DECATUR, Ala. — The 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series tour begins its seventh event of the 11-tournament season Thursday with a stop in Alabama on Wheeler Lake's 68,000 acres. Though the Southern Challenge presents a classic post-spawn bass fishing pattern, recent rains in the area have opened up a shallow water bite that typicially wouldn't be a factor this time of year on Wheeler.
The field will be cut to the top 50 after Friday's weigh-in and the top 12 after Saturday. The 7 a.m. takeoffs and 4 p.m. ET weigh-ins will be held at Ingalls Harbor.
Fourteen pros were asked to pick the three most likely winners of the $100,000 first place prize this week at Wheeler Lake. Here are their choices:
Timmy Horton — He has all the local knowledge and knows every nook and cranny of this place.
Kevin VanDam — It might be won with a crankbait bite and nobody does it better.
Matt Reed — He will get out on the flats and fish slow with a worm.
Aaron Martens — This may be a structure deal and that means he will catch them good on a drop-shot.
Kevin VanDam — Because he always has a chance.
Edwin Evers — He's on fire and has a lot of momentum.
Timmy Horton — He knows the mussel bars and stump ridges.
Kevin VanDam — The spinnerbait bite is working.
Tommy Biffle — The water is a little bit high and there's a good flipping bite in willows.
Timmy Horton — He always fishes well here and is sleeping in his own bed.
Kevin VanDam — He's always in the top five here.
Mike Wurm — The old dog can still hunt.
Tommy Biffle — Fish are still shallow and the lake is high. There's a lot of stuff to pitch and flip up there.
Kevin VanDam — He'll be able to change on the fly and it may take that to win.
Dean Rojas — We might hear Kermie croaking in this one.
Timmy Horton — Because of his knowledge of this river system.
Kevin VanDam — He will cover a lot of water and you're going to have to do that to catch them here.
Jeff Kriet — I know where he's fishing and he's on them.
Kevin Wirth — He's a good offshore fisherman and he's done well here in the past.
Aaron Martens — He'll find some wacky way to catch them that nobody else will.
Kevin VanDam — There's a pretty good crankbait bite and he'll cover a lot of water.
Timmy Horton — He's from here.
Aaron Martens — He's won an FLW tournament here and he knows this lake.
Bobby Lane — I think he's good at fishing the flats and that scattered grass, so he should do well here.
Jeff Reynolds — Because he's staying with me and if he doesn't do well, I'm going to whip his ass.
Boyd Duckett — We've been talking and it's time for both of us to step out of this mental deal.
Timmy Horton — He's always done well on Wheeler.
Gerald Swindle — Because he's a good trash fisherman and that's what it will take to win here. He'll catch some shallow, some deep, some in the grass.
Timmy Horton — He's fished this lake a lot. He's a really good deep-water fisherman. If he finds a wad of them, he could run away with this thing.
Marty Stone — Because "The Stone Pony" is a previous winner here.
Kevin VanDam — Because I know where he's fishing and I'm catching them, too.
Dustin Wilks — Because I saw him fishing.
Aaron Martens — He's going to catch a lot of fish and you're going to have to catch a lot of fish to catch a few big ones.
Timmy Horton — It's post-spawn and he knows where they stay here. They're out in places that he knows better than anyone.
Aaron Martens — He's done well every time he's been here.
Mike McClelland — They're definitely hitting a jig. It's the right time of year for him to do well.
Timmy Horton — He's got more local knowledge than anyone else.
Kevin VanDam — You can run-and-gun and catch them on the flats.
Jeff Connella — He's been pretty consistent in practice. I know he's going to catch at least one big bag and that will be the key here.
Aaron Martens — He's been here enough times to know how to catch them. He'll leave the ramp with his trolling motor down and start catching them.
Mark Davis — He's been here quite a bit. This is going to be a slow, methodical deal where you need to really work over a couple of key spots.
Skeet Reese — He's not afraid to fish in a crowd. Some of these guys won't do that. I don't want to be looking at somebody else, especially when they're catching fish.
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Southern Challenge, June 5–8, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch "Bassmaster University" at 3:00 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get "Hooked Up" on at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. ET, with the final day weigh-in and real-time leaderboard content starting at 4:15 p.m. ET.