(Editor's note: Former B.A.S.S. emcee Keith Alan lived and breathed the tour for a half-decade. Again this year, his Alan Report will break down each B.A.S.S. tour-level stop to help BassFans get the inside scoop.)
There is no question that there are some favorite fisheries among B.A.S.S. anglers and fans, but itís always interesting when the Elite Series goes to a new venue. Itís when the pros are best able to illustrate why they are Elite. It also tends to add some flavor to the Sunday lineup and shuffle the Angler of the Year race a bit.
At the halfway point in the season, less than 100 points separates Bassmaster Classic Champion Chris Lane, currently in 29th, from Brent Chapman, who leads after Bull Shoals. Take a look inside the top 25 and see how that changes after Sunday.
Chapman started running and fitness-training again last year and is in the best physical condition of his career. He got a jumpstart to his 2012 season with a dramatic win at the Central Open on Lewisville Lake in Texas. Mentally, he seems to be pretty dialed in, too, in part because he knows heís in better shape, but also because he is focused on his regimen, heís making good decisions, and so far itís paying off. Donít mistake Brentís confidence for comfort Ė there is no way he's comfortable with his lead. In addition to the usual sharks in the water, Douglas Lake has not one, but three local favorites within striking distance of him.
David Walker, Brandon Card and Ott Defoe are all inside the Top 20 in points, and they all have years of experience on Douglas. Of the bunch, Walker has the best shot at taking the top spot from Chapman, but Defoe has more knowledge of the lake. Heís fished it his whole life. Card may be an Elite Series rookie, but these days that just means he hasnít wonÖyet. Three events into the season he is hovering between Gerald Swindle and Kevin VanDam in the AOY race. Heís like a red-headed Ice Man.
I fished Douglas once on a side trip to the Smokey Mountains a few years ago. Itís a good offshore-structure lake, but water levels can change drastically. Aaron Martens says he loves it because it reminds him of Castaic in California, where he grew up fishing. According to Martens, the water level is up 15 to 17 feet from when he first saw the lake prior to the off-limits period. That pretty much makes it a different lake.
While the majority will be post-spawn fish, this time of year they should also find some fat pre-spawners. The sight-fishermen and shallow-water specialists like Randy Howell, currently 2nd in the points behind Chapman, are always going to check the creeks and pockets. Itís possible to dial in a great pattern if they can find them there, but unless they are cruising in the shallows, the majority of the field will likely concentrate further offshore.
Alongside the usual suspects, Jason Quinn, Timmy Horton and Bobby Lane should do well cranking and swimbaiting, but all that rock and gravel will also lend itself to jigs and rigs.
Versatility and confidence are the keys to success on the Elite Series, and Chapman has used both tools to his advantage so far. This week he will prove how he performs under pressure. Judging by the way he handled a 1-day fish off at Lewisville, he has the confidence to make the right decisions.
Keith Alan spent 5 years traveling, working and fishing with the pros. His company, Ultimate Fishing Experience offers on-the-water fishing clinics and trip-of-a-lifetime experiences with the biggest names in fishing.