By BassFan Staff

To give BassFans a closer look at each of the competitors in this year’s Bassmaster Classic field, the editors have compiled a three-part series that offers a snapshot profile of each angler.

Here's a brief look at the 2017 competitors (they're listed alphabetically).

Casey Ashley – Donalds, S.C.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 8
> Best Classic finish: 1st (2015 – Lake Hartwell)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: 40th (2011 TTBC)
> Current world rank: 51
> Insight: He proved 2 years ago that he's got the ability to win a Classic by triumphing on his home water (Lake Hartwell), and he's had some strong finishes over the years on Texas venues. He loves to flip jigs and throw spinnerbaits, and either of those techniques could produce at Conroe.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Drew Benton – Panama City, Fla.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 0
> Best Classic finish: N/A
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: None
> Current world rank: 70
> Insight: Momentum – the wrong kind – might be the biggest obstacle he has to confront as he's gotten off to a horrible start in the Elite Series campaign (two finishes in the 90s). He's usually proficient in shallow water, but his confidence has to be a little shaky.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Hank Cherry – Maiden, NC
> Qualified through: Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 0
> Best Classic finish: 3rd (2013 – Grand Lake)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: 27th (2013 TTBC)
> Current world rank: 56
> Insight: Back in the Classic after sitting out the past two editions, he's put together a very solid string of finishes over the past calendar year, but hasn't often been in contention to win. His odds would be greater in a February event with much colder water, where his jerkbait acumen could shine.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Jason Christie – Park Hill, Okla.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 4
> Best Classic finish: 2nd (2016 – Grand Lake)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: 5th (2009 TTBC), 28th (2011 TTBC), 7th (2013 TTBC)
> Current world rank: 15
> Insight: He definitely possesses the tool package needed to win a Classic and would've done so last year if not for Edwin Evers' final-day heroics at Grand Lake. The set-up at Conroe should suit him just fine and it'll be a surprise if he doesn't put himself in the mix on day 1 and stay there throughout the event.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Scott Clift – Dadeville, Mo.
> Qualified through: Bassmaster Team Champion
> Classics fished: 0
> Best Classic finish: N/A
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: None
> Current world rank: N/A
> Insight: The last angler to earn his way into the event was a runaway winner in the Team Championship Classic Fish-Off at Kentucky Lake in early December. He has little experience fishing in Texas, though, and can't be considered a likely contender at this point.



B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Keith Combs has been a dominant angler in his home state of Texas and will be a prohibitive favorite at the Classic.

Keith Combs – Huntington, Texas
> Qualified through: Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 5
> Best Classic finish: 9th (2016 – Grand Lake)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: 4th (2010 TTBC), 1st (2011 TTBC), 3rd (2012 TTBC), 1st (2013 TTBC)
> Current world rank: 10
> Insight: A dominant competitor on venues in his home state – and particularly on Conroe – who'll have a lot of eyes on him next week. If he can dial in the shallow crankbait bite (and he usually can at this time of year), the sacks he brings to the weigh-in stage could be eye-popping. If the Las Vegas sports books posted odds for the Classic, he'd almost certainly be the favorite.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Cliff Crochet – Pierre Part, La.
> Qualified through: Atchafalaya Basin Central Open winner
> Classics fished: 3
> Best Classic finish: 13th (2010 – Lay Lake)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: 29th (2013 TTBC)
> Current world rank: 152
> Insight: He's a guy who could end up anywhere in the field – it wouldn't be a surprise to see him catch a couple of big bags, nor would it be a stunner if he bombed. He's a stout shallow-water power-fisherman, so he at least has a puncher's chance.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Ott DeFoe – Knoxville, Tenn.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 5
> Best Classic finish: 4th (2014 – Lake Guntersville)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: 4th (2011 TTBC), 11th (2012 TTBC), 12th (2013 TTBC)
> Current world rank: 6
> Insight: The early-season leader in the Angler of the Year race comes in riding a hot streak that dates back about 10 months. Like Combs, he's deadly with a crankbait in shallow water. Definitely among the favorites.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Boyd Duckett – Guntersville, Ala.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 7
> Best Classic finish: 1st (2007 – Lay Lake)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: 42nd (2009 TTBC), 23rd (2010 TTBC)
> Current world rank: 55
> Insight: Since last September, he's very quietly put together a run of four straight top-20 finishes and could be on his way to having his best season since his stellar debut campaign a decade ago. He has the skill set needed to fare well at Conroe.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Brent Ehrler – Newport Beach, Calif.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 1
> Best Classic finish: 13th (2016 – Grand Lake)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: 30th (2010 TTBC), 15th (2011 TTBC), 19th (2013 TTBC)
> Current world rank: 45
> Insight: The former Forrest Wood Cup champion hasn't been all that steady recently – there have been some stinker events mixed in with a couple in which he contended for the win. He's become known as an offshore maven in recent years due to his proficiency at reading electronics, but he's no slouch when the fish are closer to the dirt. He could certainly get on to something good and make some noise.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

James Elam – Tulsa, Okla.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 1
> Best Classic finish: 30 (2016 – Grand Lake)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: None
> Current world rank: 39
> Insight: He was very disappointed when he didn't perform better in last year's Classic on his home water, and perhaps he'll do much better this time with not nearly as much attention directed his way. Hasn't really shined in the early spring to this point in his 4-plus-year career, but is off to a solid start this season.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Edwin Evers – Talala, Okla.
> Qualified through: 2016 Bassmaster Classic champion & Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 15
> Best Classic finish: 1st (2016 – Grand Lake)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: 35th (2009 TTBC), 6th (2010 TTBC), 7th (2011 TTBC), 5th (2012 TTBC), 15th (2013 TTBC)
> Current world rank: 18
> Insight: He's looking to join Rick Clunn and Kevin VanDam as winners of back-to-back Classics and he's certainly capable of pulling off that feat. His record at Conroe is excellent and his versatility should allow him to adapt to whatever conditions are prevalent on day 1. The final day will be very interesting if he's within a few pounds of the lead.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Todd Faircloth – Jasper, Texas
> Qualified through: Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 14
> Best Classic finish: 3rd (Lay Lake – 2010)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: 30th (2009 TTBC), 18th (2010 TTBC), 6th (2012 TTBC), 18th (2013 TTBC)
> Current world rank: 50
> Insight: With Evers capturing the win at Grand Lake last year, Faircloth shoots to the top of the list of best anglers without a Classic (or AOY) title to his credit. He almost always contends in the Classic and winning this one in his home state, with lots of family and friends in attendance, would be a career- and life-changing achievement. Certainly a man to watch.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

John Garrett – Union City, Tenn.
> Qualified through: Bassmaster College Classic champion
> Classics fished: 0
> Best Classic finish: N/A
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: None
> Current world rank: N/A
> Insight: A product of the powerhouse program at Bethel College, he might be a little out of his element against a field of the top pros and on a venue with which he's not real familiar. Making the day-2 cut would have to be considered a strong showing.

Shaw Grigsby – Gainesville, Fla.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 15
> Best Classic finish: 2nd (1993 – Logan Martin Lake)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: 43rd (2009 TTBC), 15th (2010 TTBC)
> Current world rank: 115
> Insight: Back in the Classic for the first time since 2013, he's not bringing much momentum with him (he's finished 103rd and 76th in the two Elite Series events thus far). He hasn't logged a placement higher than 21st since early 2015. Seeing him in contention would be somewhat of a surprise, but would be a thrill for his many longtime fans.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Greg Hackney has another opportunity to become the first angler to win the career grand slam.

Greg Hackney – Gonzales, La.
> Qualified through: BASSFest winner & Elite Series points
> Classics fished: 13
> Best Classic finish: 5th (2008 – Lake Hartwell)
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: 20th (2009 TTBC), 14th (2010 TTBC), 44th (2012 TTBC)
> Current world rank: 5
> Insight: He'll take another crack at becoming the first angler in history to win the career grand slam (he already has a Forrest Wood Cup crown and AOY titles on both major circuits). His Classic resumι isn't stellar, but the further this event gets pushed into the spring, the better his chances. He should be a major factor.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Skylar Hamilton – Dandridge, Tenn.
> Qualified through: Arkansas River Central Open winner
> Classics fished: 0
> Best Classic finish: N/A
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: N/A
> Current world rank: N/A
> Insight: He's gotten his debut Elite Series season off to a solid start by making the money cut in each of his first two events. The confidence derived from that should help going into the Classic, but at this point there isn't much to suggest that he'll be a big factor at Conroe.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Wil Hardy – Harlem, Ga.
> Qualified through: Oneida Lake Northern Open winner
> Classics fished: 0
> Best Classic finish: N/A
> Tour-level finishes at Conroe: N/A
> Current world rank: N/A
> Insight: He's from the Deep South, but his best finishes in 3 1/2 years as an FLW pro all came on Northern venues. It'd be surprising if he clawed his way into contention.

End Part 1 (of 3)