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Pick three

DECATUR, Ala.  The 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series tour begins its seventh event of the 11-tournament season Thursday with a stop in Alabama on Wheeler Lake's 68,000 acres. Though the Southern Challenge presents a classic post-spawn bass fishing pattern, recent rains in the area have opened up a shallow water bite that typicially wouldn't be a factor this time of year on Wheeler.

The field will be cut to the top 50 after Friday's weigh-in and the top 12 after Saturday. The 7 a.m. takeoffs and 4 p.m. ET weigh-ins will be held at Ingalls Harbor.

Fourteen pros were asked to pick the three most likely winners of the $100,000 first place prize this week at Wheeler Lake. Here are their choices:

Bobby Lane

  1. Timmy Horton  He has all the local knowledge and knows every nook and cranny of this place.

  2. Kevin VanDam  It might be won with a crankbait bite and nobody does it better.

  3. Matt Reed  He will get out on the flats and fish slow with a worm.

Billy Brewer

  1. Aaron Martens  This may be a structure deal and that means he will catch them good on a drop-shot.

  2. Kevin VanDam  Because he always has a chance.

  3. Edwin Evers  He's on fire and has a lot of momentum.

Ray Sedgewick

  1. Timmy Horton  He knows the mussel bars and stump ridges.

  2. Kevin VanDam  The spinnerbait bite is working.

  3. Tommy Biffle  The water is a little bit high and there's a good flipping bite in willows.

Dean Rojas

  1. Timmy Horton  He always fishes well here and is sleeping in his own bed.

  2. Kevin VanDam  He's always in the top five here.

  3. Mike Wurm  The old dog can still hunt.

Mike Wurm

  1. Tommy Biffle  Fish are still shallow and the lake is high. There's a lot of stuff to pitch and flip up there.

  2. Kevin VanDam  He'll be able to change on the fly and it may take that to win.

  3. Dean Rojas  We might hear Kermie croaking in this one.

Mike McClelland

  1. Timmy Horton  Because of his knowledge of this river system.

  2. Kevin VanDam  He will cover a lot of water and you're going to have to do that to catch them here.

  3. Jeff Kriet  I know where he's fishing and he's on them.

Jeff Kriet

  1. Kevin Wirth  He's a good offshore fisherman and he's done well here in the past.

  2. Aaron Martens  He'll find some wacky way to catch them that nobody else will.

  3. Kevin VanDam  There's a pretty good crankbait bite and he'll cover a lot of water.

Jeremy Starks

  1. Timmy Horton  He's from here.

  2. Aaron Martens  He's won an FLW tournament here and he knows this lake.

  3. Bobby Lane  I think he's good at fishing the flats and that scattered grass, so he should do well here.

Gerald Swindle

  1. Jeff Reynolds  Because he's staying with me and if he doesn't do well, I'm going to whip his ass.

  2. Boyd Duckett  We've been talking and it's time for both of us to step out of this mental deal.

  3. Timmy Horton  He's always done well on Wheeler.

Jeff Reynolds

  1. Gerald Swindle  Because he's a good trash fisherman and that's what it will take to win here. He'll catch some shallow, some deep, some in the grass.

  2. Timmy Horton  He's fished this lake a lot. He's a really good deep-water fisherman. If he finds a wad of them, he could run away with this thing.

  3. Marty Stone  Because "The Stone Pony" is a previous winner here.

Ken Cook

  1. Kevin VanDam  Because I know where he's fishing and I'm catching them, too.

  2. Dustin Wilks  Because I saw him fishing.

  3. Aaron Martens  He's going to catch a lot of fish and you're going to have to catch a lot of fish to catch a few big ones.

Steve Kennedy

  1. Timmy Horton  It's post-spawn and he knows where they stay here. They're out in places that he knows better than anyone.

  2. Aaron Martens  He's done well every time he's been here.

  3. Mike McClelland  They're definitely hitting a jig. It's the right time of year for him to do well.

Rick Ash

  1. Timmy Horton  He's got more local knowledge than anyone else.

  2. Kevin VanDam  You can run-and-gun and catch them on the flats.

  3. Jeff Connella  He's been pretty consistent in practice. I know he's going to catch at least one big bag and that will be the key here.

Kevin Short

  1. Aaron Martens  He's been here enough times to know how to catch them. He'll leave the ramp with his trolling motor down and start catching them.

  2. Mark Davis  He's been here quite a bit. This is going to be a slow, methodical deal where you need to really work over a couple of key spots.

  3. Skeet Reese  He's not afraid to fish in a crowd. Some of these guys won't do that. I don't want to be looking at somebody else, especially when they're catching fish.

Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Southern Challenge, June 58, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch "Bassmaster University" at 3:00 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get "Hooked Up" on at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. ET, with the final day weigh-in and real-time leaderboard content starting at 4:15 p.m. ET.