Brandon Palaniuk
B.A.S.S. / Seigo Saito

Already-Dramatic Bassmaster Elite Season Promises Electric Second Half

As the 2022 Bassmaster Elite season approaches its halfway point, drama and intrigue abound in the tales of what has occurred and what is yet to come. Let's start with what we've seen.

Repeaters: Elite veteran John Crews opened the season with a wire-to-wire win on a moody St. Johns River. Crews, who won his first Elite title in 2008 at the California Delta, played a smartly balanced game centered on Rodman Reservoir, but included elements of main river and Rodman Canal fishing. A week later, Buddy Gross also earned his second Elite title on the Harris Chain of Lakes. Gross, who also won on Lake Eufaula in 2020, spent a lot of his time in the heavily trafficked Banana Cove area, but found something a little different—a feeding lane just off a Lake Harris grass line—and won by more than 2 1/2 pounds. Jason Christie, already a top-tier competitor with a stellar resume, cemented his place as one of the sport's all-time greats by not only fulfilling a career dream of winning the Bassmaster Classic, but adding his fifth Elite win by topping the season's fourth event on Chickamauga Lake.

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First-timer: At stop No. 3, 2019 Elite Series Rookie of the Year Drew Cook earned his first blue trophy on Santee-Cooper Lakes. An eagle-eyed sight fisherman, Cook came into the event planning on "looking at 'em" and executed that technique for the season's second wire-to-wire win.

What's Ahead

Lee Livesay

B.A.S.S. / Seigo Saito

After four Elite events, plus the Classic held in Southeastern states, the season's second half comprises a diverse group of fisheries with big-show potential.

Lake Fork (May 19-22): Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's exemplary work in trophy lake management has ensured fireworks potential each time B.A.S.S. visits. Last year, local pro Lee Livesay won with a four-day total of 112 pounds, 5 ounces. This was his second Elite win (also Chickamauga 2020) and his first Century Club belt, which is awarded to anglers with a four-day total of 100 pounds or more. Second place went to Patrick Walters, who added another Century Belt to the one he claimed a year prior, when he dominated the event and won with an all-time Bassmaster Elite record margin of 29-10. Fork is no cakewalk, but this lake's a straight-up toad factory packed with impressive numbers of quality fish. The opportunity to surge in AOY points is there, but the psychological benefit of just catching big bags cannot be overstated.

Pickwick Lake (June 2-5): Last year's heavy spring rains brought huge current, flooded banks and muddy water. Bill Lowen won by picking apart shallow cover, but if normal conditions prevail, this year's event should see ledges, offshore islands and the Wilson Dam tailrace producing much of the action.

St. Lawrence River (July 14-17 ): Launching out of Clayton, New York, means a much shorter run to Lake Ontario than last year's Waddington site two hours downriver. The St. Lawrence holds plenty of hefty smallmouth, along with an underutilized largemouth population, but Lake O grows the monster smallies. At the 2021 event, Japanese sensation Takumi Ito leveraged a magical spot in Lake Ontario to notch his first Elite win.

Lake Oahe (August 18-21): At 370,000-acres, this Missouri River impoundment located in South and North Dakota is the nation's fourth-largest reservoir. Tournament boundaries will include only the South Dakota section, but there's plenty of water to locate the giant smallmouth for which this fishery is known.

Mississippi River (August 26-29): La Crosse, Wisconsin, hosts the season-ender on the Upper Mississippi, which will test the Elites' ability to find competitive bags during summer's dog days. Grass mats should dominate the scene, but main river current breaks will also play.

Seasonal Race

John Cox

B.A.S.S. / Seigo Saito

After finishing 33rd at Chickamauga, Florida, phenom John Cox leads the Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year standings with 353 points. Cox holds a 10-point edge over 2017 AOY Brandon Palaniuk.

Having notched Top-10 finishes in the season's first three tournaments, Cox said he was most concerned about the first two events, as February in Florida can prove highly volatile. A fourth-place finish at the St. Johns, followed by a pair of seventh-place finishes at Harris Chain and Santee-Cooper gives him the momentum to power through the year's second half.

On the rookie side, Wisconsin pro Jay Przekurat holds a 44-point ROY lead over Alabama's Joseph Webster. Having proven his versatility with strong showings in southern waters, Przekurat should fare well on Fork and Pickwick. However, with the season's final three events in northern waters, he's favorably positioned to make that important first-year mark.