Of course, plenty has changed since 2013. Heck, that year’s winner, Cliff Pace, won’t even be fishing the Classic this year. Mother Nature has also been far more cooperative this go round – a cold-rain-and-snow mix during practice muddied the water and made the water colder in 2013. It’s been mainly warmth and sunshine for this year’s competitors, causing many to toss around the term “slugfest.”
So, with the previous champion out and the conditions far different than in 2013, who are the favorites? Let’s look at the data.
In looking at all anglers who have fished at least three Major or Minor events on Grand in the last decade, one name clearly stands out: Jason Christie. The local is the odds-on favorite to win, and he boasts a 954.736 average to back that up.
Another local, Edwin Evers has an impressive 830.119 average, but that’s nothing compared to Michael Iaconnelli (898.398) and Kevin VanDam (886.501), who both made the top 10 three years ago.
Of course, all of those names are ones you probably already pegged for your fantasy team, along with Aaron Martens and his 757.166 average. But how about Greg Hackney? Once known as a shallow, heavy-cover specialist, Hackney’s quietly well-rounded game has been strong on Grand with a 780.051 average. He even finished 13th back in 2013.
Here’s another you might have overlooked: Bill Lowen. A stick with a jerkbait, Lowen has a 739.263 average, finished 18th in 2013 AND finished 13TH there in 2007.
OK, now for two big names you may want to keep off your fantasy roster: Skeet Reese (338.133) and Russ Lane (386.415). Obviously, both are proven winners, with Reese having won the Classic before. Yet, Grand seems to have their numbers. Reese has never beaten more than 38 percent of the field at Grand, and while Lane has finished middle of the pack twice, he also finished last at the Classic in 2013.