UPCOMING EVENT: ABU GARCIA COLLEGE FISHING - 2020 - Harris Chain of Lakes

Pundits’ picks

Here we go with our second round of picks for the Conseco Fishing Challenge on Lake Wheeler. The squawk around here got pretty intense following the first round at Okeechobee. Certain pundits (Jeff) have gone so far as to insinuate that I somehow cheated in that first round. Which leads me to the question: How could somebody cheat when picking anglers in a bass tournament?

Maybe a review of all of the pundits' scores after round one would help shed some light on this desperate and untrue accusation. For the record, the scores from Okeechobee are as follows:

1) Rob Newell - 982
2) Dave Washburn - 918
3) Gary Mortenson - 829
and, in a distant 4) Jeff Schroeder - 690.

No wonder he feels cheated.

Truth is Lake Okeechobee made all of us "pundits" look more like punks - know-it-alls who know nothing at all. None of us even landed a single pick inside the top 10 - pretty pathetic. With that being said, it is time to move on to Lake Wheeler.

We truly old-school FLW pundits will remember when an emotional Randy Howell grabbed victory from the veteran Rick Clunn in the very last minute of competition at Wheeler in 1998. Also in that tournament, a then fresh face, Marty Stone, finished third. And Clark Wendlandt watched victory swim away when he failed to connect with a 4-pound smallmouth.

Too late to change your picks now, Jeff!

- Rob
________________________________

Wal-Mart FLW Tour stop #2
Lake Wheeler, Rogersville, Ala.
Feb. 13-16

Rob NewellRob Newell
Freelance Writer, FLW Outdoors
Score: 982 (Okeechobee)

1) Clark Wendlandt. I will have to go with Wendlandt for the winner's circle. Yes, I also picked Wendlandt to win at Okeechobee, but here is my strategy: pick Wendlandt every time for first place and I will eventually get it right. Sometime this year, Wendlandt will win. His has an unrelenting work ethic, dogged determination and his track record on Wheeler is impressive.
2) Gary Klein. I doubted Klein at Okeechobee and he made me pay with a fourth-place finish. Plus "inside sources" have revealed that Klein spent some time pre-practicing at Wheeler. I have a gut feeling that Klein is after Angler of the Year on the FLW Tour this year and nothing will stand in his way.
3) Rick Clunn. Need I say more? Clunn is the master in tough conditions. Toss in a little sleet or snow, maybe some 20-mph winds at Wheeler, and Clunn will shine.
4) Relying on history, I will go with Randy Howell. Howell has won on Wheeler before and he now lives closer to the lake. Just another reason to hedge a bet on "Level Head."
5) Resorting to the record books again, Marty Stone. Stone appears to have some kind of kindred connection to Wheeler. He has a solid track record there, including a B.A.S.S. tour victory.
6) Steve Kennedy. He may be a lesser-known name on the national scene, but at home (North Alabama) he is well-known. Kennedy has won $45,000 in the BFL circuits around Alabama and Georgia in the last several years. Wheeler will be his strong suit. Additionally, Kennedy fills my rookie quota for Wheeler. Rookies burned me on my Okeechobee picks, so I am giving them a bit more room the rest of the year.

Dave WashburnDave Washburn
Executive Editor, FLW Outdoors
Score: 918

1) Aaron Martens. Here's the deal: Lake Wheeler was full of water until they dropped the bottom out of it late last month. Falling water combined with a passing cold front spells tough fishing. Remember Lake Martin and the snow last season? Martens went deep, targeting spotted bass with his patented drop-shot technique to finish third. He'll target spotted bass on Wheeler, too. But this time he'll go home a winner.
2) Clark Wendlandt. Call it hedging my bet. If the cold front does not develop as forecasted and the water stabilizes, conditions could be right for Wendlandt to bring in some hefty limits of largemouth bass. He finished fourth on Wheeler in 1998 and seventh on nearby Pickwick Lake in 2000. He was my best pick from Lake Okeechobee, so I'm sticking with him.
3) Marty Stone. He's Mr. Consistent when it comes to Lake Wheeler. Stone locked through to the lake during the 2000 Pickwick Lake tournament where he finished third. He also took third on Wheeler in 1998. If water conditions are right, he'll head to Decatur Flats and fish the grass for big largemouths. If water conditions are wrong, it could spell disaster.
4) Koby Kreiger. He didn't crack the top five on Lake Okeechobee, but he did make the top 20. That's good enough for me. Kreiger is one of the most versatile anglers on tour. He's equally at home sight-fishing for largemouths or dragging a tube for smallmouths, which by the way could be the wild card on Wheeler. Look for him to make a solid run at the top no matter what the situation dictates.
5) Denny Brauer. We haven't heard much from this Chevy pro in recent years due to back problems, but this could be his tournament. He cracked the top 10 on Wheeler in 1998, and I expect him to have a solid performance this year, too. He is a tough angler with a proven record.
6) David Dudley. After cracking the top 10 on Lake Okeechobee, I'm counting on this Team Castrol pro to step up with another strong finish on Wheeler. He placed 18th on the lake in 1998 and fourth on nearby Pickwick Lake in 2000. The timing could be right for this energetic young pro to challenge the top five in 2002.

Gary MortensonGary Mortenson
Editor, FLWOutdoors.com
Score: 829

1) Rick Clunn. While the legendary Clunn hasn't lived up to his stellar reputation as of late, things should be different this time around on Lake Wheeler. Unlike the bountiful bass harvest available to anglers on the Big O, Lake Wheeler is going to be a much more difficult tournament to conquer. The water's going to be cold. Smallmouth and spotted bass are going to come into play. And tournament sacks are going to be relatively lighter. Consequently, when the going gets tough, no one is better prepared to handle the situation than the Zen master from Ava, Mo. Oh, and by the way, Clunn finished second on Wheeler in 1998 and came in first at Pickwick in 2000.
2) Randy Howell. While I normally don't buy into the "local advantage" prognostication as much as some of the other pundits, I have to admit that Howell is a very intriguing candidate. After a gutsy performance on Lake Okeechobee, the native of Trussville, Ala., has too many things going for him to be ignored. For starters, Lake Wheeler is in essence Howell's "home lake." Secondly, he placed first on Lake Wheeler in 1998. Thirdly, he did well enough on Lake Okeechobee to demonstrate that he's coming out of the chute in 2002 as prepared as anyone to make a serious run at the next tournament title. In short, Howell is money in the bank.
3) Clark Wendlandt. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Wendlandt is simply one of the best fishermen on the FLW Tour today. Wendlandt is a great spring fisherman, one of the best sight-fishermen around and he has had success on Lake Wheeler - coming in fourth place in 1998. He didn't disappoint at Okeechobee and he won't disappoint on Wheeler.
4) Larry Nixon. When you hear the name Larry Nixon, two things come to mind: savvy veteran and smallmouth fishing expert. To be sure, both of these traits are going to come in handy on Wheeler. With difficult conditions expected to be the norm during the February tournament, anglers focusing strictly on largemouth bass could run into trouble. That's where Nixon and his smallmouth fishing arsenal come in. As one of the premier smallmouth anglers on the tour, Nixon has the versatility needed to do some heavy damage. For the record, Nixon finished in 18th place at Lake Wheeler in 1998 - the last time an FLW event was held on that lake.
5) Kevin VanDam. Despite his relatively modest 31st-place finish at Okeechobee, VanDam obviously possesses the talent to wrest control of the title at Wheeler. As one of the top anglers in the world, it would be foolish to ever count him out. In addition, VanDam is one of the best anglers at adapting to a rapidly changing fishing environment. Plus, he knows how to fish for smallmouth bass. And, as a native of Michigan, he is used to fishing in cold weather. In sum, VanDam has all of the tools necessary to make a legitimate run at the title.
6) Gerald Swindle. As a native of Hayden, Ala., Swindle should have a good sense of what to expect at Wheeler. With one FLW Tour title to his name and four top-10 appearances, Swindle has demonstrated that he knows how to win. Although strategy and tactics will be key, the Alabama native should have little trouble hanging around the leaderboard if things go according to plan. The key for Swindle will be consistency. If he maintains his composure, he'll be there on the final day of competition.

Jeff SchroederJeff Schroeder
Editor, FLWOutdoors.com
Score: 690

(Read `em and weep, Rob, you cheater.)

1) Rick Clunn. At the last two FLW events on this part of the Tennessee River, Clunn finished first (Pickwick 2000) and second (Wheeler 1998). A three-time FLW winner, 13-time finalist and all-time money winner, I have to stick with the man on this one. Now that we're out of Florida, it's safe to put Clunn back into your top-six list. He'll get there this year; it's just a matter of when. I say it happens at Wheeler, where he can deepwater crankbait all week to his heart's content.
2) Randy Howell. Howell is arguably the best pro bass angler out of northern Alabama right now, and he knows the Wheeler-Wilson-Pickwick chain of lakes. He beat Clunn at FLW Wheeler in 1998 for his only FLW victory. Plus, he's off to a good start this year with a semifinal-round appearance at Okeechobee. He climbs back into the title hunt at this tourney.
3) David Dudley. I was stupid not to include Dudley on my list for Okeechobee. In fact, it's kind of stupid not to include him on the list for any tourney. No matter where he competes, it seems Dudley is ALWAYS in contention. Just 26 years old, he's been a regular in the FLW finals since 1997 - at a variety of locations. He's one of the most consistent and focused pros out there and, after a runner-up finish at St. Clair last year, he's hungry for his first FLW win.
4) Koby Kreiger. Along with Dudley, Kreiger is the fastest-rising star on the FLW circuit. He's an EverStart phenom, and he began making the cuts at the FLW level a couple years ago. More importantly, no matter where the tourney, he is consistent, consistent, consistent - like Dudley. He'll make the cut at Wheeler, too.
5) Clark Wendlandt. Until he fails to produce, Wendlandt will be the anchor of my list. And with two Angler-of-the-Year titles, three victories and 13 top-10s, he's the model of FLW production. That's not to mention the fact that Wendlandt notched top-10s the last two times the FLW came to the Wheeler-Wilson-Pickwick chain (seventh place at Pickwick 2000, fourth at Wheeler 1998).
6) Marty Stone. Despite eight FLW top-10s, Stone tends to be too inconsistent to warrant a pick - except in this case. At Pickwick 2000 he placed third. At Wheeler 1998 he also placed third. Stone knows something about this lake and he likes how it fishes. This time he finishes sixth.

Links:

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Tags: pre-tournament  2002-02-13-lake-wheeler 

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