The last time Denny Brauer competed in a Bassmaster Classic on the Louisiana Delta he took second place in 1999. The 1998 Bassmaster Classic champion and 20-time qualifier missed out on this year's Big Show, so the Missouri pro has been enjoying his winter residence at Lake Amistad in Texas.
Bassmaster.com was able to catch up with Brauer in between his fishing trips to get the following predictions on the 2011 Classic.
Bassmaster.com: Who do you pick as a favorite to win the Classic?
Brauer: Greg Hackney knows the area better than half the field there. Obviously, flipping and pitching is one of his strongest suits, and I really think that's probably how the tournament is going to be won. So, I would put him as a definite favorite.
Bassmaster.com: Who else might win it or finish in the Top 5?
Brauer: Tommy Biffle has done well there before. I think he'll have a legitimate shot. Gary Klein will be in the Top 5. I would also put Skeet Reese in the Top 5, and I'd have to go with Mike McClelland. I know that Mike had a good prefish. I've been working some promotions with him, and after talking to him I feel he's doing the right thing in the right area. So, I feel he has a legitimate shot, if things don't change a lot.
Bassmaster.com: Do you have a dark house candidate?
Brauer: I'd go with Bill Lowen. He could be real strong there.
Bassmaster.com: What will be the winning weight?
Brauer: I'd guess 55 pounds. I think a guy will have to have a couple of 20-pound bags and then back it up with a 15. I think he can slip up one day, but with all the variables there, I don't know if a guy can get three 20-pound bags in a row.
Bassmaster.com: What will be the top patterns going on at the Delta?
Brauer: I would think pitching a jig will be the pattern. They might also catch some on a Red Eye Shad (lipless crankbait).
Bassmaster.com: Are there any areas that might produce better?
Brauer: I don't have a clue what the conditions are there, but if the river's halfway normal and not blown out, I'd guess that Venice is going to count for a bunch of big stringers. I know they've also been catching a lot of fish out of the West Diversion breakwater or fairly close to the take-off. I don't think guys will have the time to go to Delacroix where that'll pay off. I just think in a three-day tournament there are too many things that could happen over there that could mess you up one day and take you out of winning it. The fish are certainly over there to win an event, but I don't think the conditions and the time will allow an angler to pull it off over there.
Bassmaster.com: What do you think will be the biggest obstacle for the Classic contenders to overcome?
Brauer: The conditions will probably be fine. If the wind blows when they're making those long runs, they take a real pounding. The wind won't be near the factor for the guys fishing close. If a cold front comes through, it could tighten the fish up a bit, but because of the type of fishing it is with a lot of mats and stuff like that, I don't think the guys will have a lot of issues. They'll end up catching fish no matter what the conditions are.
Bassmaster.com: Is there anybody you are rooting for?
Brauer: Probably Gary Klein more than anybody because he's paid his dues. It would be neat to see him pull it off. It would be neat to see Bill Lowen pull it off because he's had some strong finishes that have kicked his career into high gear, and a Classic win would stabilize things financially for him.