BUFFALO, N.Y. — The 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series tour begins its 10th event of the 11-tournament season Thursday with the Empire Chase presented by Farmer's Insurance. Lake Erie's 10,000-plus square miles — it's the 11th-largest lake in the world — and the Niagara River will be where the 106 Elites Series anglers compete for the $100,000 first place check.
Smallmouth bass will be the main target here. Edwin Evers won this tournament a year ago with a three-day total of 65 pounds, 7 ounces.
Since last year's event was shortened by a day due to high wind, and wind is almost always a factor on these big waters, everyone's eyes will be fixed on the daily weather reports this week.
The field will be cut to the top 50 after Friday's weigh-in and the top 12 after Saturday. The 8 a.m. ET take-offs and 5 p.m. ET weigh-ins will be held at Buffalo's NFTA Boat Harbor.
Thirteen pros were asked to pick the three most likely winners this week.
Edwin Evers — if he gets left alone to fish where he caught them last year.
Paul Hirosky — because he knows the Great Lakes very well, and he's caught smallmouth bass his whole life.
Mike McClelland — he's a good offshore fisherman who seems to adapt, no matter what the situation.
John Murray — he's good at fishing offshore structure, and he always seems to find the little subtle keys.
Aaron Martens — along the same line as Murray, he's good at finding the subtle things that everyone else misses.
Jon Bondy — he's got lots of experience up here. If it gets windy, he real efficient at finding fish here.
Dave Wolak — he's fished here a lot and can rely on that experience.
Edwin Evers — because he won here last year.
Gary Klein — just from talking to him, I think he's doing real well here.
Kevin VanDam — because he's been fishing like this since he was a kid. He knows where they're going to be.
Edwin Evers — he's a good drop-shotter, and he won here last year.
Aaron Martens — he's also a good drop-shotter. This fits his style. He's one of the best finesse fishermen out here.
John Murray — he did well here last year, and this suits his style.
Gary Klein — I think he's fishing in the right place.
Skeet Reese — it's about time for him to break loose and have a good tournament.
John Murray — because he's handy with a drop-shot.
Jami Fralick — for some reason, he does well on Erie.
Kotaro Kiriyama — he's can do that crazy ninja stuff with a drop-shot here.
Bryan Hudgins — he caught them last year here.
Edwin Evers — he'll do well, if the weather will let him go to his spot again.
Jon Bondy — he's real familiar with this water. He had them last year, but made some mistakes that cost
Glenn DeLong — he's very knowledgeable on the western end and this fishes the same.
Edwin Evers — just because he won last year.
Rick Morris — because he likes to fish deep, and he's really good at it.
Matt Sphar — he's forgotten more about this area than most of the other guys know.
Aaron Martens — he's just a really good drop-shot fisherman, and he did well here last year.
Edwin Evers — if there are still fish in the same area where he won it last year.
Edwin Evers — because of last year.
John Murray — I've heard he's been doing some impressive things in practice.
Aaron Martens — he loves that deep drop-shot, and he's due.
Steve Kennedy — just because I've heard he's on some good fish.
Edwin Evers — I feel like his old stuff might be working again.
Matt Reed — he spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania, finding the depth and the baits that were working, and I think that might lead to success here.
Kevin VanDam — why not?
Edwin Evers — he's spent a lot of time up here, and he knows it well.
Matt Reed — I think he'll mix it up at a variety of depths, and it might work out well for him.
Kevin VanDam — this is his type of deal.
John Murray — he did good here last year, and he's always good offshore.
Aaron Martens — he's good offshore, and he's always real good at figuring out something to trick them into biting.
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Empire Chase with weigh-in host Keith Alan, July 31-Aug. 3, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 5:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch "Bassmaster University" at 4:15 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get "Hooked Up" with hosts Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona at 12.00 p.m. and 4:20 p.m. ET, with the final day weigh-in and real-time leaderboard content starting at 5:00 p.m. ET.