FantasyFishing.com Insider: Everything you need to know for Heavy Hitters - Major League Fishing
FantasyFishing.com Insider: Everything you need to know for Heavy Hitters
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FantasyFishing.com Insider: Everything you need to know for Heavy Hitters

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Alton Jones Jr. will look to add to the $265,000 he's won across the past two General Tire Heavy Hitters events. Photo by Tyler Brinks. Angler: Alton Jones Jr..
May 14, 2024 • Mitchell Forde • Fantasy Fishing

It’s trophy hunting time. 

Well, technically, there is no trophy up for grabs when the fifth annual General Tire Heavy Hitters Presented by Bass Pro Shops blasts off Saturday on Florida’s Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. Instead, the winner will take home a title belt and $100,000 paycheck. 

But the trophy bass that the Kissimmee Chain is known for will be highly sought after by the BPT’s big-bass experts. The biggest fish caught during each round will earn whichever angler lands it a whole lot of cash, topping out at $100,000 for the biggest bass of the Championship Round. 

This big-bass-centered event brings a slightly different format for Phoenix Boats Fantasy Fishing players, too. You only need to sift through 30 anglers to pick a 10-angler roster (five each from Groups A and B, as usual), but the prize package on offer from Tackle Warehouse is still just as sweet. 

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the fifth edition of Heavy Hitters. 

How it will go down

Chris Lane won the last time the Bass Pro Tour visited the Kissimmee Chain, but patterns will likely be a bit different this week. Photo by Phoenix Moore

The Bass Pro Tour is no stranger to the Kissimmee Chain. The first ever BPT event took place on the fishery in 2019, as did the inaugural Heavy Hitters in June 2020. The central Florida chain also played host to one of the most dramatic moments in the tour’s history when Chris Lane beat the buzzer to top Mark Davis in the opening event of the 2023 season. 

This time, however, the Heavy Hitters field will take on the four-lake system at an unusual time of year that viewers used to early-spring Florida tournaments might hardly recognize. MLFNOW! analyst and Florida native JT Kenney expects postspawn bass to be the primary quarry. While we could see some frogging, flipping and punching, Kenney expects most anglers to target them offshore around shell beds and brushpiles – using, of course, forward-facing sonar to do so. 

“Brushpiles is going to be a big thing,” Kenney said. “In Toho, there’s a lot of brushpiles that people put in, and there’s a fair amount of brushpiles that people have put in Lake Kissimmee, but there is a load of brushpiles in Kissimmee from a storm that we had about two years ago. It really blew a bunch of tree branches and stuff that are making brushpiles.” 

Turning to 2020 for clues

Jordan Lee will return to the site of two of his Bass Pro Tour wins, including the inaugural Heavy Hitters in 2020. Photo by Phoenix Moore

The closest historical comparison to this event is the debut Heavy Hitters tournament. Jordan Lee won that one — the first BPT event after a three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic — in dominant fashion, topping second place by more than 20 pounds and catching the biggest bass of the Championship Round to double up on $100,000 checks. Lee is back in the field this week and should be a popular fantasy pick.  

The two anglers who finished right behind him, Bryan Thrift and Mark Rose, are competing this week, too. Thrift has clearly taken a liking to Heavy Hitters, having logged three Top 10s in the past four years and catching the $100,000 big bass during the Championship Round a year ago. Rose also made the Championship Round on the Kissimmee Chain last year. Both anglers have gotten off to uncharacteristically slow starts to the 2024 season, but could be primed to right the ship this week. 

Don’t fade the favorites

Reigning REDCREST champion Dustin Connell will look to become the first angler to claim both a REDCREST trophy and Heavy Hitters title belt. Photo by Phoenix Moore

In addition to Lee, there are a handful of other anglers that need to be on just about every fantasy roster. When we’re talking Heavy Hitters, that list starts with Alton Jones Jr. No one has cashed in more on Heavy Hitters than Jones, who won $150,000 in big bass bonuses in 2022 then blew away the field on Bussey Brake last year.  

Then there’s Jacob Wheeler and Dustin Connell. Unless we get another biblical flood this week, the two CrushCity pros, both of whom have won twice this season, should be in their comfort zones fishing offshore. Both finished in the Top 10 of the 2020 Heavy Hitters event on the Kissimmee Chain. 

Other no-brainer inclusions are Dakota Ebare and Lane. Ebare catches big ones everywhere he goes, including last year’s Heavy Hitters, when he finished second. Lane is the defending champ on the Kissimmee Chain, and in a field without a ton of local knowledge (especially at this time of year), his central Florida roots could serve him well.  

Other anglers to consider

Heavy Hitters will mark the final national event of Kevin VanDam’s legendary career. Photo by Phoenix Moore

Group A:  

Ott DeFoe — It feels weird not to list DeFoe as a must-pick, but that’s the case this week in a loaded Group A. Still, given that he finished third on the Kissimmee Chain last year and won on the Harris Chain in late May of 2021, DeFoe is certainly worth a look, especially since his rostered percentage might be at an all-time low. 

Brent Ehrler — Ehrler has two Top-10 Heavy Hitters finishes to his name and finished fourth on the Kissimmee Chain last year. He should be at home worming brushpiles and shell beds offshore. 

Group B: 

Randall Tharp — Tharp has experienced a surprising lack of success on the Kissimmee Chain during his career. But as the only angler in the field with a Florida address, he might be able to find something unique that suits his power-fishing strengths. 

Kevin VanDam — How can you not pick KVD in what figures to be his final event on the national stage? Yes, REDCREST didn’t go the way he wanted, but he shouldn’t have to deal with nearly as much off-the-water hoopla this time around, and you know he’s been spending a chunk of his retirement strategizing about how he can go out with one last victory.