CELEBRATION, Fla. Bass fishing's most major event, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, is turning heads as 51 of the world's top bass anglers will converge on the famed waters of Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla., Feb. 24-26.
ESPN and ESPN2 hosts, analysts and sports reporters have made their picks and the list includes local favorites, Classic legends and anglers living their dream for the first time.
Co-host, ESPNRadio's Mike & Mike in the Morning
(Weekdays, 6-10 a.m. ET on ESPNRadio and ESPN2)
Golic's Pick: Kevin VanDam
"While Iaconelli grabs the headlines with his bad boy Image, Kevin VanDam will more importantly, grab the Bassmaster Classic title yet again. Kevin has been very consistent as of late, and I think his latest string of victories will continue because of that. Nothing fancy. It's all about pounds, and he knows how to put them in the boat."
Host, The Fishin' Hole
(Saturdays, 8 a.m. ET on ESPN2)
McKinnis' Pick: Aaron Martens
"The Classic will be won with one of three styles and he'll be pretty good at all three of them. He's good at handling the pressure of a big event, has the ability to find fish, and is good at the techniques needed to catch them, and that's a pretty good combination."
Host, The CITGO Bassmasters
(Saturdays, 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2)
Sanders' Pick: Scott Rook
"Scott has a reputation as a great river fisherman, but the fact is he is quite versatile. Also of note is that he has done well fishing in Florida at this time of year and has a good record in Classic competition. The time for his breakthrough win has come and it might as well be the Classic."
Randy and Jason Sklar
Co-hosts, ESPN Classic's Cheap Seats
(Weekdays, 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN Classic)
Sklar's Pick: Michael Iaconelli
"It may be fashionable, but after reading Fishing From The Edge, we'd be silly not to pick a man that can break-dance. Plus, we hear he is dropping to a lighter test line and has totally revamped his tackle choices. But what do we know? We like Ike."
Play-by-Play commentator, College Football/Basketball; Host, Bassmaster Classic weigh-in coverage
Franklin's Pick: Aaron Martens
"He can't be a bridesmaid forever."
(Saturdays, 11 a.m. ET on ESPN2)
Velvick's Pick: Aaron Martens
"Aaron is arguably a prime candidate to win this year's Classic at Toho as a West Coast fisherman with extraordinary sight fishing ability as well as little or no 'intimidation' or pressure in the big event. Aaron has displayed poise under pressure, while graciously accepting second place after three of the last four years."
Host, ESPN Outdoors
Zona's Pick: Tim Horton
"There is a mix of about four or five guys that are his equal Gerald Swindle, Skeet Reese, Kevin Wirth, Greg Hackney, Kevin VanDam who have the experience of being there, that will perform well. I think there is going to be more media attention and, like Pittsburgh, a lot of demand on these guys. The guys that are more than one-dimensional who can handle the sight-fishing, rattletrap, and flipping will do well. Tim Horton sticks out in my mind, and he does well in Florida."
Host, The New American Sportsman
(Oct. 1- Dec. 24, 11 a.m. ET on ESPN2)
Ackerman's Pick: Rick Clunn
"Experience counts. Rick Clunn is competing in his 30th Bassmaster Classic more than anyone in history. He has won four, including the 1977 Classic on Lake Toho, the site of this year's Classic. That experience, coupled with his mental toughness, make Rick the odds on favorite to capture his fifth Classic. Strike one for the graybeards."
Analyst, ESPN Bassmaster Classic coverage and CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series angler
Grigsby's Pick: Terry Scroggins
"He is a three-time BASS winner, all of which were in Florida. He's a seasoned Classic contender and the best vegetation-flipper on tour."
(Saturday, 11 a.m. ET on ESPN2)
Kernan's Pick: Aaron Martens
"The old saying is you have to lose a championship to win one. Martens has finished second in three of the last four Bassmaster Classics. I think he's due and he certainly has proven he won't crack under the pressure. It could be a sight fishing tournament and Aaron's pretty good at that."
Host, Advantage Adventures with Tom Miranda
(Hunt Sundays, 9:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2)
Miranda's Pick: Terry Scroggins
"Even against the odds, Terry could be the first pro to win the Classic in his home state. Home field advantage."
Host, Beat Charlie Moore
(Saturdays, 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2)
Moore's Pick: Joel St. Germain
"Okay. Here it is. Here is my 2006 classic prediction. I obviously think my hometown boy is going to take this thing. Yes, that's right Joel St. Germain himself. First off, Joel loves the Red Sox and Patriots and Bruins. Enough said! However, if you need more reasons why I think that he is going to take this year's Classic, here you go. This lake is known for flippin'. I fished with Joel for many years. Now, he can't throw a fleck spinnerbait or a Carolina chip rattletrap as good as me, but then again who really can at the end of the day, but he can flip like no one's business. As a matter of fact, he is a flippin' fool. And that bandana come on! Everyone else is wearing a fishing hat. This kid's wearing a bandana, and he rides his Harley to the Classic. He needs to find a way to get that classic trophy home can't store that on your Harley. Joel St. Germain he is from New England, he loves the Sox, he wears a bandana, he drives a Harley, he wins the Classic."
(Saturdays, 11 a.m. ET on ESPN2)
Reid's Pick: Greg Hackney
"He had a horrible Classic in Pittsburgh last year, not catching a single legal bass in two days. Hackney will be very eager to wipe that one away with a better performance here. Also, this Classic will be won by flipping and pitching around thick vegetation, and Hackney is very good at that style of fishing."