Pundits’ Picks: Lake Travis - Major League Fishing

Pundits’ Picks: Lake Travis

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FLW Outdoors presents Pundits' Picks
February 13, 2007 • MLF • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

Welcome to the 2007 Wal-Mart FLW Tour and another year of Pundits’ Picks.

Last year, young FLWOutdoors.com staffer Brett Carlson stepped up to the plate and took a mighty rookie swing at veteran pundits like Clark Wendlandt and Gary Mortenson, taking them out at the championship and winning the 2006 Pundit of the Year title. Congrats to Brett. Better keep your head down this year, newbie. You’re a marked man.

Joining the pundit fray this year is veteran field reporter Jennifer Simmons, who promises to add some wit and certainly some civility to the discourse. Watch out for her, though. Behind that smiley demeanor is a sharp pen and a fierce competitor.

Also, FLWOutdoors.com editor Patrick Baker has come back to Punditville after a couple years’ hiatus. His punditry skills might be rusty, but you can rest assured that his grammar will be good and his commas will be in all the right places.

The rest of us pro and staff pundits you’ve come to know through the years. Rivalries run deep, the squawking never stops, and it’s a promise that we’ll all do our best to try to educate FLW fans about each upcoming tournament as best we can – in the process of trying to prevent Wendlandt from winning his fourth pundit title.

This year, the competition will pit pros v. staff throughout the season to see who qualifies for the pundit championship. The top six records after the regular season will advance to the winner-take-all final round.

Last thing, the usual disclaimer: The picks in this column in no way represent any sort of favoritism on the part of FLW Outdoors staff or its pro anglers. These are merely guesses – only arguably educated – as to who we think might do well at any given tournament.

Now, onto the 2007 Pundits’ Picks.

– Jeff Schroeder

Tournament site

Welcome to the big show. With the FLW Tour taking its fishing extravaganza to indoor arenas, we’re seeing some new lakes on the docket this year. Lake Travis outside of Austin, Texas, is the first. As a relatively unknown fishery, it could prove to be a tricky venture for some pros. There’s not a lot of cover in the clear impoundment besides a lot of rock and some stumps here and there. With the water at a very low level, it could fish pretty small and force the anglers to get really creative to find the difference-making bass. They say they’re catching them a hundred different ways there this time of year, with no dominant patterns coming forward. At these types of tournaments, it’s usually a good bet to put veterans, who are used to figuring out foreign waters, in your picks. But as always, there will be dark horses to watch out for.

__________________________

Wal-Mart FLW Tour stop No. 1

Lake Travis, Austin, Texas

Feb. 15-18

Art Berry
FLW pro
Hemet, Calif.

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

FLW pro Art Berry
VS.
FLW editor Patrick Baker Patrick Baker
Editor
FLWOutdoors.com

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

1) DAVID FRITTS.He’s the Man in my book, and if a crankbait has anything to do with this tournament – which I think it will – the mean-crankin’ forearms of Fritts won’t be beat.
2) DAN MOREHEAD.Still thinking crankin’. He’s another one of the world’s best with a crankbait and is also deadly on prespawn patterns.
3) CLARK WENDLANDT.He’s from Texas and very familiar with the lake, not to mention he’s one of the best of all time. Look out for Clark this year because he’s due, big-time.
4) ANTHONY GAGLIARDI.Pretty sure I’m covering my bases with the crankbait theory. He’s a very strong fisherman overall. Very versatile and adapts very well to all situations.
5) JAY YELAS.He’s fresh off a top-10 finish at Lake Havasu and he’s hot. He could possibly sneak right up and take this tourney by a landslide. Very confident, very good and very skilled. A true professional.
1) SEAN HOERNKE.With the FLW Tour making its first visit to Lake Travis, a pundit cannot rely on the easy research of looking at who’s been hot on what fishery at what time of year. Instead, you’ve got to extrapolate from certain knowns or go with your gut. Hoernke fits both sides of that bill for me, with the added bonus of being a Lone Star pro. Hoernke has a solid history when it comes to fishing Texas impoundments, or any reservoirs for that matter. He’s versatile enough to catch them with crankbaits, jerkbaits or buzzbaits according to conditions, and in the unlikely event that Texas warms up enough by tourney time to bring the bass shallow, he can flip to them or finesse the bites. Plus he’s coming off a 2006 season in which he racked up four top-10s, including a mid-November FLW Series win on Lewis Smith Lake.
2) CLARK WENDLANDT.“Clean Shoes” Clark Wendlandt needs no exposition in terms of his overall mastery of professional bass fishing. But with a resurgence from a 2005 dry spell highlighted by so many recent achievements – ranked 23rd in tour points last year, finishing the season with a third-place championship finish, ranked fifth in the inaugural season of the FLW Series and off to a great series start in 2007 with a 21st-place finish at Okeechobee last month – it’s clear Clark is firmly back to form. Add to that a Texas mailing address, and he’s an obvious pick.
3) DAVID FRITTS.You don’t get the nickname Clean Shoes without being a trustworthy sort of guy, so when Wendlandt was quoted as saying he bets Lake Travis will yield to a crankbait bite, I immediately anchored my pro team with Fritts, the Crankbait King.
4) BRENNAN BOSLEY.Bosley banged out three top-10s on tour last year, each of them on reservoirs and two took place at close to this time of year. Enough said.
5) ANTHONY GAGLIARDI.Gagliardi is simply the tour angler to beat right now. He took Angler of the Year honors last year, finished third in the points in 2005 and has made the top 10 in the FLW Tour Championship in the last three consecutive years. Plus, he’s got a knack for catching them deep in rocky lakes, as evidenced by his home-lake win last year on Murray.
Randy Blaukat
FLW pro
Lamar, Mo.

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

FLW pro Randy Blaukat
VS.
FLW editor Brett Carlson Brett Carlson
Editor
FLWOutdoors.com

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

1) MARK HARDIN.I’ve never been to Travis, but I hear it looks like Lanier or Beaver. Hardin seems to excel in those clearwater prespawn events. Although there are no Kentucky bass in Travis, I think the largemouth will fish much like the spotted bass in some lakes.
2) STACEY KING.Stacey is a longtime friend of mine and fellow Missouri resident, so I know he does well on lakes like Travis during this time of year. He is really good with a deep jig and slow, deep fishing.
3) DAVID DUDLEY.Dudley never ceases to amaze me with his approach and success in this sport. Mechanically and detail-wise, I would rate him as below average in the level of the energy most pros put into this aspect of fishing. But I think he probably has one of the most aware minds of anyone in the history of pro fishing. He knows what winning feels like, and to me that is the most important ingredient in winning events.
4) RANDY BLAUKAT.I feel really good about everything right now. This event is during one of my favorite times of year to fish, technique and approach-wise. My biggest challenge here will be overcoming the challenge of maintaining a good attitude because of the small size of Travis and the huge size of the FLW field.
5) LUKE CLAUSEN.Luke is quickly becoming one of the true superstars in this sport. To me, winning events is not nearly as good a gauge of the talent of a pro as long-term consistency. Over the past several seasons, Luke has been one of the most consistent anglers on tour. I like his relaxed energy, which is very refreshing in this sport where huge egos are constantly trying to draw attention to themselves.
1) CLARK WENDLANDT.Clean Shoes seems to be the only person who is confident in his ability to consistently catch fish on Lake Travis. That’s probably because he lives a stone’s throw from the lake, which according to several sources fishes just like Beaver Lake. If my memory serves correct, Wendlandt has done alright over the years on Beaver. Could this possibly be drawn up any better for Shoes?
2) JAY YELAS.Of all my picks, this is the only one I would classify as a gut feeling. These kinds of picks usually end up being feast or famine. That being said, Yelas is fishing well of late – including a sixth-place finish at the FLW Series event on Lake Havasu and a fifth-place performance at the 2006 FLW Tour Championship. I just hope Yelas occasionally takes the four-hour trip from his home in Tyler to Austin.
3) CHRIS MCCALL.After covering most of the Stren events held in Texas last year, I came to the conclusion that if the FLW Tour ever visited the Lone Star State McCall would be on my short list, no questions asked. The guy simply owns Texas. Last year he set a record for most points during a Stren Series regular season with 788. His worst finish in the Stren Series last year was 11th place at Lake Amistad. Only one problem: McCall swears Travis is the only lake in Texas he’s never fished. How about just pretend its Rayburn or Texoma and catch them like usual?
4) SHINICHI FUKAE.Here’s a lake that provides an even playing field – Wendlandt excluded. To my knowledge, FLW Outdoors has never held a major event on Travis, so most anglers will have to start from scratch. In my opinion, nobody is better at putting together a fresh game plan than Fukae. Plus, Fukae won the Wal-Mart Open on Beaver last year, which I continue to hear fishes strikingly similar to Travis.
5) MATT HERREN.Points are the name of the game in Punditville and no angler is consistently better at accumulating points than Herren. He may not boast multiple tour-level wins, but he seems to always finish in check range. He’s finished 11th, ninth, fourth and second his last four years on the Tour. Plus, Herren has already qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup via the 2006 FLW Series.
David Dudley
FLW pro
Lynchburg, Va.

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

FLW pro David Dudley
VS.
Keith Lebowitz
Co-host
“FLW Outdoors” on FSN

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

1) J T KENNEY.Known for his power fishing, I think he is also underrated for his finesse ability with the sissy rod. He will do well, and I hope the world sees him on TV with the sissy rod.
2) CHAD GRIGSBY.Known as J.T.’s partner in crime, he also is a big stick with the sissy rod. With the two heads of the partners in crime working together, they could pull off two good finishes.
3) SHINICHI FUKAE.I think this man has almost perfected the sissy rod. Coming from Japan and fishing pressured lakes, he will do well here by moving his bait 1 inch every 30 minutes.
4) CLARK WENDLANDT.This man has a special understanding of the wobbling baits. Every time I see him fishing, he’s moving. I don’t think he can sit still long enough to do anything else, and he will find enough aggressive fish to do well.
5) DAVID DUDLEY.I don’t know what I’m known for except junk-fishing. Hopefully, I will be able to pull out enough junk fish to get me into the finals.
1) ANDY MORGAN.A change in look, now fishing for team Duracel, and a great start in 2007, a top-10 at the Okeechobee Series, could lead to a breakthrough year for Morgan. Considered by many to be the Phil Mickelson of the FLW Tour, he is due for a big-time win this year, and I’m predicting it comes at the season opener in Austin.
2) CHRIS MCCALL.The man has proven that Texas is his thing. He won the Stren Central Division points crown in 2006, and the Texas native is primed for an FLW Tour victory or top-10 showing in his home state.
3) JAY YELAS.This is more of a hunch than anything, but Jay is also coming off an FLW Series top-10 like Morgan, and he, too, has yet to post a victory on the FLW Tour in his career. (Hard to believe, but true.) He’s as versatile as any angler out there, and he’ll be tough on Travis.
4) SHINICHI FUKAE.He told me he was going to practice for at least 10 days on this lake. As meticulous as he is on the water with his notes and lure selection, Shin will start 2007 where he left off in 2006: on fire.
5) CLARK WENDLANDT.Another Texas native in the top 10 here, and being that this is the first time visiting Lake Travis, you can see that I’m not going to be too bold on my picks here. Wendlandt will – and I say will – make a run at his third AOY title this year.
Dave Lefebre
FLW pro
Erie, Pa.

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

FLW pro Dave Lefebre
VS.
FLW writer Gary Mortenson Gary Mortenson
Editor
FLWOutdoors.com

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

1) MATT HERREN.Matt had a rough go in his first event this season on the Big O. He always rebounds strong after a very rare Herren bomb, and I’m pretty sure he will do well in Austin. This is just a hunch, but I smell Herren’s first tour win coming soon. He’s one of the best anglers in the world and is way overdue.
2) CLARK WENDLANDT.Well, if he can fish as well on his home lake as he can play ping-pong, everyone better watch out. I think winning this one would be a bit unlikely just because he’s supposed to. That is why I’m taking him second.
3) ANTHONY GAGLIARDI.Gagliardi also had a rare choke in the first FLW Series on Okeechobee. Travis seems like it will suit his style well, and Anthony will start the year off right where he left off in 2006.
4) DARREL ROBERTSON.When I first saw the lake, for some reason I just thought of Mr. Robertson. I’m going totally on first instinct here. He seems to do very well on these types of reservoirs and in this type of weather situation. He’ll bring in a monster bag one of the first two days.
5) ALVIN SHAW.I was totally going to pick David Walker here, but I ran into him on the water today. When I told him I was going to pick him, he basically said I was nuts, so I changed my mind. I’ve never picked my Kellogg’s teammate, Shaw, before, and believe me, I hear about it. So here it is, Alveeno, make me a winner.
1) CLARK WENDLANDT.My guess is that there won’t be a pundit in this contest – either from the pros or staff – who will leave Wendlandt off of his or her list. The reason is fairly straightforward: Clark is from Texas, he appears to be one of the only anglers with any knowledge of this lake, and he’s a great fisherman and an even fiercer competitor. To be sure, there will be some tournaments down the road where Wendlandt won’t warrant top consideration, but this sure as heck ain’t one of them.
2) JAY YELAS.The resident of Tyler, Texas, obviously needs no introduction. However, with most of the field already logging plenty of hours on Google in an effort to extract any information they can on Lake Travis, it’s becoming more and more clear that veteran anglers will have a decided edge in this event. And I can’t think of too many veteran anglers more worthy of a nod than Jay at this point.
3) SHINICHI FUKAE.Out of the entire field, perhaps nobody is more studious and meticulous in his prefishing approach than Fukae. After storming onto the FLW Outdoors scene a few years ago, Fukae has established himself as a major force in the upper echelons of the bass-fishing elite. And it’s my guess he’ll have a huge say as to who walks away with the tournament title on Lake Travis when all is said and done.
4) DAVE LEFEBRE.For my money, the Keebler Kid has replaced Aaron Martens as the most reliable pundit pick going. Quite simply put, you can throw Lefebre on any body of water and have a reasonable expectation that he’ll be sniffing around the top 20 during crunch time. And I’m banking that Lake Travis will be no different.
5) THANH LE.If you don’t recognize this name, grab a pen and paper and write it down right now because this angler is going to make some waves on the FLW Tour for years to come. And don’t let his soft-spoken, amiable personality fool you. This retired marine has the work ethic, fishing savvy and killer instincts to compete with the best. In his rookie season on the FLW Tour, Le – who hails from out West – placed in the top 20 four out of seven events, including 14th place in the FLW Tour Championship. The bad news for competitors is that Mr. Le is a rookie no longer. Watch out.
Carl Svebek
FLW pro
Siloam Springs, Ark.

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

FLW pro Carl Svebek III
VS.
FLW writer Jennifer Simmons Jennifer Simmons
Editor
FLWOutdoors.com

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

1) CLARK WENDLANDT.Probably is on everyone’s list, and why not? He’s fished a good many years on that lake. I’ve got to go with the guy who is fishing in his own backyard.
2) SHINICHI FUKAE.Shin always seems to do well on crowded, finesse-style lakes, so Travis might be just what he ordered. Look for a top finish from Fukae.
3) DAVID DUDLEY.This fellow Castrol team pro is coming off an FLW Series win at Okeechobee and should be ready for a rocket start on the tour. There’s nothing like starting the season with a few top finishes. He’ll be looking to add to that first win of the year.
4) LARRY NIXON.Evinrude pro Larry Nixon is capable of dominating wherever we go. Look for him to continue his consistency. Some things just get better with age.
5) GEORGE COCHRAN.Just like Larry, Cochran has seen it all and, after a brief break this winter, will be ready to start off the season strong.
1) CLARK WENDLANDT.Since I found out that I’m a pundit recently, I did a quick Google search and learned that Travis is Clean Shoes’ home lake. Good enough for me.
2) JAY YELAS.When awesome anglers from Texas are considered, who doesn’t think of Jay Yelas? Heck, when awesome anglers are considered, period, who doesn’t think of Jay Yelas?
3) SHINICHI FUKAE.He fishes like he has lots of time on his hands between tournaments, and it’s been a long time since the last tournament. Something tells me Shin has spent a lot of that time on Lake Travis.
4) LUKE CLAUSEN.He’s a Western angler who fishes clear water, and he’s coming off two major wins. Why would you not pick him?
5) GARY YAMAMOTO.He’s the silent ninja killer with a Texas connection. `Nuff said.
Clark Wendlandt
FLW pro
Leander, Texas

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

FLW pro Clark Wendlandt
VS.
FLW writer Jeff Schroeder Jeff Schroeder
Editor
FLWOutdoors.com

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

1) SHINICHI FUKAE.Lake Travis sets up perfectly for Shin. He is not only a good finesse fisherman, in my opinion he is among the best overall fishermen in the country.
2) DAVE LEFEBRE.Dave is coming off of the FLW Series Angler of the Year and I look for him to have another great year.
3) CHRIS MCCALL.I think Travis sets up really well for Chris. He likes Texoma, and Travis is fairly similar to Texoma.
4) LUKE CLAUSEN.Luke catches them everywhere. Finesse and power, he does them both very well. I think he will shine in Texas.
5) CLARK WENDLANDT.I don’t like picking guys on their home lakes. It is too easy to fish for memories. Hopefully I will fish the lake and the patterns that are working, not what worked in the past. I think Travis will actually surprise most people.
1) SHINICHI FUKAE.The Texas boys tend to do well on their home turf. While Shin’s about as Texan as sushi at a barbeque, he fishes as big as anyone from his adopted home of the Lone Star State. His versatility and sheer doggedness at the new venue should prevail in what looks to be a tough, pressured-water tournament.
2) CLARK WENDLANDT.The guy’s won or contended in everything from El Paso to Plattsburgh, so we know he can catch them. What happens when he has the advantage of fishing in his own backyard? We’re fixin’ to find out.
3) CHRIS MCCALL.Texas, Texas, Texas.
4) ANTHONY GAGLIARDI.If anyone can lock on to the odd crankbait pattern that I think it will take to win this thing, it’s Gags.
5) TOMMY MARTIN.It’s time for Martin to make his mark on the FLW Tour. No better place than the opener in his home state.

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