Ed. note: In advance of each Fantasy BASS Fishing event, a cast of Bassmaster and BASS Times editors and writers as well as a few Tour insiders will weigh-in with their picks for the forthcoming tournament. Here's our experts' thoughts on the final event of the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail on Pennsylvania's Three Rivers.
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LAST EVENT Because every pundit picked Kevin VanDam and Michael Iaconelli, the difference in scoring came down to who the pundit's picked with their other three roster spots. Only Brian Lynn, Louie Stout and Craig Lamb scored with their non-KVD/Ike picks. Lamb scored a total of 50 points behind the power of Rick Clunn and Randy Howell, while Stout leveraged Davy Hite's top-six finish into 55 points. Brian Lynn scored a whopping 60 points with Mark Davis' top-12 finish and Jay Yelas' top-six finish. It is pretty much a two-horse race for the title between Lynn and Zona, however, two dark horses are lurking Stout and Kernan should the leaders fall.
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Total pundit points: 180
Winners: 2 | Top 6 finishers: 8 | Top 12: 11
Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich. Red hot! Won at Wissota, a very tough fishery. Pittsburgh will be tougher.
Michael Iaconelli, Runnemede, N.J He's been on my team all year so I can't give up on him now.
Dave Wolak, Warrior Run, Pa. My home state pick. He may not win the classic, but I'd be surprised if he doesn't finish in the top five.
Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La. Has been on a roll on that other tour.
Aaron Martens, California/Alabama BASS Angler of the year. Need I say more?
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Co-host, ESPN2's Loudmouth Bass
Total pundit points: 205
Winners: 3 | Top 6 finishers: 7 | Top 12: 15
Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La. Didn't get to play in the E-50's. you know he's going to come out swinging.
Kevin Wirth, Crestwood, Ky. Word is he had a bad ass practice. He'll smoke 'em literally smoke 'em.
Aaron Martens, California/Alabama Always finds out sneaky ways to catch fish on bridge pilings. Well, the Three Rivers will give him about 1000 bridges to pick from.
Michael Iaconelli, Runnemede, N.J For the last year he's been way to vocal about how excited he is the Classic is in Pittsburgh. There must be a reason why.
Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich. One word MOMENTUM.
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Field reporter, BassCenter
Total pundit points: 125
Winners: 2 | Top 6 finishers: 4 | Top 12: 9
Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La. One of the best river fishermen on tour, the Hack Attack was one of the few anglers who had a good practice last month. This isn't the lower Arkansas River, where Hackney learned how to conquer river bass, but I'll be surprised if he's not in the hunt this year. In fact, I'll be surprised if he doesn't win it all.
Rick Clunn, Ava, Mo. Could he make it five? After a hiatus from Classic competition, the master is hungry. And he excels when conditions are tough.
George Cochran, Hot Springs, Ark. Fresh off a victory in the FLW Championship, Cochran is red hot right now. He has said this will be his last Classic, so expect him to make it count. And who holds the record for the lowest winning weight in Classic history? That's right: George Cochran. Where was it? The Ohio River.
Ed Cowan, Greeley, Pa. This is my darkhorse pick. He knows this system, and he has something to prove for the Federation anglers. He'll be energized by a partisan crowd, too.
Michael Iaconelli, Runnemede, N.J I'm sure he'll be on everyone's list, and if he isn't, he should be. He likes this fishery, and he cut his teeth bass fishing on similarly tough fisheries throughout the Northeast.
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Total pundit points: 135
Winners: 2 | Top 6 finishers: 1 | Top 12: 9
An act of desperation when you are in the middle of the pack, the only way to make a move is to pick guys that are longshots. Here are some dark horses:
Gary Klein, Weatherford, Texas He's been close for the past three Classic. Perhaps it's his turn.
Gerald Swindle, Hayden, Ala. He might not catch 'em, but it will sure be fun to listen to the interviews if he does.
Marty Stone, Linden, N.C. He found nothing in practice except a few guy wanting to cull him from their docks. Perhaps his luck will change when competition begins – he was awful consistent on Tour this year.
Jeff Kriet, Ardmore, Okla. Never heard of him? Join the club. But, this dude can catch 'em, and nobody else has him on the radar.
John Crews, Jetersville, Va. Another no namer, Crews at least lives north of the Mason Dixon line. Perhaps he'll luck up on a couple.
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Senior Writer, Bassmaster
Total pundit points: 185
Winners: 2 | Top 6 finishers: 7 | Top 12: 15
Don't be surprised if none of the pundits pick this year's Classic winner. Pittsburgh sets up for a wild card winner and it very well could be time for another Federation Classic Champ. I'm sticking with some favorites but added a Federation angler as my long shot hunch.
Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich. No explanation necessary.
Michael Iaconelli, Runnemede, N.J Ike is one of the few anglers in the field who hasn't complained about the fishing in Pittsburgh. He's got the mental toughness to win providing he doesn't draw a big crowd of spectator boats.
Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La. He's had that look in his eye since he came back from Classic practice. Of course, he's had that look in his eye since coming on tour.
Aaron Martens, California/Alabama If small fish determine the outcome, he'll be right there with his small fish tactics.
Ed Cowan, Greeley, Pa. A Federation angler could win this year and Cowan is fishing close to home. He says he has never fished the river, but I'm betting he's got buddies who have done so. Besides, this is his second Classic so he should have a better idea of how to deal with the hoopla.
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The Huntsville (Ala.) Times
Total pundit points: 155
Winners: 2 | Top 6 finishers: 6 | Top 12: 13
Pittsburgh is shaping up to be possibly the stiffest test since the 2000 Chicago Classic. With three definite river systems and few backwater areas, the field will have to focus on every cast lest they miss a bite or lose a fish. From practice reports, the "power fishing" strategy may not play as much of a role this time and give way to more patient finesse tactics with downsized lures and lighter line.
Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich. No doubt, he's one of the favorites. We've seen an evolution of sorts in his strategy this year, capped with his Elite 50 performances at Lewisville Lake near Dallas with a "shakey rig" finesse setup and Lake Wissota in Wisconsin on a small, tough lake. That confidence should carry over into the Classic.
Michael Iaconelli, Runnemede, N.J Screamin' Ike also is riding a wave of confidence from his Elite 50 performances and his solid Wal-Mart FLW Tour win on the Potomac last month. He's no stranger to figuring out tough waters, using a drop-shot and staying focused.
Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La. Finished the Citgo Bassmaster Tour season with his first Tour win, at Lake of the Ozarks, and has arguably been one of the hottest pros on either tour the last two years. He, too, is familiar with tough river conditions after cutting his teeth on the tough Arkansas waterways where he grew up. He may be one of the few to crack 10-12 pounds or more on the first day of the Classic and capitalize on it.
Aaron Martens, California/Alabama He's finished second in the Classic a couple of times, but close doesn't cut it when everything's on the line. Last year's runner-up performance at Lake Wylie with a small "horsey-head" fluke rig no one else used, and near bridge pilings like those the field will find on the Three Rivers, could again prove to be what it takes.
Kevin Wirth, Crestwood, Ky. My darkhorse pick, for two reasons. One, he's a tough-as-nails angler who flies under the radar of more high-profile pros in the limelight, but is as equally talented and ultra-competitive. Two, at the Smith Lake Elite 50 he revealed that the drop-shot rig has become a "mainstay backup" to his more favored power-fishing techniques. That versatility and the probable use of finesse tactics on the Three Rivers could put him at the top when it's all over.
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Associate Editor, ESPNOutdoors.com
Total pundit points: 220
Winners: 4 | Top 6 finishers: 8 | Top 12: 12
Because I've got the lead, I want to try to pick favorites in hopes of matching as many of the same anglers as my nearest competitors. That means KVD and Ike are on the team because everyone and their Snoopy-pole carrying kid is going to pick the red-hot super duo. So that leaves three slots to fill. Where I'm going to deviate from my own advice is that I'm not going with the suspects most likely to appear on my competitor's rosters Hackney, Martens, Wirth, etc. with the last three spots. It's all or nuthin' baby!
Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich. Yep, that's KVD added to another roster. Go figure.
Michael Iaconelli, Runnemede, N.J Fishing near his current home and his boyhood home. He's money, money, money! And, even if he flops, no biggie, everyone is going to be picking him so it's a wash either way!
Jay Yelas, Tyler, Texas At the Wissota tournament, I said Yelas was a sneaky pick that could put me in the lead and that's exactly what happened. And as I said in a column prior to the Lewisville tournament: with 11 victories in the North, Yelas is a great pick for the Classic.
Larry Nixon, Bee Branch, Ark. If you search the angler database and look up "Ohio," you'll see three tournaments that were held on the Ohio River in the 80s.
In 1987, Nixon took 4th-place in the Classic. In the 1983 Classic, he won it all. In 1982, he won an invitational on the river. While the anglers may not be fishing the same waters as they did in the early 80s, two wins and a 4th-place finish on the same body of water is good enough for me!
George Cochran, Hot Springs, Ark. Along the same lines as Nixon, Cochran performed well on the Ohio River in the 80s. Winning the Classic in 1987, taking 6th in the '83 Classic and he tied for 8th in 1982. Let's hear it for the veterans!
.jpg" width="84" height="91" border="0" align="left" alt="lamb">Craig Lamb
Senior Writer, Bassmaster
Total pundit points: 75
Winners: 2 | Top 6 finishers: 2 | Top 12: 11
Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich. What bozo wouldn't pick him? My brother in arms Louie Stout, who wrote the book on KVD, is probably trying to figure out five different ways to pick him. KVD is the best bronzeback player in this game, plus he knows how to do it run-and-gun style, a big plus in this event. But will the boat traffic hurt? Who knows …
Michael Iaconelli, Runnemede, N.J His Ikeness will be another strong contender as he grew up fishing highly pressured rivers where few bass live. Word up to Ike: Dude, don't "go Iaconelli" with a 15-ounce smallmouth.
Ed Cowan, Greeley, Pa. He will be mentally on top of his game, and in his own backyard. Cowan vowed to dedicate the memory of a Classic win to his fallen pal, Bryan Kerchal. Cowan is also adept at finding fish on tough river systems.
Dave Wolak, Warrior Run, Pa. The reigning Toyota Rookie of the Year could be the hottest angler on the tour. He's a hot item and will be flying beneath the radar screen of spectator boats and other pressures.
Rick Clunn, Ava, Mo. I'm counting on my childhood hero to make a strong statement in his Classic comeback. When the going gets tough, and it will be ugly in P-burgh, the tough will get going. Remember Clunn's comeback from the back of the pack at the 1990 Classic?