Set your Wheeler Lake lineup!
Rosters are open for the fourth Bassmaster Elite Series stop at Alabama’s Wheeler Lake.
Read the articles below to help you make your selections.
Ride momentum and history at Wheeler, By Pete Robbins
Pick Tennessee River anglers who quickly cover water, By Kevin Hawk
Go with the dark horse in Alabama, By Thomas Allen
Ignore your gut, go with science, By Coy Greathouse
Go with the grass at Wheeler, By Ronnie Moore
How did you do at Bull Shoals/Norfork? Here are the results.
Ride momentum and history at Wheeler
By Pete Robbins
It’s a short week between events, and we are gathered here today with a tight deadline to get our Fantasy Fishing picks in, so forgive me if I’m a little bit giddy. Baby, it’s much too fast. Like the anglers themselves, I had a schizophrenic event at Bull Shoals and Norfork, with two anglers in the top 12, another in the check line, and two more – including the reigning Classic champ – near the bottom of the heap. If you relied on my past column and now rue that decision, I apologize. I never meant to cause you any sorrow.
In the first iteration of this column, I tried to honor a dearly departed pop star. I had Cliff Prince in Bucket A, A-Mart’s purple boat in Bucket B and Minnesotan Seth Feider in Bucket D. If only Marty Stone, who won the Top 150 at Wheeler 17 years ago was here to party like it’s 1999 in Bucket C, or Texan Kurt “When Doves Cry” was perched in Bucket E, I could’ve filled all five groups, but it wasn’t meant to be. Alas, I am left with more conventional choices.
BUCKET A: LOWEN
It’s tough not to pick Randall Tharp right now, who has apparently deposed the imposter who played him in 2015. Dating back to last year, he has five straight finishes of 27th or better in B.A.S.S. competition, four of them 16th or better, including this recent win. It’s especially tough not to choose him because they’re headed to the Tennessee River chain, where he has loads of history, but he’s going to get a late start on practice, and in a tournament where a lot of different things are going on, maximum practice time should play a role.
It’s also tough to ignore Takahiro Omori, who finished 12th here in 2011, 17th in 2008 and 2nd to David Walker in 2011. But I’m going with Lowen, who’s finished 16th, 25th and 22nd in Elite competition on Wheeler. He’s been stout this year, too. He’s like the gold standard, seemingly never failing to bring in a limit, most often a good one.
BUCKET B: HERREN
I thought about taking transplanted Alabama resident and reigning Angler of the Year Aaron Martens here, because he’s going to have a monster tournament at some point, and I don’t want to be left behind. Surprisingly, in seven career B.A.S.S. events on Wheeler, he’s only challenged for the win once, in his first attempt (the 2000 Top 150, when he finished 9th). Since then he’s had a pair of top 20s and a pair of disasters.
Herren, on the other hand, has never faltered at Wheeler in B.A.S.S. competition. The worst he’s done was 46th in an Open, and the last two times there he’s finished 16th. Coming off a Top 12 in Arkansas, even with the short practice period, he should be able to contend for a win.
BUCKET D: HORTON
Man, I wanted to pick KVD here. The King of the Tennessee River has been stout up and down the chain, including at Wheeler, where he has two runner-up finishes in Elite Series competition. Seeing him in Bucket C is so surprising to those of us who’ve been doing it for a while that it almost feels like a misprint. But I have to make one homage to Prince here, and that requires me to choose the Angler Formerly Known as Timmy Horton. The former Angler of the Year remains a mystery to me — after 10 consecutive Classic appearances to start his career, and another a few years later, he’s missed the last four. It’s not like his skills have diminished or he’s forgotten how to fish, so if he’s going to get his Bassmaster career back on track, there’s no place better to do it than close to home, where he may have more knowledge than anyone else in the field.
BUCKET D: CLAUSEN
We have four residents of Alabama in this Bucket, including Greg Vinson, Kelley Jaye, Chris Lane and Russ Lane. While I’m not choosing the angler from the longest distance away – that would be Japan’s Ken Iyobe – I’m going for the one who drove the longest to get here, Luke Clausen.
His Elite Series career hasn’t started off the way many of us expected it would. After a 24th place finish at the St. Johns, he bombed at Winyah Bay and in Arkansas. If you remember last year, Brent Ehrler had a rocky start at the Sabine, and then got on course for a killer season. I expect Clausen, who like Ehrler won a Forrest Wood Cup in Alabama, to do the same.
BUCKET E: WALKER
When was the last time the prior winner of an Elite event on a given body of water was in Bucket E on the return trip to that lake? That’s a task for Ken Duke to figure out. I’m just assuming that Walker’s early season troubles – he hasn’t done better than 72nd so far in Elite competition in 2016 – aren’t symptomatic of a larger problem, but rather are the result of some bad choices in Florida, and quirky venues thereafter. If you’re unwilling to take him because you assume he’ll command a huge percentage of Fantasy players, look to rookie Clent Davis or new-Tennessean John Murray.
Pick Tennessee River anglers who quickly cover water
by Kevin Hawk
Wheeler Lake connects to the lake I’ve been guiding and fishing on all spring —Lake Guntersville. Even though Wheeler can and does fish differently than G-ville, they’re both on the Tennessee River (TVA), and in the same geographic region.
I feel my recent experience with the current conditions, and the spawning phase that most of the bass are in right now gives me an advantage in picking my Wheeler Lake roster.
We’ve had unseasonably cool weather in North Alabama for much of the spring, and we’ve been hammered with wind as well. The cool weather and wind finally gave way to warm, windless days last week. As a result, the water temperature on Guntersville has risen sharply to the low 70’s. While a wave of fish moved up to spawn on the recent full moon, most seem to be finished and are funneling back out toward deeper water. There’s also a strong shad spawn going on right now, as well.
I’m picking anglers who have proved they’re strong on the TVA chain and who can cover water quickly. Not just covering water by fishing, but using their electronics as well. The anglers who can find the biggest groups of post-spawn females and take advantage of the shad spawn will have the best chance at winning this event.
BUCKET A: LUCAS
If it seems like I pick Justin Lucas often it’s because I do. Lucas continues to be a solid performer who consistently puts himself in a position to make the final-day cut. I also know him better than most of the other Elite anglers, which gives me some added insight.
When I moved to Guntersville in 2010 I looked for a roommate to split rent with, and discovered Lucas was looking for the same thing. It turned out to be a perfect situation for both of us — one we capitalized on. While we’re no longer roommates we are neighbors, so I see the time and preparation he puts into being one of the most consistent and competitive Elite Series anglers.
Lucas has gained a ton of experience on the Tennessee River since moving to G-ville and has become highly skilled with his electronics, which will be critical for this event.
Seriously considered: David Mullins
Mullins is coming off two solid events and is an excellent offshore angler who performs well on the TVA chain. He knows where to look for postspawn fish moving out to their summertime holding areas and how to catch them.
BUCKET B: REESE
Skeet Reese caught some of the biggest limits of bass on Bull Shoals last week, and I look for him to bring that momentum to Wheeler
Reese has more experience and Top-5 finishes on the TVA chain than most anglers in the field. He also understands how to approach the shad spawn and the bass postspawn phase, which I believe will be the keys to success this tournament. Look for Reese to continue using a crankbait and swimbait to catch the better than average fish on Wheeler.
Seriously considered: Keith Combs
Combs is another talented offshore angler who relies on his electronics and crankbait to find the right schools of postspawn fish, he’ll undoubtedly do well this week.
BUCKET C: HORTON
Timmy Horton, from nearby Muscle Shoals, Ala., is one of the most experienced Tennessee River anglers in the field, and is always a threat to win when given the chance to find schools of postspawn fish scattered along offshore drops and points.
I feel Horton, who had a Top-10 finish the last time the Elites visited Wheeler, will again make the final-day cut.
Seriously considered: Brandon Coulter
Coulter has fished well the past two events, and is finding his footing in his second Elite Series campaign He’s from nearby Knoxville, Tenn., and is an excellent offshore angler who has significant experience on the TVA chain during his time competing on the FLW Tour.
BUCKET D: R. LANE
Russ Lane placed 7th on Wheeler in 2011, and consistently performs well on the Tennessee River. Like Reese and Combs, Lane will use his electronics and crankbait to search for the winning group of fish that have recently finished spawning.
Seriously considered: Greg Vinson
Vinson hasn’t fished well the past two events, but I look for him to have a strong tournament on Wheeler. Vinson, an Alabama angler, is experienced on the TVA chain and versed in the techniques needed to capitalize on a shad spawn and postspawn bite.
BUCKET E: WALKER
Walker won the 2011 Wheeler event, but hasn’t finished better than 72nd place in the first three regular season Elite events this year. That doesn’t scare me from picking him in Bucket E.
Walker, who is a versatile angler, has the confidence and experience on Wheeler to put his slow start behind him with a high finish this week.
Seriously considered: Clent Davis
Davis, an Elite rookie, is currently 88th in the AOY standings, but is a talented angler who’s comfortable fishing on the Tennessee River.
Davis might have a reputation as a shallow water angler, but he’s also skilled at finding schools of postspawn fish out deep. He’ll turn his season around at this event.
Go with the dark horse in Alabama
By Thomas Allen
Well, after another dismal tournament, I’ve decided to bench Gerald, that often-overbearing voice in my head. For the Bull Shoals/Norfork event, I heeded to his advice, and tanked horribly. This time, I’ve seen a psychiatrist who prescribed some meds—radio silence between my ears.
Well, not really. But, for this event I think taking the simplest route possible makes the most sense. If I were you, I would take what I say and do the opposite. In fact, I’ll share my picks, but go with the dark horse. It doesn’t make any sense at all, but if you’ve seen my recent Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing results, it’s sad.
I cry myself to sleep at night …
But, I digress. I made my selections mostly based on AOY points, but also considered geographic location. This time of year plays well to several strong early summer patterns like dragging a jig, throwing big worms into brush, cranking edges and working topwaters near emergent vegetation. The presentations that I’ve just described appeal to the vast majority of the Elite Series field.
I’m righting my ship at Wheeler
BUCKET A: HACKNEY
I just haven’t been betting on Greg Hackney, and he’s continuing to do well. Each time I expect him to falter and have a tough tournament, but maybe he’s just that good. Actually, it’s not a question of “if” anymore. He is. Having said that, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Bill Lowen win his first Elite, Gerald Swindle or Justin Lucas take this one home.
Second Choice: Randall Tharp is hungry, and I don’t expect him to coast through this next event. He’s got his eye on the AOY title, and he’ll do well on Wheeler, especially with the momentum that comes with winning Bull Shoals/Norfork
Dark Horse: Kelly Jordon has had a solid season so far; he just might win this one while riding his momentous wave.
BUCKET B: MENENDEZ
Menendez is a Tennessee River wizard. He’s been doing very well this year, and I totally expect him to cash another check in Decatur, Ala., if not win. He has lots of history on all of the TVA rivers, with a lot of impressive results.
Second Choice: Aaron Martens has been quiet this year, and that’s very uncharacteristic of him. He may get furious and win.
Dark Horse: Matt Herren has been doing very well at each of this year’s events, including the Classic. Just like Bill Lowen, he’s way overdue for a victory, and after a painful loss in Arkansas, I think he’ll fish Wheeler mad, and that’s not a good thing for the big bass population.
BUCKET C: HORTON
Tim Horton lives in Muscle Shoals, which is right on Wheeler. He has experienced tremendous amount of success on the Tennessee River impoundments, and he’s been especially quiet in recent seasons. Horton is dropping the gloves and going to work this week.
Second Choice: Kevin VanDam is one of, if not the best Tennessee River angler ever. He’s been in a slump lately, but if there was ever a time and a place that could turn things around for the Michigan angler, it’s at Wheeler this week.
Dark Horse: Brandon Lester has been fishing very well, and he lives just up the road from Wheeler. In recent tournaments he’s been so close he can taste it, even leading Day 1 on St. Johns. Is it Lester’s time?
BUCKET D: R. LANE
In keeping with a moderate local-angler flavor, Russ Lane is no stranger to Wheeler. He’s been quiet, but never count him out, I think this could be the tournament where he makes some noise.
Second Choice: Aussie Carl Jocumsen has smelled bloody waters, and he’s hungry. After a disappointing finish at Winyah Bay following and early Day-1 lead he’s fishing hard, and he’s due for a Top-12 finish or the “W”.
Dark Horse: Gary Klein didn’t make the Classic this year and he started his season in Bucket E, that’s just not the Klein we know. He’s improved his Fantasy standings at each event, and you can rest assured that he’ll continue the trend at Wheeler. He knows the fishery very well after years of tournaments on the Tennessee River chain of lakes. Perhaps, as Clunn did in Florida, the old guard might show up and win another.
BUCKET E: M. LEE
Matt Lee grew up just down the road, and it’s surprising to see him in Bucket E. He’s much better than that, and I know he’ll find a way out of the bottom of the barrel. In fact, I think he’ll end up in the Top-12 on Championship Sunday in Decatur, Alabama.
Second Choice: David Walker won Wheeler the last time the Elite Series visited, he’s been awfully quiet over recent seasons, and I think that’s about to change.
Dark Horse: Chad Pipkens has been on my roster at least twice so far this year, and he’s not done well at all. That’s not the Pipkens I know as an angler, and I fully expect to see him pull himself back up the AOY ranks at this tournament.
Ignore your gut, go with science
By Coy Greathouse
After Day 1 of the Bull Shoals/Norfork Elite Series tournament, I felt like Indiana Jones running from the giant boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I really felt like finally I was going to have a good event and outrun disaster. Man… Day 2 threw me flat on my face, and that boulder rolled straight over me.
Bucket A: CHANGED
Initial Pick: Gerald Swindle (30th) 215pts
Second Guess: Britt Myers (93rd) 89pts
Difference: -126 points
Bucket B: KEPT
Initial Pick: Brent Ehrler (76th) 123pts
Second Guess: Mike McClelland (9th) 264pts
Difference: -141 points
Bucket C: KEPT
Initial Pick: Casey Scanlon (87th) 101pts
Second Guess: Brian Snowden (10th) 260pts
Difference: -159 points
Bucket D: KEPT
Initial Pick: Mark Davis (26th) 223pts
Second Guess: Ott Defoe (32nd) 211pts
Difference: +12 points
Bucket E: CHANGED
Initial Pick: Jeff Kriet (37th) 201pts
Second Guess: Fred Roumbanis (28th) 219pts
Difference: +18 points
Total actual score: 755
Total score possible based on my selections: 1181
Difference: -426 points
After reviewing the results, I realized that I was on the right track. I had the picks nailed that would have done well in this event. The problem was, I either kept the guy who tanked, changed to the guy who tanked, or in the buckets where I improved, the amount gained was inconsequential.
I had the opportunity to jump from the 31st percentile to the 57.5th percentile. However, I dropped to the 19.7th percentile with a difference in position of a WHOPPING 10,696 places. Ouch.
So what is the science? How should I make my picks for Wheeler based on this disaster.
All of my second-guesses had great records on Bull Shoals and other White River lakes, with the exception of Britt Myers, would have done well for me. Four out of five would have even been nice, so for the sake of the science, I’m going to try to base my picks solely on history and strength of techniques to be used.
BUCKET A: LOWEN
Initial Pick: Bill Lowen
When you think of deep water cranking or dragging for postspawn bass, my mind doesn’t go immediately to Lowen. However, his record proves otherwise. In has last three runs at Wheeler, he has posted a 22nd, 25th, and a 16th. At Pickwick, he has a 31st and a 10th. This one should be a no brainer.
Second Guess: Randy Howell
Randy’s history is pretty awesome with one exception, a 91st at Pickwick in 1998. His abilities have certainly improved since then. At Wheeler, he has—in chronological order: 14th, 16th, 18th, 64th, 38th, 67th, 5th, and 79th. On Pickwick: 23rd, 49th, and a 2nd, plus that 91st.
My Pick: I honestly think they’ll both do well in this event. I have to give the edge to Lowen, especially with his momentum and consistency.
BUCKET B: REESE
Initial Pick: Skeet Reese
Reese seems to tear it up everywhere. He grabbed my attention at Bull Shoals/Norfork with his huge limit at Bull Shoals to help push him into 2nd place. Eight wins on a variety of waters gives him an edge anywhere. On Wheeler, in chronological order he has a 33rd, 24th, 14th, 41st 78th and 135th.. On Pickwick he posted a 37th and a 5th. Given his ability to put his head down when he’s behind or drive forward when he’s ahead, I am comfortable banking on his crazy knack for getting it done.
Second Guess: Mark Menendez
If I had a dollar for every time I thought someone was a done deal and tanked in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, I could buy the dang 1st-place prize bass boat. However, he has an awesome history after the year 2000 with few exceptions. Menendez on Wheeler: 45th, 2nd, 8th, 12th, 7th, and 91st. Pickwick is a little less impressive, but he’s still consistently in the money: 46th, 48th and 16th. Menendez also posted a 48th and a 1st on Pickwick in the late 90s, as well.
My pick: I gotta stick with Reese. I’ve had my feelings hurt by Skeet before, but I believe he’ll continue to see solid finishes. My gut is screaming at me for not looking harder at Menendez, though.
BUCKET C: K. VANDAM
Initial Pick: Tim Horton
This guy is a hammer when it comes to this part of the country. Not only does he live in Muscle Shoals, Ala., but he typically does well anywhere he can fish offshore with cranks and jigs. This one will be right in his wheelhouse. His finishes include: 11th, 8th, 94th, 39th, 27th, 7th, 2nd, 14th, and 11th. With the exception of that one bad finish, he has a pretty impressive history. Pickwick is pretty rough though with 44th, 53rd, 114th, and 204th. Ouch.
Second Guess: Kevin VanDam
Just like all of the other pickers, I couldn’t sleep at night without throwing KVD in the mix. His history on this chain of lakes and in this area, whether that’s Guntersville, Pickwick, Wheeler, Wilson, Chickamauga, Kentucky Lake, or anywhere power fishing will be a factor, he is always in the mix.
The only problem with KVD will be that his Fantasy ownership percentage will be off the charts by the time the tournament begins. He has almost no momentum following a few rough finishes. KVD’s Wheeler finishes: 2nd, 45th, 2nd, 11th, 3rd, 11th, and 37th. Pickwick: 22nd, 57th, and 26th. I don’t even need to list his other top 12s and wins on other Tennessee River lakes.
My pick: KVD is a hands-down favorite in this event, and that will be reflected by his ownership, but I need to have him on my team.
BUCKET D: CLAUSEN
Initial Pick: Russ Lane
Anywhere Lane he can throw his big crankbait, he’s is a happy guy. He can also stick ‘em with a worm if he has to. His finishes are 7th, 36th, 51st, 10th and 64th. Lane on Pickwick: 31st and 41st. While these do not necessarily guarantee a solid finish, something tells me to stick with him. Ugh. There’s that gut again…
Second Guess: Luke Clausen
The former Bassmaster Classic champion has a back and forth history on Wheeler and Pickwick from previous FLW appearances, including: 2nd (2012) and 180th (2005). Pickwick is very similar.
My Pick: Since Bucket D doesn’t offer many choices with history; I’m rolling with Clausen. I hope not listening to my gut doesn’t come back to bite me.
BUCKET E: M. LEE
Initial Pick: Matt Lee
With a brief history with B.A.S.S., the elder Lee brother is a down-home ‘Bama boy, and he understands these lakes. I remember seeing his name on the college circuit, and I expect him to post a solid finish here.
Second Guess: David Walker
It was Wheeler Lake where Walker posted his first and only B.A.S.S. victory so far. He did it cranking a fish highway in between humps during all four days. I’m skeptical that a similar bite will be found, but he knows this lake.
My Pick: Matt Lee will be right at home on Wheeler, and that gives me confidence.
So this go-around, we’re using straight history to base my decisions. I’m intentionally ignoring my gut for the sake of science! We’ll see how it goes!
Fantasy Fishing: Go with the grass
By Ronnie Moore
The unprecedented dual-lake, four-day event on Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes was a first for the Bassmaster Elite Series, and Randall Tharp overcame his Ozark troubles to take home his first Bassmaster Elite title.
I did not pick Tharp for my Fantasy team, but this week was my best regular-season event thus far. My top two buckets actually held my worst anglers of the week (Cherry and Lester), but they were within 10 spots or so of the cut so the damage was minimal.
The positive note was that Steve Kennedy was my risky pick of the week, and he finished in the Top 12. Jeff Kriet and Ott DeFoe showed that the first two events of the year wouldn’t define their seasons, and they both made checks in Arkansas. So, I don’t look quite as dumb this time around!
The Elite Series performed a quick turnaround, as the anglers are in Decatur, Ala., for the second leg of this back-to-back swing on Wheeler Lake — the first reservoir below the legendary Lake Guntersville.
With that being said, here are my picks for Wheeler.
BUCKET A: FAIRCLOTH
Safe bet: Justin Lucas, Randy Howell, Gerald Swindle, Steve Kennedy
With the quick turnaround from Bull Shoals/Norfork to Wheeler, any kind of history or familiarity with the northern Alabama lake can’t hurt. The four Alabama anglers in Bucket A offer several safe choices.
Worth a risk: Todd Faircloth
Unless Faircloth is fishing during Championship Sunday with a Bassmaster LIVE cameraman in his boat, you may forget that he is even fishing. He is quiet and runs under the radar most of the time, but he is having a solid season so far and you can expect that to continue. Wheeler has some shoreline grass that plays to the Texas angler’s strengths, especially if the water level is right.
Gut tells me: Faircloth
With finishes of 32nd, 56th and 14th so far this year he is sitting in 18th place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. Faircloth will find them this week.
BUCKET B: B. HITE
Safe bet: Brett Hite
Anytime Brett Hite is on a fishery where there’s at least a little bit of grass, he will figure out a way to catch fish. He almost won Winyah Bay a couple weeks ago, and he has the kind of confidence to fish his strengths, regardless of what other anglers might be doing.
Worth a risk: Keith Combs
There are numerous guys in this bucket that are worth taking a risk on. In fact, this is probably the strongest bucket for Wheeler Lake. There are so many anglers with history on the lake, or those that just fish well during the early season tournaments. If anyone can find an offshore honey hole loaded with fish, my money would be on Combs.
Gut tells me: B. Hite
In all reality, Hite is just hard to beat on the Tennessee River. Whether it’s a full-fledged ledge-fishing tournament, or a shallow bite, he’s more than capable of finding the type of quality needed to win on Wheeler.
BUCKET C: J. LEE
Safe bet: Timmy Horton
Sleeping in his own bed this week, and considering Horton’s history on Tennessee River lakes are two solid reasons to make him your Bucket C choice. He did well the last time the Elite Series came to town, and although it was in June, the lake is ahead of schedule this year. The southeast had a pretty mild winter, so Wheeler is a couple weeks ahead, which could mean a surprisingly good, mid-range bite playing to Horton’s strengths.
Worth a risk: Jordan Lee
This has nothing to do with any kind of history that Jordan Lee may have with this fishery, but rather the presentations that could come into play this week. There are multiple baits that come to mind when shoreline grass and junk fishing are key components. All of this points to the younger Lee brother. Plus, he’s a little fired up after a dismal 82nd-place finish during last week’s Bull Shoals and Norfork event.
Gut tells me: J. Lee
If Jordan Lee finds a shallow pattern this week you better watch out. Two bad finishes in a row rarely happen with this guy.
BUCKET D: WILLIAMS
Safe bet: Lane brothers
Both Lane’s have struggled this season, and that has to be one of the biggest surprises after three events. They head back to the southeast where they both have a history of strong finishes after the short trip to northern Arkansas, this could be the event when they both right the ship.
Worth a risk: David Williams
There are tournaments that set up perfectly for certain anglers, and I think Wheeler could be big for Willliams. The North Carolina angler has a knack for finding spots that aren’t cluttered with anglers, and where he can explore the specific locations without much additional pressure. A little bit of shoreline grass never hurt Williams either — he’ll find the grass and the fish.
Gut tells me: Williams
Also, if there are any remnants of spawning shad, Williams will sniff them out. Topwater maybe? I think yes.
BUCKET E: NIGGEMEYER
Safe bet: David Walker… maybe
With a hodge-podge of different fishing styles in this bucket, there really aren’t any safe bets here. Except for Walker, because he won here not too long ago. It’s a little surprising to see Walker in Bucket E at this point in the season, but with a stacked Elite Series field that is always a possibility.
Worth a risk: James Niggemeyer
Every pick in Bucket E can certainly be risky so I’m taking a historically consistent angler. Niggemeyer can fish shallow grass with the best of them, and I bet the risk will be worth the reward on this one.
Gut tells me: Niggemeyer
I always seem take a big gamble at each event, why not gamble again with a high likelihood of reward? I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he makes a Top 12 on Wheeler.
Skeet Reese was the best pick at Bull Shoals/Norfork
By Thomas Allen
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. — The format of this tournament really threw a lot of the 108 Bassmaster Elite Series anglers, and Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players for a loop. Some didn’t like it all, while others enjoyed the unique aspect of the four-day event. In short, Days 1 and 4 — April 21 and 24 — were held on Norfork Lake, while Days 2 and 3 — April 22 and 23 — took place on nearby, and renowned Bull Shoals.
With lots of history on Bull Shoals, but little to review regarding Norfork, this event was once again difficult to forecast. Since both lakes are reservoirs on the White River, both should fish similarly, right? For some it did, while others simply struggled to survive.
Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., was the best selection at this event, but his success was a surprise to the bulk of Fantasy players, even though Bull Shoals and Norfork fish much like Reese’s home lakes.
Bull Shoals/Norfork’s Perfect Team:
Bucket A: Randall Tharp, 310 points
B: Bill Lowen, 285
C: Skeet Reese, 335
D: Koby Kreiger, 254
E: Casey Ashley, 231
“fishing11” picked the best roster, at the Bull Shoals/Norfork event, and is currently ranked 43rd overall with 3,507 points on the season.
Bucket A: Randall Tharp, 310 points
B: Jacob Powroznik, 276
C: Matt Herren, 330
D: Alton Jones, 239
E: Russ Lane, 225
The current overall points leader is “dubbld” with a total of 3,639 points on the season so far. His choices for Bull Shoals/Norfork:
Bucket A: Justin Lucas, 245 points
B: Mike McClelland, 264
C: Matt Herren, 330
D: Ott Defoe, 211
E: Russ Lane, 225
BUCKET A: THARP
It never hurts to select the winner. Florida angler Randall Tharp certainly wasn’t the favorite coming into this event owning only 2 percent of the bucket, but he was certainly the best choice earning 310 points for his loyal fans.
Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., and Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., were the Top-2 selections bringing in 34.2 percent and 23.5 percent respectively. Hackney didn’t disappoint by finishing in 13th and place earning his ownership 251 points. Evers however, struggled in this event and finished in 85th place earning only 105 points.
The second-best choice was Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif., who earned his 0.8-percent ownership 295 points.
The worst pick of the bucket was Terry Scroggins who finished in 104th earning his 0.4-percent ownership only 67 points.
BUCKET B: LOWEN
It’s really no surprise that Bill Lowen of Brookville, Ind., was the top-producing selection in Bucket B, but he only garnered 5.2-percent ownership. He earned his loyal Fantasy players 285 points.
Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, had the highest percentage of bucket ownership with 33.9 percent, and he earned 248 points with a 14th-place finish — he was a solid choice in Arkansas.
The second best selection was Virginian Jacob Powroznik with a sixth-place finish earning his 5.8-percent ownership 276 points.
The worst pick of the bucket was Japan’s Ken Iyobe who finished in 100th place with only 75 points.
BUCKET C: REESE
Reese claimed only 5.2-percent ownership in this bucket, but proved to be the most valuable angler of Bucket C and the entire event. The California anger earned 335 points for his second-place finish.
The strongest ownership shouldn’t come as a surprise, Oklahoma’s Jason Christie had the most support with 34.4 percent and he finished in 45th, and Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, owned 20.2 percent, but finished in a strong 11th place. Each angler is a former champion on Bull Shoals, and were obvious choices.
The second best choice was Alabama’s Matt Herren who finished 4th earning his 1.4-percent ownership 330 points.
The worst pick of the bucket, and the entire tournament, was John Hunter of Georgetown, Ky., who just came off of a Top-12 finish at Winyah Bay. It was the polar opposite in Arkansas. He finished in last place, 108th, earning only 59 points for his 0.6 percent ownership.
BUCKET D: KREIGER
Koby Kreiger of Osceola, Ind., was one of the biggest surprises of the tournament for Fantasy players. Kreiger owned only 0.2 percent of bucket ownership, but with his 12th-place finish he earned those few players 254 points.
The top-level of ownership went to Mark Davis of Mt. Ida, Ark., who brought in 25.1-percent support, while Alabama’s Chris Lane owned 21.3 percent of the bucket. Davis finished 26th while Lane dropped to 74th place.
The second best choice in this bucket was Alton Jones of Lorena, Texas, who finished 18th earning his ownership 239 points.
The worst pick of the bucket was Jay Brainard of Enid, Okla., finished in 107th place with 61 points.
BUCKET E: ASHLEY
Ironically, Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., was the worst selection of the entire Winyah Bay event, but this time around he out-produced all of the anglers in Bucket E. He earned his 11.5-percent ownership 231 points.
Top ownership went to Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla., who owned 16.9 percent of the bucket.
The second best selection was Oklahoma’s Tommy Biffle who finished in 23rd place earning 229 points.
The worst pick of the bucket was Paul Elias who finished in 106th place earning only 63 points.
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