Who's going to win the 2010 Bassmaster Classic on Alabama's Lay Lake?
We posed that question to several Bassmaster Elite Series pros.
To say these prognosticators have inside knowledge is extreme understatement.
They know the Classic contenders, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as anyone outside the contenders' immediate families.
Our angling pundits have years of experience competing against this year's Classic contenders, a familiarity that makes them an ideal source to handicap the biggest event in professional bass fishing.
Some of their picks are no-brainers, while others are a bit surprising.
John Crews (4-time Classic qualifier, 10 top-10 BASS finishes)
• Mike Iaconelli — "I don't know how you can bet against him. With the experience of fishing up north and the big tournaments he won last year, he has to be one of the favorites."
• Kelly Jordon — "He hasn't traditionally made a big run in the Classic, but he knows how to win tournaments. And I think he gambles a little more than he used to, which is something it's going to take to win the Classic under the weather conditions this year."
• Russ Lane — "He's the local to watch. He fishes cold-water tournaments on Lay Lake all the time. He knows what to do and where to be on Lay Lake. The only other guy who might have as much local knowledge is Matt Herren."
Paul Elias (1982 Classic champion, 14-time Classic qualifier, 6 BASS victories, 40 top-10 BASS finishes, BASS record holder for heaviest 4-day stringer)
• Cliff Pace — "I think he's flying under the radar. He's an excellent fisherman. He understands this kind of lake and can catch them no matter if they're deep or shallow."
• Aaron Martens — "He's done his homework and spent a lot of time on the lake. Of course, he lives in the area now, too. He's excellent with electronics. If the fish are deep, he's probably the most serious threat."
• Russ Lane — "He probably knows that lake as well as anyone. With his past experience on that lake, if he keeps his head together, he can win it. Especially with the weather like it is, he'll know the spots to hit and he'll catch fish."
Charlie Hartley (2008 Classic qualifier, 7 top-10 BASS finishes)
• Jami Fralick — "I'm going with emotional picks because everybody else will have logical picks. I like Jami Fralick because he was the Charlie Hartley of last year's Classic. I'd love to see an underdog win it."
• Steve Kennedy — "He's just a great guy, and he seems to do really well with very little practice."
• Gary Klein — "Every year, this time of year, everybody writes about how many times Gary has made the Classic without winning one. That kind of consistency over so many years is an incredible credential. But wouldn't it be nice this year to be able to write something about him winning the Classic."
Davy Hite (1999 Classic champion, 2-time Angler of the Year, 13-time Classic qualifier, 7 BASS victories, 37 top-10 BASS finishes)
• Kevin VanDam — "He's the top fisherman in the world, and this is the big show, the Super Bowl of our sport. He shows up for every tournament, but he shows up with both fists swinging for the Classic. If there's a reaction bite going, he's going to be as good as anyone."
• Terry Scroggins — "If the conditions lead to more of a flipping bite, he's as good as anyone there because of he's fished shallow vegetation in Florida his whole life. He has consistently made the Classic, and that says a lot. He's due."
• Boyd Duckett — "You have to put him in there because he won it there in 2007 under similar conditions. He has a lot of local knowledge."
Bill Lowen (2-time Classic qualifier, 6 top-10 BASS finishes)
• Aaron Martens — "With the way the weather's setting up, I'm going to go with some Alabama guys. It's not going to be the event we thought it was going to be, and the spotted bass are going to play a big role. Aaron knows the currents and where the spots live up in the river."
• Randy Howell — "Again, I'm going with an Alabama guy because of the weather and condition of Lay Lake. Randy did well there (13th) last time."
• Skeet Reese — "You can tell he's really hungry for it again. And you can't forget that he almost won it last time on Lay Lake."
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Ish Monroe (6-time Classic qualifier, 2 BASS victories, 16 top-10 finishes)
• Mike Iaconelli — "He's definitely the hardest-working guy on tour. He's daylight to dark every practice day. He's the new-school Rick Clunn. He has natural ability on the water, and he goes into every event without getting any inside information. He figures it out by himself, and he just does what he needs to do."
• John Murray — He's probably the most confident fisherman with the most natural ability on the tour. Period. He has won everywhere, and he's a threat to win any tournament anywhere. Plus, he had a baby last year, so he has the Classic 'baby pattern,' having a baby and then winning the Classic, working in his favor."
• Steve Kennedy — He's in the fishing groove. He's one of four guys who fish both tours (Bassmaster and FLW), so he's ready to fish any time, any place. He doesn't care."
Marty Stone (4-time Classic qualifier, 2 BASS victories, 7 top-10 BASS finishes)
• Mike McClelland — "Lay Lake is a very river-like body of water, and it's going to fish different than it has in a long time. Mike knows how to fish that type of water. And he's fished so well the last couple of years. Whether anybody wants to admit it, fishing comes in streaks, and he's on one now."
• Skeet Reese — "He's in a world of his own right now. He's done some things the past couple of years that have probably amazed even Skeet. He came within a gnat's hair of winning there last time. He usually fishes well when it's cold and miserable. He's the type of angler who excels in adverse conditions; he doesn't hit the panic button when it's 2 p.m. and he only has two fish in the boat."
• Gerald Swindle — "I'm not just picking him because I like him. Most of the people fishing this thing have never seen Lay Lake like this, and they don't even know anyone who's seen it like this. Gerald is one of the few anglers who has set his boat in this lake under these conditions. He knows what he needs to do. He finished strong last season, and he's beyond due to win. He had a good shot at winning the last one on Lay Lake before he got disqualified."
Edwin Evers (9-time Classic qualifier, 5 BASS victories, 37 top-10 BASS finishes)
• Aaron Martens — "He's been really close in the past, and it may be his time. Of course, he lives there near the lake, so I'm sure he had to have put in a lot of practice time."
• Gary Klein — "I'm picking him just because I want to see him win it. He's been at it a long time, and he's just a great guy. He would be a great representative for the sport."
• Terry Butcher — "He's my brother-in-law, and I have to be pulling for the family."