It’s time to fill out your roster for New York’s Cayuga Lake
Read the articles below to help make your selections.
Count on skilled vegetation anglers to catch them on Cayuga, by Kevin Hawk
The odds are on green grass
By Pete Robbins
In an episode from the second season of the classic 1970s sitcom “What’s Happening!!” called “Give Me Odds,” Dwayne — played by the highly underrated Haywood Nelson — has what he describes as a foolproof system for gambling on NFL games. While he won’t reveal the system to his friends at first, the proof seems to be in the pudding as he’s won the local football pool five weeks in a row.
Rerun, hoping to get in good with his surly brother-in-law Ike, offers up Dwayne’s straight-up pick for the game of the week, a matchup between the Raiders and the Buccaneers, the league’s best and worst teams, respectively. The Raiders are favored by three touchdowns.
Rerun is so convincing that Ike bets $500, his Hawaii vacation money, on the Bucs. Only after the game has started does Dwayne reveal his lucky system: He picks the score by determining the number of people at each team’s last home game, divides that figure by the number of miles between the stadiums, and subtracts the quarterbacks’ numbers. How does he choose which team will win? He simply picks the team with the fancier helmets.
Given my recent picks, it seems like the “fancy helmets” strategy couldn’t be that much worse. After several years where I’ve consistently been in the upper echelon of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players, this year I’m somewhere around the Mendoza Line. I need to get on the right side of decent. There are plenty of anglers in the same boat, trying to make a charge at some achievement, whether that be AOY, a Classic berth, or simply remaining on the Elite Series next year. I’m glad I haven’t bet my vacation money on my Fantasy Picks, but there are lots of pros who over the next few weeks will lock in whether their 2016 season is a success or a failure by their subjective standards. A little bit of focused desperation never hurts.
With that in mind, I’m looking for some combination of the following factors in all of my picks: (1) Grass expertise; (2) prior success up north; (3) something to prove. Here you go. No wagering, please:
BUCKET A: POWROZNIK
Greg Hackney is in this group, and he won on Cayuga in 2014 and is coming off another monumental win, so there’s no doubt that he’ll be an overwhelmingly popular pick, and deservedly so. But don’t forget about Powroznik, who finished sixth here the last time around, and is currently in sixth in the AOY race. He’s 88 points behind Hack, but that can be made up over time, and it’s one of the titles he needs to cement his status as one of the top anglers in the game right now. Most importantly, he’s a master grass flipper as well as a superior drop shotter.
You can bet that while he’s playing with house money Hackney will ride the flip stick until it breaks, but look for Powroznik to be in contention whether largemouths or smallmouths prove to be the winning ticket.
BUCKET B: B. LANE
It may sound weird, but when in doubt in New York go with a Florida flipper. The shallow bowls of the Sunshine State are a great training ground for places like Oneida and Cayuga. Lane finished 34th here last time and has done well on Oneida most of the time, too. He’s currently in 28th in the AOY race, inside the bubble, and needs to finish strong to keep his streak of Classic appearances alive. He hasn’t missed one since joining the Elites. The last time he didn’t fish the Classic was 2007. With mostly grass waters left on the schedule, expect him to keep his streak alive.
BUCKET C: CHAPMAN
After a solid start to the season with fifth- and fourth-place finishes at the St. Johns and Winyah Bay, respectively, Chapman has missed four checks in a row, with his results getting worse each time. He was seventh at Cayuga in 2014, and has multiple money finishes on nearby Oneida, including a sixth-place result in the 2012 Elite Series Championship. At 58th in the AOY race, he needs to get his season back on track – he’s missed two Classics in a row after qualifying for seven straight.
BUCKET D: MORGENTHALER
Morgenthaler was a bargain in Bucket E, but with two good finishes in a row at Toledo and Texoma, he’s experienced some vertical migration. Fortunately for him, it’s another grass lake. That’s where he shines, and it should allow him to keep his momentum going. If the flip bite is on, expect him to stay with the big stick from start to finish. It could be a recipe for disaster, but after missing the 50 cut by 15 ounces in 2014, you can expect that he’s done some self-analysis and plans to take some revenge. At 67th in the AOY race, he’s at a turning point – with an outstanding performance the rest of the way he could still qualify for the Classic, but if he stumbles he could flirt with not requalifying for the Elite Series.
BUCKET E: SCROGGINS
Scroggins finished 73rd at Cayuga in 2014, and is mired in the worst slump of his career. Since finishing seventh at St. Johns and barely in the money at Winyah Bay (51st), he’s missed four straight Elite Series checks, with three of those finishes being 96th or worse. So why am I picking him? It’s not because he lives close to Tampa and I like their helmets (actually, he lives closer to Jacksonville and their helmets are just so-so). It’s just a hunch. And Bucket E is where you play those hunches and hope to shock the world. Scroggins is probably not going to make the Classic this year (he’s currently 90th in AOY), which will make three misses in a row after fishing 10 straight. The competition is tougher than ever and his back seems to be against the wall.
Count on skilled vegetation anglers to catch them on Cayuga
by Kevin Hawk
I’ve fished two B.A.S.S. tournaments on Cayuga Lake (a Northern Open in ‘12 and an Elite Series event in ‘14) and both were held in mid-August. Even though this year’s Elite event is in late June I feel my prior experience will allow me to assemble a strong roster and give you some solid picks to consider for your own Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team.
Cayuga Lake is the longest of the Finger Lakes, running nearly 40 miles from end to end. It’s full of submerged vegetation, especially on the north end, which can be found close to the bank out to 22 feet deep.
I expect the largemouth-dominated fishery to fish both shallow and deep. There will likely be opportunities to catch some big fish and possible five-fish limits sight-fishing, especially the first competition day, but I feel the angler who targets vegetation in 6 to 12 feet will dominate the tournament.
BUCKET A: ZALDAIN
Chris Zaldain is one of a handful of anglers to come from the West Coast within the last five years and shine on the Elite Series. His power fishing and finesse fishing skills complement themselves nicely, which will be useful on Cayuga. He also excels fishing both shallow and deep vegetation.
Zaldain finished third here in ‘14, so he has the confidence and experience to take down the rest of the talented anglers in Bucket A.
Seriously considered: Dean Rojas
Rojas, a shallow-water specialist, loves to put his head down and cover water with a heavy-weighted creature bait. He used this presentation to finish 11th in ’14, and there’s no doubt a heavy-weighted creature bait and jig will be an effective presentation again this year.
He’s also comfortable fishing around other anglers, which can be an issue on Cayuga, especially on the north end where anglers bunch up fishing the lake’s abundant vegetation and healthy fish population.
BUCKET B: LEFEBRE
Lefebre is having a strong “rookie” season on the Elite Series and has already been in contention to win an event after finishing second on Wheeler. The Pennsylvanian has a lot of experience fishing Northern waters and is comfortable fishing both shallow and deep. I feel he’ll be in contention for the win going into championship Sunday.
Seriously considered: Jordan Lee
Lee’s backed up his rookie season by nailing down two Top 12’s already this year. What he may be lacking in experience fishing Northern waters, he makes up for in skill and prior experience on other vegetation-dominated fisheries, like Guntersville. Cayuga may be a thousand miles from Guntersville, but after fishing both places myself I can tell you then can fish similar, especially in the 6- to 12-foot zone.
BUCKET C: PIRCH
Like Zaldain, Pirch is another West Coast angler who’s proved he has the staying power to compete on the Elite Series. Pirch has qualified for three consecutive Bassmaster Classics since ‘14 and has his best finishes on lakes and rivers with good water visibility, like Cayuga.
Pirch used his clear water and finesse fishing skills to finish 23rd on Cayuga in ’14, and I expect him to do well again this year. Look for Pirch to be in the Top-12 come Sunday.
Seriously considered: Todd Faircloth
Faircloth finished runner-up to Greg Hackney on Cayuga in ‘14 by fishing deeper vegetation than most of the field. Even though there will be a bigger fish population up shallow this time, the deep bite will still be there for those who are willing to look for it.
BUCKET D: MORGENTHALER
I’ve picked Morgenthaler more than any other Elite angler this year, or maybe it just feels than way because the schedule has been full of shallow-water power fishing venues.
I feel Morgenthaler is the smart pick in Bucket D. I realize he missed a check on Cayuga in ‘14, but he loves to pitch around a heavy weight and jig in vegetation, which I expect to be a strong pattern on Cayuga later this month.
Seriously considered: Brandon Lester
Lester has the ability to power fish shallow and deep, and had a Top-20 finish here in ‘14. He may not be fishing to his potential so far this season, but it’s only a matter of time before his skills push him up in the standings.
BUCKET E: M. DAVIS
Davis is struggling this season, which is uncharacteristic of him. I, however, am backing the 3-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year in Bucket E. Davis has proven he can catch bass from shallow, deep, clear and dirty water conditions; if you look at his tournament statistics he performs well on Northern waters, including Cayuga.
Seriously considered: Chad Grigsby
I can feel Grigsby’s frustration this year. I’ve been there. But I have no doubt his shallow-water vegetation fishing skills will be on display on Cayuga. He’s going to be in his element, which means he’ll be comfortable and in a position to fish well.
Choose anglers who have an axe to grind
I picked a pretty good team for Texoma, but not good enough. It was my best showing of the year, and I climbed from a near single-digit percentile to 17.5 percent. Hey, it’s an improvement!
I was also responsible for writing the daily press releases at Texoma, and as Edwin Evers was coming off of the stage following the Day-1 weigh-in, he jokingly gave me a hard time for not even mentioning him in my last Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing article. Maybe he wasn’t joking … Maybe I should have thought better of my choices last time around.
As much as I tried to come up with a good reason to tell him otherwise, Evers had a solid showing and went home in 23rd place, which would have done me better than my official selection.
The time to make a big change is at hand. If I want to increase my standings by the end of the year, it needs to start at Cayuga. I’ve got an axe to grind as much as the anglers I picked.
BUCKET A: EVERS
Yes, Evers got on my case for not selecting him for Texoma, and while that may slightly influence why I chose him this time around, I also recall that he won on the St. Lawrence River last year. He knows this part of the country very well, and I expect him to have a solid tournament.
He also finished in fourth place in 2014, which was the last time the Elites visited Cayuga. This event is shaping up perfectly for this year’s Classic champ.
Dark Horse: Randall Tharp had a great showing at Texoma, which resulted in his third Top 12 finish of the year. He is still within striking distance of AOY, and I expect him to fish like he’s got something to lose at this one.
BUCKET B: B. HITE
Anywhere there’s abundant grass, Brett Hite will be throwing a bladed jig, and you can bet he’ll catch them at Cayuga. In fact, I think he may be the strongest contender at this event, period. The main weed edge as it falls into deep water will be holding lots of big bass, and a bladed jig is one of the best methods to catch postspawners relating to that type of structure.
Dark Horse: Aaron Martens is one of the best clear-water, finesse fishermen in existence. Cayuga will have plenty of opportunity for him to showcase his skills and use a drop shot or shaky head. He’s been very quiet this year, and he really shines at all northern fisheries. I expect him to make some noise at Cayuga.
BUCKET C: FAIRCLOTH
Like KVD, you just can’t count Todd Faircloth out. He’s been uncharacteristically quiet this year, and he needs to have a few good tournament finishes if he wants to make the Classic cut. Last year he won St. Clair, which eventually led to a Classic berth. Not to mention he finished in second place the last time we went to Cayuga. I won’t start betting against him now!
Dark Horse: Brandon Card is coming off of a solid second-place finish at BASSfest on Lake Texoma, and I gotta believe he’ll keep that momentum rolling into this event. Card is all aces in my book!
BUCKET D: FEIDER
The young Minnesota pro has been fishing better this year than he did during his rookie season last year, and I know how bad he wants to fish the season-ending Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year event on Minnesota’s famed Mille Lacs Lake. Being a Minnesota native and a Mille Lacs smallmouth junkie, he knows if he gets to compete there, he’ll give the entire field a run for their money. He’s moved up into Bucket D, which means a solid finish at Cayuga will move him closer to a Classic berth and a shot at the AOY tournament. Cayuga will fish the way he likes to fish, and I expect a solid showing from him this time around.
Dark Horse: Fletcher Shryock doesn’t live too far from the Finger Lakes, and he needs a good tournament to redirect his ship. The young pro from Ohio has struggled during his first couple of years as an Elite Series pro, but that doesn’t fairly indicate his talent as an angler. He belongs here, and it’s only a matter of time before he breaks loose and takes home a win. Cayuga could be that tournament.
BUCKET E: J. VANDAM
There is no better angler to pick in Bucket E than JVD, and that is not because of lack of good options. Jonathon VanDam knows northern bass as well as anyone on tour, and he’s having a rough go as of late. I fully expect him to turn things around at Cayuga, and get him back in the mix where he belongs.
Dark Horse: Chad Pipkens is having a difficult season. No question about it. But, with his Michigan roots, he knows how to catch postspawn bass in June. I’d bet a bottle of whiskey that he’ll surprise his fans and make a cut at Cayuga, if not into the Top 12.
Go with patient flippers at Cayuga
By Ronnie Moore
Lake Texoma wasn’t exactly as I had written about in my last Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing story, but once you pen something you can’t go back and change it. With that being said, my team was alright overall. One low finisher hurt my team, but four anglers fishing on Day 3 is always a positive.
With Texoma flooding over 9 feet above full pool for the third time this year, it makes sense why flipping bushes and topwater were so successful, but what viewers didn’t see was how tough it was to get a bite.
Elite anglers always prefer tough fishing on a good fishery because it makes each bite hard to come by, but if they are persistent enough then it can yield a good sized fish.
Cayuga is a familiar place for some Elite anglers as they visited it in 2014 when Greg Hackney won and many practiced last year during the break between the St. Lawrence River and the Chesapeake Bay. It should be another fun tournament this time around.
If it was publicly acceptable to pick Greg Hackney or Gerald Swindle for the rest of the Elite Series events, I would, but they would probably rename my column “Ronnie’s Boring Picks.” They are smoking the fish and the competition this year, and it’s obvious for Fantasy Fishing players to pick them, but I would be of no help to those wanting a different perspective.
BUCKET A: POWROZNIK
Safe Bet: Jacob Powroznik
This may be one of the safest picks that I make all year, and the reality is Jacob Powroznik is almost always a safe bet. In his three seasons on the Elite Series he has only missed four checks, not to mention he boasted a sixth-place finish at Cayuga in 2014. He’s done well there in the past, and I think he’s overdue for a win.
Worth a risk: Drew Benton
Flipping grass isn’t foreign to the Florida native, so Cayuga shouldn’t overwhelm Benton. There are plentiful grass clumps to target, and although it is easy to get lost in the endless vegetation, southern anglers can sometimes decipher the better grass from the non-productive areas. Benton is fishing well this year and is sitting in a good spot with three tournaments left.
Gut tells me: J-Proz
Second time is the charm for Powroznik as I think he punches another Top 12 and even a win in New York.
BUCKET B: J. LEE
Safe Bet: Jordan Lee
Jordan Lee has turned into one of the safest picks on the Elite Series when it comes to making checks, not to mention his ability to use Day 3 and jump even higher (two Top 12’s this year). He isn’t recognized as one of those college anglers, or that young kid, but rather many veterans know he is a threat every time he backs his boat in the water. It seems that Lee is fishing free and having fun, which reflects his laid-back personality. He will break through for a win sooner rather than later.
Worth a risk: Jason Christie
Quietly, Jason Christie has put together a very solid season without much mention. He barely missed the Texoma Top 50 cut and had one bad tournament (Winyah Bay), but other than that he has been in the 30’s and up. With the weight it took in 2014 to win, I think we could see similar if not better weights. I would strongly consider Christie if it becomes a high-weight shootout.
Gut tells me: Lee
I think he backs up his Texoma Top 12 with another very good tournament. His Guntersville grass knowledge should help him north of the Mason-Dixon line.
BUCKET C: MONTGOMERY
Safe Bet: Andy Montgomery
Docks. Perhaps not much else needs to be said about the abundant man-made structure, but there are many docks on Cayuga and Montgomery knows how to catch fish from them. Texoma had plenty of docks for Montgomery to be successful, but there was way too much water in the fishery for them to be as fruitful. With the heat of summer setting in, the dock bite should be awesome, and that’s where a guy like Montgomery could really shine.
Worth a risk: John Crews
He’s mad at ‘em! It’s almost as simple as that. Crews finished 107th at Texoma, most likely his worst ever finish. I wouldn’t be surprised if he bounces back with a very good finish, and puts himself back in the unofficial Classic cut.
Gut tells me: Montgomery
Tough coin flip between Montgomery and Crews, but I don’t think you can go wrong with either in Bucket C.
BUCKET D: MORGENTHALER
Safe Bet: Chad Morgenthaler
I’m going to rename Bucket D to the “flipping” bucket based on my two picks. Chad Morgenthaler proves his flipping ability every time the Elites or Opens get anywhere close to thick vegetation. Cayuga should be a place Morgenthaler stands on his momentum, and does well once again. Texoma was a great tournament for him, and Cayuga should follow suit.
Worth a risk: Cliff Prince
Big bass, thick grass and a Florida native means some happy fishing this week. Based on what we learned from Greg Hackney in 2014, it seems that once an angler finds some quality fish in an area, if he hunkers down and flips a big jig long enough they are bound to come across a solid five-fish limit.
Gut tells me: Morgenthaler
I am a believer in momentum, no matter how long it lasts. For those who can harness positive vibes and fish confidently for multiple weeks I truly think their finishes will reflect it.
BUCKET E: SCROGGINS
Safe Bet: Terry Scroggins
Just like Cliff Prince, Scroggins isn’t shy when it comes to fishing the thick stuff. With the northern lakes being ahead of schedule from how the weather has been this year, the grass should be green and fruitful. This season has been highly competitive and that has been indicated in the fluctuation of tournament results this year. Although it has been a tough season for Scroggins, don’t think for a second he has forgotten how to catch ‘em. This week should break his four-tournament checkless streak and bring a payday for the Big Show.
Worth a risk: John Hunter
The 2016 Elite Series rookie boated a Top 12 at Winyah Bay earlier this year by maximizing a stretch of matted grass while others in the area fished flats and wood. Since then it has been a tough season for the Kentucky angler, but growing pains are certainly expected when you jump from College to the Opens and then the Elite Series. This should be another good finish for Hunter if he trusts his gut and ability.
Gut tells me: Scroggins
I’m betting that Big Show gets it done up north and makes a Top 50 in the seventh stop of the season. This could line up a couple of good events in a row with the Potomac and Mississippi River after Cayuga. All have a solid eco-system of grass, which could end his season on a high note. But it all starts this week at Cayuga.
Brandon Card was the best choice at BASSfest 2016
DURANT, Okla. — Coming into GEICO BASSfest presented by Choctaw Casino at Lake Texoma, Greg Hackney was leading the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race. Now that the event has concluded, and Hackney won … you guessed it: He’s still leading AOY.
The big talk at this event surrounded the flooded and dirty water conditions and the hot temperatures. But, just as they always do, the Bassmaster Elite Series field had a few anglers who figured out how to catch heavy bags of bass.
BASSfest not only offered the anglers a $100,000 payday, the champion also earned a berth to the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro, which is to be held on Lake Conroe, near Houston, Texas. You can plan on seeing Hackney there next spring.
While nobody had a perfect roster, the best one for this event was set by “Big daddy” who earned 1,456 points, ranking him 17,176th and in the 43.9 percentile.
“Big daddy’s” picks:
Bucket A: Greg Hackney, 310 points
B: Ott DeFoe, 280
C: Casey Ashley, 286
D: Brandon Card, 335
E: David Walker, 245
The current No. 1 ranked Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing player after BASSfest is “CRomanowski” with a total of 6,952 points.
“CRomanowski’s” picks for Lake Texoma:
Bucket A: Greg Hackney, 310 points
B: Kevin VanDam, 231
C: Todd Faircloth, 167
D: Jeff Kriet, 179
E: David Walker, 245
BASSfest’s perfect team:
Bucket A: Greg Hackney, 310 points
B: Ott DeFoe, 280
C: Casey Ashley, 286
D: Brandon Card, 335
E: Chad Morgenthaler, 285
BUCKET A: HACKNEY
Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., had the highest ownership in Bucket A with 51 percent, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since he came into this event leading the AOY race. He earned his supporters 310 points.
Second-best choice: Gerald Swindle finished third at BASSfest and earned his 4.5-percent ownership 290 points. Following BASSfest, Swindle is in second place in AOY.
Worst choice: Dave Lefebre had a difficult tournament and earned his 0.3-percent ownership only 97 points.
BUCKET B: DEFOE
Ott DeFoe from Knoxville, Tenn., had a great showing and finished in fifth place. He was the top pick in Bucket B earning his 2.1-percent ownership 280 points. Following BASSfest, DeFoe is sitting in 20th place in the AOY race.
Second-best choice: Dean Rojas was the second best choice in this bucket after finishing in eighth place, and earning his 1.8-percent ownership 268 points.
Worst choice: John Crews had an uncharacteristic showing, and finished in 107th place earning his 1.5-percent ownership only 61 points.
BUCKET C: ASHLEY
Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., led two days of BASSfest on Lake Texoma, and surprised his 13.2-perent ownership with a solid sixth-place finish and 286 points. Ashley is currently in 34th in the AOY race.
Second-best choice: Rick Clunn had a very strong showing, and finished in seventh place earning his 8.6-percent ownership 272 points.
Worst choice: Brandon Lester endured a tough tournament finishing in 101st earning his 1.4-percent ownership 73 points.
BUCKET D: CARD
Brandon Card of Caryville, Tenn., was the overall best Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing pick of the event. Card earned his 2-percent ownership 335 points, and he is sitting in 55th place in AOY.
Second-best choice: Keith Poche finished in 11th place, and earned his 2.2-percent ownership 257 points.
Worst choice: Mark Davis had a tough tournament earning his 15.5-percent ownership only 65 points.
BUCKET E: MORGENTHALER
Chad Morgenthaler of Coulterville, Ill., was the second most popular choice in Bucket E. He finished in fourth place earning his 14.4-percent ownership 285 points. Morgenthaler is currently in 67th place in AOY.
Second-best choice: David Walker finished in 15th place and was the most popular choice in the bucket. He earned his 47.1-percent ownership 245 points, and is currently in 85th place in AOY.
Worst choice: Fabian Rodriguez finished in 108th place earning his 0.1-percent ownership only 59 points.
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