Dave Mercer on the Bassmaster Classic at Conroe

Biggie went munch munch on my LIVETARGET Lures Trout swimbait. Photo: Dave Mercer FB

Bassmaster Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer - also known from the Facts of Fishing has a unique insight on the upcoming Classic on Lake Conroe. He has an intricate knowledge of many of the anglers fishing the event and has also been involved with the five Toyota Texas Bass Classic events held at the same venue. His fishing knowledge as an angler add to his expertise and predictions of the event.

Insight from Lake Conroe

Mercer says the lake is two completely different sections. The lower section is heavily populated and full of docks while the upper end is full of wood. “The two ends are polar opposites, the upper end could be mistaken for Rayburn or another lake. Most of the tournaments seem to be won from the lower end of the lake but then again that is where tournaments are usually held and there are more fish released,” he says.

He does not rule against either end of the lake producing the winning bags and says spectator boats will undoubtedly plan into the results of the tournament or at the least will change strategies. “If you look back at last year when Evers had 29-pounds on the final day, he was so far up the river that by the time people heard he was catching good fish, he was too far away to go watch,” he recalls.

Predicting the winning technique at the 2017 Bassmaster Classic

With the tournament being held in the spring there are bound to be many potential patterns emerging. Mercer feels that standard offerings like jigs and ChatterBaits will play a role but believes the reaction bait bite should be more of a factor than previously thought. “The weather has been very warm there and my guess would be that about 50% of the fish have already spawned. I think the best approach is still less than ten feet of water but it may be moving baits,” says Mercer.

Topwater and the Shad Spawn from Lake Conroe

With the abundance of docks around the lake Mercer feels that the LIVETARGET Sunfish Hollow Body may play a role in the event. “It skips very well and anglers can get it under docks and all of the manmade structure around the lake,” he begins. “There is also a good chance that there will be a shad spawn going on and that bait does a good job in that situation.”

If the shad spawn is indeed a factor, Mercer also feels the LIVETARGET Glass Minnow Walking Bait and Glass Minnow Baitball Popper will be good choices. “It has the bait ball technology and that does a great job imitating a group of shad spawning. Depending on the size of the shad will determine if the popper or walking bait are better,” but adds that larger may be better. “This is Texas afterall so the bigger walking bait might be better.”

Crankbaits at the Bassmaster Classic

Crankbaits could be a key in this event as Mercer feels that the majority of the fish will be shallow and feeding. He believes everything from a squarebill to a crankbait that dives down to ten-feet may be a top producer.

“That 6- to 10-foot zone will be key and the fish will be eating shad that time of year. Look for a bait like the LIVETARGET Threadfin Shad Baitball Crankbait, which can get to ten feet, to be a good choice for the competitors,” adds Mercer.

Anglers to Watch at the 2017 Bassmaster Classic

Out of the field of 52 anglers, nearly everyone could be seen as a pick for the win. “The Classic is the hardest one to predict. There are so many factors in this event with the large amount of spectators following the anglers,” Mercer says and adds that the expanded coverage has helped fuel this. “It is much easier for fans to see who is catching them and head to watch. If you look back at the last few Classics, the winner is usually someone who is flying under the radar and a few places back going into the final day.”

Here are Mercer’s thoughts on a few anglers to watch:

  • Keith Combs – “Combs is an obvious pick because of his success at Conroe.”
  • Andy Montgomery – “He is someone who might fly under the radar and be right there going in to the last day.”
  • Kevin VanDam – “He is always a threat at the Classic but it may setup well for him if the fish are shallow and biting moving baits. I think it may play right into his style.”
  • Mike Iaconelli –“Excellent track record here and was always very close to winning at the TTBC when he competed in that event.”
  • Aaron Martens – “A sneaky pick with several good finishes on Conroe.”
  • Charlie Hartley –“After qualifying for the Classic he did what he did the last time he qualified and basically moved there. That turned out pretty good for him at Lake Hartwell,” where he finished 15th after leading Day 1.
  • Ryan Lavigne – “What he did at the Federation National Championship cannot be overlooked. To win the event by over 16-pounds as a non-boater competing against boaters was amazing and it is on the same lake.”
  • Dave Lefebre - “When he qualified for the TTBC it seemed like he was always in the ‘Tundra Ten’, the top 10 going into the last day.”