The fourth stop of the Walmart FLW Tour marks the start of the Tennessee River swing. Pickwick Lake will host the event, which is presented by Quaker State, followed by a stop at Kentucky Lake next month.
The last Tour event on Pickwick was back in June 2014, and it was a whole different animal at that point. Greg Hackney earned the title after sacking up 97 pounds, 7 ounces over the course of four days, including a 31-06 day-two bag that helped separate him from the pack. Hackney opted to target fish gorging on spawning shad in the river, while the majority of the top 10 pounded the ledges down the lake.
Weights this week likely won’t rival those of last time, yet Pickwick is home to some giant 8- to 10-pound-class fish, so you never know what could happen. As usual in early May, there are fish to be found in nearly every stage of the spawn. Practice reports say there are plenty of fish up shallow relating to wood, grass and shell beds. Those opportunities should draw enough anglers shallow to provide the ledge gurus in the field with offshore postspawn spots to have to themselves. When it’s a full-blown ledge bite, the best spots tend to get covered up with boats.
The other curveball in this event is that Wilson Lake (located upstream of Pickwick) is also fair game – unlike last time, when the FLW Bass Fishing League All-American was being held at Wilson at the same time as the Pickwick Tour event. While Wilson is much smaller in size than Pickwick, it can be a fantastic place to target shallow bass for those willing to sacrifice 45 minutes to an hour to get through the lock.
Like the Tour competitors, FLW Fantasy Fishing players have a shot at cashing in on some great prizes this week too. At each Tour event – six regular-season tournaments and the Forrest Wood Cup – more than $7,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to the top 50 Fantasy Fishing players. There will also be cash prizes awarded to the top 10 teams at the end of the season based on cumulative point totals, including a $10,000 top prize.
To help you finalize your Fantasy Fishing team for the Pickwick Lake event, which starts Thursday, here are five pros to consider.
Head on over to FantasyFishing.com to finalize your team now.
1. Jason Lambert
Now that the first part of the season and sight-fishing are out of the way it’s time for Lambert to flex his muscles. He’s a Pickwick local, so now is the time to turn around what has been a brutal tournament stretch since his win at the Costa FLW Series opener on Okeechobee. This is the tournament the Pickwick Dam, Tenn., pro has been waiting for. While it might not shake out to be the ledge-fishing slugfest some might have wanted, that’s OK for Lambert. He has so much history and knowledge of this system that the “in-between” nature of the fish might help him dial in on more subtle, off-the-wall patterns that could play. Not to mention he has knowledge of historical areas that congregate fish during this transition time. He’s been quiet so far this Tour season, but expect some noise from Lambert this week.
Fantasy Verdict: Lambert is as competitive as they come, and after taking a beating early in the season it is only a matter of time until he rebounds. Personally, I don’t want to miss the moment when he does, so I can stomach the $36 salary needed to add him to my roster.
2. Robbie Dodson
What makes this Arkansas pro so appealing in this tournament is his surprisingly good track record on Pickwick. Dodson has two top-five finishes in the last two Tour events on Pickwick in 2014 and 2011. Granted, both of those events were held later in the season, but Dodson is a shallow angler at heart and should have a positive outlook for this tournament with shallow patterns in play. Dodson seems to have a knack for finding hidden gems in big tournaments, and with both Pickwick and Wilson to explore he ought to be able to find some quality fish.
Fantasy Verdict: When you can spend only $31 on a guy with two top 10s on Pickwick it’s hard to pass that up. Conditions seem to be lining up just right for Dodson, so sign him up.
3. Brad Knight
The reigning Forrest Wood Cup champion has yet to win a regular-season Tour event in eight years as a pro, but that could change this week. Knight is a Tennessee River rat – Watts Bar and Chickamauga are his home lakes – and he’s pretty in tune with how all of the reservoirs on the river fish. Sure, ledge fishing is one of the many things Knight can do, though he is more comfortable when he can power-fish up shallow. From sifting through shallow grass to keying on a shad spawn, it all fits into Knight’s comfort zone. Plus, there is a chance a big swimbait could factor in this event, and Knight is one of the most knowledgeable when it comes to chucking big baits. All things considered, this looks to be a prime tournament for the champ.
Fantasy Verdict: It’s hard to fathom that only six percent of Fantasy Fishing players have Knight on their team when his salary is only $28. Seems like a good deal for a guy with his experience.
4. Michael Wooley
Though Wooley doesn’t live as close to Pickwick as Lambert or Haynes, he still is a stick on this pond – or any Tennessee River lake for that matter. He showed last year with a win on Chickamauga that he can compete with the best in an offshore derby, and he’s fresh off a top 20 in the Kentucky Lake Costa FLW Series event that might have helped clue him into something before he even arrived at Pickwick. Wooley has had strong finishes on Pickwick throughout FLW competition from spring through fall, so he understands how the lake sets up and ultimately how the fish move as they transition.
Fantasy Verdict: Take a look at his resume on Pickwick and you won’t think twice about dropping $30 for this young ledge-fishing master.
5. Luke Dunkin
While there are a few rookies to keep an eye on in this tournament, none will be on more radars than Dunkin. After spending the 2015 season as a co-angler on Tour, Dunkin decided to make the jump to pro this season – a decision made easier considering the Tour would be stopping in his backyard at Pickwick. He has spent years practicing techniques on this stretch of river and knows a thing or two about where to find and catch big ones in this area. Dunkin has waited all year for his shot at matching wits with the best in the business on his home lake, and he is more than up for the challenge. Considering how the lake is setting up, a little local knowhow could go a long way. This tournament is a great opportunity for this rookie to show the bass fishing world what he is made of.
Fantasy Verdict: I see no issue with spending $17 on Dunkin for this event. What he lacks in FLW Tour experience, he more than makes up for with time spent on the water at Pickwick, so don’t let his rookie status deter you from adding him to your roster.