer

(Photo courtesy of Bassmaster)

Luke Palmer had a stellar season in 2024 as he won an Elite Series event, finished 2nd in another, and had a 15th place AOY ranking. Palmer just finished up his 5th season as a professional angler, and he seems to be improving each year. He will tell you that he prefers shallow water techniques, and this event could set up well for him.

Matt Robertson

(Photo courtesy of Bassmaster)

Matt Robertson had a great season in 2024 finishing 11th in the AOY standings. He has the momentum train rolling as his last 2 events of 2023 were a 12th and a 10th place finish. He finished in 17th place at Lake Fork in 2022 and 40th place at Lake Fork in 2021. When it comes to Matt Robertson’s strengths, he loves throwing a big swimbait and fishing offshore, which can both play a role this time of year for pre-spawn bass.

Patrick Walters

(Photo courtesy of Bassmaster)

Patrick Walters has all the reasons going for him as to why he should be one of the top picks for the first two events, especially on Fork. He had a great season last year finishing 3rd in the AOY standings, he is fresh off a win and a 7th place finish in the last two events of last season, and he has a 1st and a 2nd place finish out of the 4 Elite tournaments he has competed in on Lake Fork.

Chris Zaldain

(Photo courtesy of Bassmaster)

Big swimbaits could always be a key player at Texas fisheries, and there is no doubt that Chris Zaldain is confident throwing them. While he was previously from California, Zaldain now lives in Texas. He has fished 4 Elite Series events on Lake Fork and his finishes were 40th, 5th, 13th, and 13th. While he did not have the season he wanted in 2023, he has some momentum rolling as his last 2 events last season resulted in solid 13th and 28th place finishes.