Construct a team of 5 anglers and earn points for their performance each week.
Come back 15 minutes a week to change your roster and compete against friends, family, and other fans.
Compete for a chance to win great prizes, including a boat and motor, and $2,500 gift cards.
Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing will open up soon with a chance for you to pick your Bassmaster Classic team! In the meantime, you can join the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing Facebook group to ensure you get all updates about the 2015 season.
By Helen Northcutt
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — He never picked the perfect team and only chose the winner twice all season, but Lainsburg, Mich., angler Calvin Stier took his Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing hobby to the next level by earning a total of 10,121 points over nine Bassmaster Elite Series events in 2014.
By finishing higher than 23,000 other Fantasy Fishing players, Stier netted the competition’s grand prize of a Triton 18XS boat with a Mercury 150 Pro XS motor, Lowrance Mark 5X Fishfinder, Motorguide FW 75 24V trolling motor and single-axle trailer worth a total of more than $38,000.
“When I first started making my picks for this season, it was something I did for fun because it’s a great way to keep up with the anglers and stay involved with the tournaments,” Stier said. “But, when the year started coming to a close, winning became a reality.”
Taking the same approach throughout the entire season, Stier would base his decisions on how each angler performed on the fishery in the past and which anglers were local. Once he set his roster, he left it.
“I took a laid-back approach at the beginning,” Stier said. “I would look at Fantasy Fishing on Bassmaster.com Monday or Tuesday morning at the office. When I had the lead going into the last event, I started following it a lot closer.”
Stier’s strategy was to stay away from the big-name anglers and pick the anglers he thought were fishing the best at the time. He put more emphasis in choosing anglers in the C, D and E brackets, hoping those selections would make it into the Top 50 each tournament.
“The top brackets have a ton of great fishermen, so I put a lot of thought in the lower brackets,” Stier said. “That’s where I got more opportunity to make up some ground.”
The Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship in Escanaba, Mich., was a nail-biter for Stier, who was left waiting along with the anglers as three tournament days were canceled because of strong winds.
“Escanaba proved to be really nerve-racking,” Stier said. “We had to wait for things to shake out over three days with no fishing. I also made the mistake of telling my family I was in the lead before the event. It put a lot of stress on the situation thinking I had a legitimate shot at winning.”
On Monday, when the competition finally concluded, Stier remained in the No. 1 spot, meaning he would be the one to take home the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing grand prize. Individual tournament winners in Fantasy Fishing were also awarded $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift cards throughout the year.
“We’re a huge fishing family; it’s just part of our lifestyle,” Stier said. “And, playing Fantasy Fishing is a great opportunity for fishing fans. It’s kind of embarrassing in some ways to say my greatest achievement so far has been winning Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing.”
For more information on Bassmaster’s Fantasy Fishing competition and step-by-step instructions on how to play, visit Bassmasterfantasy.com. Registration for the 2015 tournament season will begin in early February.
By Tyler Wade
ESCANABA, Mich. — The Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing season is over. If you did well, give yourself a pat on the back and wait for next year to improve. If you did poorly, then enjoy this moment of hindsight where you can say, “Oh, man, I almost picked that guy!”
Here’s who you should have picked for the final tournament of the year:
Bucket A: Skeet Reese, 335 points
B: Justin Lucas, 272
C: Brandon Palaniuk, 257
D: Brandon Lester, 284
E: Brian Snowden, 285
Total points: 1,433 points
No player achieved a perfect score.
Skeet Reese’s big bag on the final day earned a stout 40 points for his fans, and his second-place finish earned them the remaining 295 points. If you’re one of the 4.6 percent of Fantasy Fishing players who chose him, you’re probably stoked.
Alas, more than a third of players jumped on the Aaron Martens bandwagon, based on Martens’ stellar record up North on smallmouth fisheries. Yet, Martens didn’t deliver his standard on Bays de Noc, and he turned out to be the worst pick of the bucket. So, 37.6 percent of players earned only 217 points, more than 100 points behind Reese.
The second-most-popular pick in A was Greg Hackney with 21 percent. It’s hard to think that, in Escanaba, where Hackney was outfitted with the AOY crown, that picking Hackney would be a bad call. But indeed it was. His players ended with 227 points, also more than 100 points behind Reese.
The next-best picks behind Reese were Mark Davis, 9 percent, and tournament winner Jacob Powroznik, 5.3 percent. Neither of those were bad picks, but at 310 and 305 points, respectively, players are still left wishing they had Reese on their team.
Justin Lucas attracted a scant 5.8 percent of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing owners, but he dropped the highest number of points on his believers at 272.
Still, the 11 percent who chose Chris Lane fared pretty well with his 260 points.
But B is a lot like A for this tournament. One-third of the players took Edwin Evers, and he gave them only 175 points — nearly 100 points back of Lucas.
Jason Christie was the next-most-popular pick at 19.7 percent, and he finished with 183.
Even Paul Elias, who zeroed on the second and final day, earned more points than Evers and Christie at 185. That affected virtually no one, though, because Elias was chosen by only 1.2 percent of players.
The bandwagoners got it right in Bucket C. Brandon Palaniuk, owned by 40.4 percent of players, was the highest points earner with 257.
Right behind Palaniuk with 254 points was David Walker. His 2.4 percent of players are likely not sorry they picked him with only a 3-point difference.
The next-most-popular pick was Philly champ Mike Iaconelli with 26.5 percent of votes. He was the third-highest points getter at 229, so his fans lost out on 28 points they could have gotten with Palaniuk.
The worst pick in the bucket was Morizo Shimizu, who finished with 177 points. He was owned by 6 percent of players.
Brandon Lester had only 1.8 percent of players on his side, and for them, he earned 284 points. That’s partly by virtue of his Carhartt Big Bass. Mark Davis in Bucket A caught one the same size, so the two split the 40-point bonus down the middle.
Pickers of Brett Hite, 12.7 percent of you, were only a smidge behind Lester at 281 points.
But, oh, you poor Ott DeFoe fans. DeFoe had promise in this tournament, sitting in 11th place on Day 1. DeFoe owners were in good shape, they thought. Until three days of cancellations forced DeFoe’s hand. With another obligation waiting for him, he decided to leave the tournament on the “fourth Day 2,” forfeiting a whole day of competition. He earned only 189 points — nearly 100 points behind Lester — for his 34.9 percent of players. So, Bucket D is just like B and A, with a third of the players earning the lowest number of points.
Two of the least popular picks in Bucket E earned the most points. Brian Snowden, with 4.1 percent of players to his credit, got the most at 285 points, and Andy Montgomery, with 3.8 percent of believers, earned 280.
The most popular pick was Chris Zaldain at 32.9 percent. He finished middle of the pack with 213 points.
Two other popular picks, Steve Kennedy at 9.2 percent and Jeff Kriet at 12.1 percent, zeroed on the “fourth Day 2” and earned only 179 and 181 points, respectively, for their fans.
Hindsight is 20/20. So appreciate your work on this season, and the next time you play Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, it will be for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic! Go ahead and start studying your anglers!
By Jim Root
ESCANABA, Mich. — Make sure all your bolts, screws and straps are properly tightened, fastened and in good working order. This week at Bays De Noc is going to send the 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series pros out with a bang of driving winds that will create waves so big only the event itself will be larger in comparison. Keep that in mind when you’re setting your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team.
A front pushing from the south will be toting double-digit winds that will come unabated and without mercy by the time they reach the shores of Bays De Noc. This will surely test the will to win of everyone competing this week. So who will have what it takes to fight those big waves in search of some of the biggest smallmouth in the world?
The temperature has been steadily declining, bringing about the legendary fall bite that anglers really enjoy. This sets up really well this week. I can remember previous seasons where temps reached the 80s and only dipped to the low 60s at night, and then a sudden cold snap of lows in the 30s would shut the fish right down just before one of my favorite events and make the fishing miserable for just one day. So far this doesn’t appear to be of concern because the temps continue to gradually fall, making big smallmouth easy to find because they’re feeding so heavily right now.
The moon is moving to the new phase, which will also help to keep fish feeding heavily during daylight hours and move a large wave of fish into the shad bite that happens this time of year. As the bait begin to move, the fish will, too, condensing them and making them easier to find.
But perhaps the most significant factor is the storm that’s looming over the weekend forecast. Right now, thunderstorms carrying winds with gusts in excess of 20 mph and more than half an inch of rain is predicted for Saturday. If that holds up, everyone will get a very lucky break because Saturday is reserved for pro seminars — not fishing. However, if that storm comes one day earlier or later, look out. Even the bays will be blown up and there will be no place to hide.
If the storm falls on the day of reprieve, it will bring a decrease in barometric pressure that will provide a feeding frenzy of incredible proportions. Because these fish are deep water dwellers, big rainfall like that is really not an issue like it is for largemouth, so Sunday will be business as usual for the brown fish.
This week, I like Aaron Martens, John Crews, Brandon Palaniuk, Ott DeFoe and Chris Zaldain. I’m sure those aren’t huge shockers for anybody. I do think at least one of those guys will average 25 pounds a day. Ken Duke can call that whatever he wants, Amazing Optimism, Root of all Optimism, or maybe just Jim Root’s prediction based on simple math. Either way, it’s just a prediction. I can’t be right all the time. There’s no fun in that.
See the forecast below, or click here for an up-to-the-minute version.
By Greg Huff
ESCANABA, Mich. — Are you considering a roster of lesser-owned dark horses to make a move against the field in the final week of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing competition? Before you do, be sure to factor in momentum, intangibles and angler history in summer and fall tournaments dominated by smallmouth catches. Several heavily owned favorites are likely to live up to expectations.
Base your analysis of angler history on finishes in tournaments on Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and the St. Lawrence River. My review of that tournament data helped me identify a “safe bet” and dark horse “bold bet” in each bucket.
Safe Bet — Aaron Martens (31.8 percent ownership)
Bold Bet — Jacob Powroznik (4.1 percent)
In 10 summer/fall tournaments on smallmouth waters between 2000 and 2014, Aaron Martens (31.8 percent ownership) finished outside the Top 20 only once. Of those finishes, six were Top 12s. And of those finishes, three were Top 5s — including a runner-up on Erie in August 2008. Seven of the nine tournaments he scored a Top 20 in were top-level events (one Classic, one FLW Tour event and four Elite Series events). The other two were Opens.
His last three finishes were 20th, St. Clair (Bassmaster Open); 15th, Cayuga (Elite Series); 28th, Delaware River (Elite).
Intangibles: Only 15 points behind Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year leader Greg Hackney, Martens’ history suggests he has a legitimate shot to repeat as Angler of the Year. To win AOY, Hackney must finish higher than his historical average in summer/fall smallmouth tournaments, and Martens must finish below his average.
If you need Martens to stumble in order to make a move against the huge portion of the field that picked him, consider Jacob Powroznik (4.1 percent). In nine summer/fall smallie-dominated derbies between 2004 and 2013, he finished outside the Top 50 only twice. Of those finishes, four were Top 12’s, including a third-place on the St. Lawrence River in an August 2012 FLW Everstart.
Intangibles: A strong showing assures Powroznik a Rookie of the Year title.
Last three finishes: sixth, Cayuga; 24th, Delaware River; 31st, Chickamauga (BASSfest).
Safe Bet – Edwin Evers (38.1 percent)
Bold Bet – Chad Morgenthaler (3.9 percent)
In seven comparable tournaments, Edwin Evers (38.1 percent) missed the Top 50 only twice. In addition to three finishes in the 20s or 30s, he won in July 2007 (Erie, Elites) and placed third in August 2008 (Erie, Elites).
Intangibles: Pride. Evers’ competitive fire burns hot. Last season, a great shot at AOY slipped away. This season, his name hasn’t been mentioned in the same sentence as AOY since spring. A Top 12 this week could vault him up from 16th in the AOY race to the top floor, where he’s expected to reside.
Last three finishes: fourth, Cayuga; 13th, Delaware River; 38th, Chickamauga.
Your best chance to make a significant move against the field in Bucket A is for Chad Morgenthaler (3.9 percent) to overachieve and the favorites to stumble. In four summer/fall smallmouth tournaments, he has been decent or dismal — 17th, 24th, 88th and 163rd.
Intangibles: He’s due (see his last three finishes, below). A Top 12 here and a stumble by Powroznik could make the final lap of Rookie of the Year race a little more compelling.
Last three finishes: 56th, Cayuga; 75th, Delaware River; 55th, Chickamauga.
Safe Bet — Mike Iaconelli (23.6 percent)
Bold Bet — Bill Lowen (4.4. percent)
In 11 summer/fall smallmouth-dominated tournaments, Mike Iaconelli (23.6 percent) can boast a win and four additional Top 10 finishes. In those 11 events, he finished outside the Top 50 only twice.
Last three tournaments: 19th, Cayuga (Elites); winner, Delaware River (Elites); third, Champlain (Open).
Intangibles: Few anglers are on a better roll right now than Ike. A confident Ike on Northern smallmouth waters? Watch out!
In nine summer/fall smallmouth-centric tournaments dating back to 2013, Bill Lowen finished in the Top 50 every time but one. His best finish is 13th on Erie in a 2007 Elite event. Other highlights: four finishes in the Top 20 — three on Erie, one on Lake Michigan.
Last three finishes: 43rd, Cayuga; seventh, Delaware River; 27th, Chickamauga.
Intangibles: Lowen is as consistent as they come, often weighing a very similar weight each day of the tournament. I like that quality in a tournament where you’ll likely see anglers fall from the penthouse or jump up from the cellar from day to day. At 27th in AOY points, he hasn’t been mathematically guaranteed a Classic spot yet, but Ken Duke says it will be extremely difficult to unseat anyone in the Top 32.
Safe Bet — Kevin Short (11 percent)
Bold Bet — Bernie Schultz (2 percent)
In 11 smallmouth-dominated tournaments dating back to 2007, Kevin Short (11.3 percent) has notched three Top 15 finishes. In those 11 events, he finished outside of the Top 50 only three times.
Last three finishes: ninth, Cayuga; fourth, Delaware River; 63rd, Chickamauga.
Intangibles: Huge. Read this column by Don Barone.
Despite hailing from Florida, Bernie Schultz (2 percent) often excels in tournaments on Northern smallmouth waters. That history makes him a great value this week.
In nine smallie-centric tournaments between 2000 and 2013, he finished in the Top 10 twice (sixth and ninth) and outside of the Top 50 only three times.
Intangibles: Another Top 12 here and Schultz could be Classic-bound.
Last three finishes: 37th, Cayuga; 29th, Delaware River; 99th, Chickamauga.
Safe Bet — Davy Hite, 6.2 percent
Bold Bet — Brian Snowden, 2.9 percent
In seven tournaments on smallie waters dating back to 2000, Davy Hite (6 percent) won once (St. Clair, 2001), notched two finishes in the 30s, and finished outside of the Top 50 only three times. It’s not great history, but better than most in Bucket E.
Intangibles: It’s go big or go home for all anglers ranked 46th or lower. Hite needs a huge week to earn a Classic berth.
Last four finishes: 24th, Cayuga; 92nd, Delaware River; 16th, Chickamauga; 27th, Dardanelle.
In six tournaments on smallmouth waters dating back to 2007, Brian Snowden (2.9 percent) finished in the Top 30 three times, the best of which was 15th in August 2008. In those events, he finished outside of the Top 50 only twice (52nd and 71st).
Last three finishes: 41st, Cayuga; 32nd, Delaware River; 46th, Chickamauga.
Want to discuss your picks? Join the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing group on Facebook.
Be sure to set your lineup by the time the pros launch on Sept. 18.
By Ronnie Moore
ESCANABA, Mich. — This week is something different for the Bassmaster Elite Series. The Top 50 anglers in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings will compete in the final event of the season with two major achievements yet undecided: AOY title and Classic berths.
Three anglers still hope to claim the Angler of the Year title (Greg Hackney, Aaron Martens and Todd Faircloth) while at least a dozen anglers teeter on the edge of 2015 Bassmaster Classic qualification, depending on where the final line is drawn. No one knows what will prevail, but here are some choices for your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team that I think deserve a look or two.
Take Mark Davis…
…but keep an eye on Aaron Martens.
Something can be said for Mark Davis’ remarkable start to the 2014 season, but his midseason drought set him back. However, he is coming off a Top 12 at Cayuga and proved to be a great finesse fisherman when it comes to smallmouth fisheries.
Last season, Davis finished second place on Lake St. Clair to end the season. I could see a similar result this go-round and maybe Davis can get the victory that slightly evaded him early this season.
To say that Aaron Martens is a favorite pick of this event is an understatement. Time-in and time-out, he has excelled when the Elites head North to smallmouth waters. He is probably the best finesse fisherman ever to fish in the Elite Series. The only reason he isn’t my initial choice is because 32.2 percent of Fantasy Fishing teams chose Martens, while Davis was a safe/cheap option at only 6.1 percent.
Take John Crews…
…but keep an eye on Chris Lane.
John Crews has been a familiar pick for me this season, and his consistency on diverse waters is noted. He has cashed a check in all but three events — and even in those, he still finished in the 50s. Most anglers would welcome the season this Virginia angler is having. He is a good finesse fisherman, and whether he is targeting largemouth, spotted bass or smallmouth, he is a consistent bet everywhere the Elites travel.
Chris Lane won the final event last season on Lake St. Clair and, even though he is known as a power fisherman from the South, he isn’t afraid to pick up a spinning rod and land quality fish. Most recently he did so on the Delaware River when he had a magical final day to vault up the leaderboard. Expect a good finish from the St. Johns River champion. He can swing for the fences because his Classic qualification is already secured.
Take Morizo Shimizu…
…but keep an eye on Brandon Palaniuk.
Morizo Shimizu is one of the most animated anglers on the water and at weigh-in. He gets excited catching big fish. I can see the Japanese angler catching some big smallmouth this week and possibly doing it in a different way than most anglers. If you recently checked out the photo gallery of inside Shimizu’s boat, then you know he has some baits that fish have never seen and that has truly helped him on the Elite Series. A low percentage buy is worth the minimal risk.
Brandon Palaniuk has made a name for himself in the “go big or go home” aspect of competitive bass fishing. Don’t forget the St. Lawrence River event when he made very long runs and risked it all to make it to the Bassmaster Classic. He made it, and in these events, he is never far from making a run at a victory.
Take Cliff Pirch…
…but keep an eye on Ott DeFoe.
Western angler Cliff Pirch has plenty of finesse experience and is good at finding quality schools of deep fish. I expect Pirch to have very consistent weights each day of this event.
Ott DeFoe competed in the Northern Open on Lake St. Clair last week and ended up weighing in mostly largemouth. If an angler could find a largemouth pattern and make it work in a predominantly smallmouth tournament, DeFoe can.
Take Chris Zaldain…
…but keep an eye on Casey Scanlon.
Chris Zaldain has been on a tear the last half of the season. Even after a slow start to the season, he was able to punch his ticket to the AOY championship event. Now, the Elites are heading to a smallmouth fishery, and that is where Zaldain can thrive. Like Palaniuk, he has a different mindset when it comes to making long runs and finding his own fish. He certainly found a honey hole at Cayuga, but he had to share that with one of the world’s best — Todd Faircloth. I expect Zaldain to make one heck of a charge to try and make it onto the Bassmaster Classic roster.
The secondary pick in Bucket E was a difficult choice, but I think Casey Scanlon could have a good showing in Michigan. Scanlon finished 17th on the St. Lawrence River last year, and he could do the same in this smallmouth factory.
Want to discuss your picks? Join the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing group on Facebook.
Be sure to set your lineup by the time the pros launch on Sept. 18.
By Pete Robbins
With one event left to go in the Elite Series season, I’m ahead of 91.9 percent of the other Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players worldwide. That sounds pretty darn good — until you realize that puts me in about 8 billionth place (actually, just a little past 2,000th, which for practical purposes might as well be higher).
I suppose it’s mathematically possible that I could pass them if they all pick a slate of losers for the Escanaba rodeo, but it seems highly unlikely. You’ll have to get the likes of Stephen Hawking or Ken Duke to crunch the numbers on that.
In the meantime, I’m going to just try to move as far up the ladder as I can. Being in the 95th percentile would be great, but 85th isn’t all that atrocious (and they pay the same!), so it makes sense for me to take some risks. Unfortunately, that’s harder to do with 10-man buckets than with 20-man buckets. Still, it likely means I have to avoid the pros with a more than 30 percent ownership rate like the plague.
I suppose I could cement my “opposite day” strategy by conspicuously avoiding local favorites, but that won’t be a hard row for anyone to hoe: All four home state Elite Series anglers failed to make the 50-cut. As a side note, while researching this column I learned that there is serious debate about whether people from Michigan should be called “Michiganders” or “Michiganians.” Fortunately for the B.A.S.S. writers (but unfortunately for home state fans) there will be no need to come down on one side or the other because Kevin VanDam, Nate Wellman, Chad Pipkens and Jonathon VanDam all missed the Top 50 by relatively small margins.
To put that into perspective, there will be more anglers from Idaho — one — in the field than will be from Michigan.
There will also be more anglers from other far-flung locales. I count six current or past Californians, three Arizonans and two pros from Japan (although one now calls Texas home).
The other thing that makes this one tough is that these guys have all been catching them — whether all season long or for a portion thereof. There’s no dead weight in this group, no list of guys who’d seem to have no chance against their colleagues. My goal is to avoid the anglers picked by a high percentage of Fantasy Fishing players, and if I can find a low-ownership bargain, so much the better. With that in mind, here are my picks:
Picked: Jared Lintner
Almost Picked: Todd Faircloth
Todd Faircloth is like a blue chip stock. There may be an occasional hiccup, but in the long term he’ll rarely disappoint you, and he catches them everywhere, from Florida to Texas to the Great Lakes.
Still, if I’m going to make a move, I need to make a low-ownership choice, and Jared Lintner has had a quietly remarkable season, with five finishes between fifth and 18th. You may wonder what I’m doing picking a Californian for a Great Lakes tournament, but check out this pic I received from his wife, Keri — a youthful Jared putting a hurting on the toothy critters shows that he’s been stealthily pre-fishing for 35 years.
Picked: Justin Lucas
Almost Picked: Jason Christie
Justin Lucas is another Californian — well, at least a former Californian, although his current home in Alabama isn’t much closer to northern Michigan. Lucas is on pace to make his first Classic this year and hasn’t missed a check since Toledo Bend the first week of May. Besides, he qualified for the Elites out of the Northern Opens, with ninth-, 23rd- and 30th-place finishes last year.
Despite a previous Open win on St. Clair, Jason Christie’s ownership percentage is just a little too high to really help me at this point in the season.
Picked: Mike McClelland
Almost Picked: Mike Iaconelli
Obviously a lot of fans are banking on Brandon Palaniuk to bring home the trophy, and certainly he’s a master of Northern smallmouths. So is Mike Iaconelli. Moreover, like Lucas, Ike hasn’t missed an Elite check since Toledo Bend, and has finished in the Top 6 in three of his past five Elite Series tournaments, with a 19th at Cayuga as well.
Still, I’ve got to go with a single-digit ownership guy, and I’m banking on McClelland. I just somehow feel that he’ll make something happen with the jerkbait while others are getting it done with soft plastics, and he might have that bite to himself.
Picked: Kevin Short
Almost Picked: Bernie Schultz
As I recently implied on Bassmaster.com, Kevin Short may have spent more time on Bay de Noc than any other man in this field. Normally, that doesn’t give you a huge advantage in the Elites: After all, the magazines and websites are littered with stories of hometown favorites who failed miserably in tournaments in which they were able to sleep in their own beds.
It will give Short a slight advantage in terms of navigation, as he won’t have to spend precious practice time learning where he can/can’t run, but that’s about it. Nevertheless, after I pointedly did not pick him for the Delaware, he gave me a serious case of the stink eye, so I’m sticking with him as long as he continues to fish like he did in Philly and at Cayuga. He’s on the Classic bubble, too, and I’m sure he’d give just about anything to get back to Hartwell, the site of his first Classic appearance.
Bernie Schultz has also been on a tear of late. The eight-time Classic qualifier may need to move up a few spots to get in the big dance, which he hasn’t visited since 2009. He also typically does quite well in the North country, so it was tough for me to pass him up.
Picked: Jeff Kriet
Almost Picked: Steve Kennedy
Like Short, Steve Kennedy has vacationed in Escanaba on multiple occasions and knows his way around, so I want to pick him, and I may regret not doing so. On the other hand, Kennedy, like Ish Monroe and Tommy Biffle, is Fantasy Fishing kryptonite to me — just as likely to come in 90th (or in this case 50th) as he is to win.
I know I said above that it was in my best interest to gamble, but with roughly equal ownership percentages, I’m going with Jeff Kriet. He’ll be there with his traveling buddy McClelland, so count me as going all-in on Peepaw and the Squirrel. Kriet will need a high finish to move into the Classic field out of 41st place. Certainly all of them will be motivated to get to Hartwell, but it would likely be extra special for Kriet because the South Carolina impoundment sets up well for his style of fishing. He finished sixth there in 2008.
UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. — Greg Hackney was not only the star of the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake. He was also the star of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, not just because of his win, but also because he caught the biggest bag of the tournament and earned the commensurate 40-point bonus.
Here’s the perfect team:
Bucket A: Greg Hackney, 355 points
B: Edwin Evers, 285
C: Chris Zaldain, 290
D: Brent Chapman, 272
E: James Elam, 209
No Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing player picked the perfect team.
Here’s the breakdown, bucket by bucket.
Greg Hackney’s 355 points is an impressive number achieved by only one other pro this season — Chris Lane at the St. Johns. It’s 300 points for a win, 40 for a big bag and three days of 5 bonus points for being the leader. So if you were one of the 9.6 percent of people who chose Hackney for Cayuga, you were the fortunate winner of not just points for this tournament but extra overall points leading toward the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing grand prize.
But, as always, Bucket A is full of good choices that are tough to sort through. The highest number of confidence points went to Aaron Martens, who was chosen by 16.4 percent of players. Although he didn’t perform terribly, his owners got 245 points — strong compared to most of the bucket, yet more than 100 points behind Hackney owners.
Jason Christie, who rarely disappoints, had 12.5 percent of the vote, but he scored the third-lowest of the bucket with 121 points. That’s really tough on his owners, who earned more than 230 points less than Hackney owners. That’s a big swing to be on the losing end of.
Two other high-percentage picks were Dean Rojas, 10.5 percent, 257 points, and Skeet Reese, 11.6 percent, 175 points.
The worst pick of the bucket was Takahiro Omori, who delivered only 95 points. But only 0.6 percent of players chose him, so not many were stuck with such low points.
The next-best picks behind Hackney were Jacob Powroznik, Todd Faircloth and Jared Lintner. Powroznik, who garnered only 2.2 percent of players, earned 316 points for his fans, which includes a 40-point boost for bringing the biggest bass to the scales. Faircloth, with 7.2 percent, got 295 points, and Lintner, with only 0.6 percent, earned 280.
Edwin Evers, who had a rough start this season, was the biggest points earner in Bucket B with 285. Because he’s been in lower buckets most of the season, he has repeatedly been the highest-owned angler in his respective bucket. That’s not so this time. He had a respectable 11 percent, but that was largely overshadowed by two huge names with whom he shared the bucket: Mike Iaconelli and Kevin VanDam.
Many fans felt Iaconelli’s momentum from his win a couple of weeks ago would lead to another top performance. They were partly right; he did well, but he wasn’t top dog. His 27 percent of fans earned 237 points, which is only about 50 points behind Evers. So he wasn’t a horrible pick, but Evers was obviously better.
Likewise, many fans felt VanDam was going to blow this one out. It was his last shot to make the Bassmaster Classic, and seeing as how he hasn’t missed a Classic since he started fishing professionally in 1991, it seemed like a safe bet that he would go into overdrive on Cayuga and — if he didn’t get a win — would at least deliver a Top 5 performance.
His 21.6 percent of players were left disappointed, though, with only 135 points to their credit. That’s 150 points behind Evers. Ouch. However, this weekend’s tournament was a much bigger blow to Kevin VanDam himself than to Kevin VanDam’s Fantasy Fishing owners. As comfort to those who picked him, you did do better than 12.1 percent of field, who chose lower performers. So there’s that.
The 9.2 percent of Brandon Palaniuk owners can rejoice, thanks to the 273 points he scored for them. He was the next-best pick behind Evers, with only 12 points less than the leader. And Matt Herren was right behind with 260 points, but only 0.7 percent of players reaped that benefit.
Chris Zaldain has been a Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing star this season. Always mired in lower buckets, he’s delivered very strong performances three times, and this was one of them. Zaldain was owned by 8.6 percent of the bucket, and this time, he earned his owners 290 points.
Next behind him was Kevin Short, 26 points back with 264. Short was owned by 5 percent of players. Brandon Lester was the next-best pick with 241 points to his 1.5 percent of players.
The most-picked anglers didn’t deliver well. Fred Roumbanis was the top pick at 19.5 percent, but his owners lost out on nearly 60 valuable points by picking him instead of Zaldain. Roumbanis scored 233.
Behind Roumbanis in popularity were Shaw Grigsby (13.5 percent, 165 points), Chad Pipkens (11.3 percent, 147 points) and Jeff Kriet (10.1 percent, 191 points).
Choosing recent Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Brent Chapman in Bucket D was the way to go. He earned 272 points for his fans, and he was chosen by 15.3 percent of players.
Jonathon VanDam was the worst pick in all of Fantasy Fishing two weeks ago on the Delaware River, but regardless, 15.7 percent of players had faith and picked him this time around. He was fifth in the bucket, earning 195 points, but that’s still nearly 80 points behind Chapman.
Ish Monroe, who just moved up from Bucket E to D, was owned by 16.7 percent of fans and came in with 177 points.
The biggest pick of D was Hank Cherry at 28.3 percent, but those fans were left with a disappointing 113-point finish, meaning more than a quarter of players ended 159 points back of Chapman owners.
The best picks behind Chapman were Brandon Card with 235 points and Derek Remitz with 211. But only 1.6 and 0.9 percent of players, respectively, picked them, and Card’s and Remitz’s points weren’t that close to Chapman’s.
James Elam won Bucket E with 209 points, but very few people — only 0.3 percent — reaped that reward. If you didn’t pick him, you should have gotten Matt Reed, 197 points, or Tracy Adams, 187, but almost no one did, at 1 and 3 percent respectively.
Instead, most people selected Boyd Duckett, 34.9 percent, Yusuke Miyazaki, 11.1 percent, or Joe Sancho, 11.8 percent. Two of those didn’t turn out to be great picks.
Duckett was fourth in the bucket with 181 points. That’s 28 points back of Elam, but really, considering how few people chose Elam, Reed or Adams, players did well with Duckett. Even though the pickers of the top performers had small gains on Duckett owners, the ones who chose Duckett were only beaten by 4.3 percent of the field, so that’s not bad.
However, Miyazaki and Sancho owners paid for their choice. Miyazaki earned only 87 points and Sancho — the local — earned 69. Their owners were beaten by at least three-quarters of players, most of whom had at least 100 points in their favor.
If you’ve failed to put together a winning team so far this season — or ever — you’ve got one more chance. The Top 50 anglers will compete on Bays de Noc in Escanaba, Mich., on Sept. 18-21, and you’ll get to play along in Fantasy Fishing. The buckets will work the same; you’ll just have 10 anglers to pick from in each bucket. So that could make it harder — or easier? — to choose your anglers.
By Greg Huff
UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. — Although largemouth will outnumber smallmouth this week, don’t overload on shallow grass guys on your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team. Docks and deep weedlines will lead to Top 12 finishes, too, and you might need at least one roster pick to target smallmouth.
Because the Elite Series has never visited Cayuga (and only a few in the field competed in the 2012 Open there), we’ll consider angler history on three other New York fisheries — Oneida, Champlain and the St. Lawrence River.
We’re not going to factor in angler history on Lake Erie, however, because to win, place and show in those tournaments, you’ve got to target smallmouth. By all accounts, Cayuga will be won with largemouth — although you will see several mixed bags. Cayuga has smallies, but it does not feature the humps and reefs found in other New York fisheries, so the offshore brown bass here are much harder to find and pattern.
That being said, several smallmouth will be caught on deep weedlines that also hold largemouth. Green bass will come from grass shallower than a foot, from underneath docks and from the deep weedline edge out to 16 to 20 feet.
In each bucket, I’ve made a “Best Bet,” “Safe Bet” and “Bold Bet” pick, based on a combination of Fantasy Fishing ownership, momentum heading into the tournament and past history on Cayuga or other New York fisheries not dominated by smallmouth.
If you’re leading your Fantasy league, err toward the more conservative “Safe Bet” picks. Those anglers, while very likely to finish high, won’t help you as much against the field, because they have high ownership. If you’re in the middle of the pack, consider more of the “Best Bet” picks, which comprise anglers with similar histories in New York but lower ownership percentages.
If you’re in the back of the pack and really need make a move against the field, you’ll want to roll the dice on at least three “Bold Bet” picks, which mostly feature high-risk/high-reward anglers with very low ownership percentages.
Best Bet: Dean Rojas
Safe Bet: Skeet Reese
Bold Bet: Aaron Martens
Dean Rojas (4.3 percent ownership), has a great history in New York in the summer. When the shallow-grass frog bite is on, he’s hard to beat.
In five July/August Elite events on Oneida between 2006 and 2009, Rojas finished in the Top 5 three times (first, third and fourth), and only once out of the money. In five events on Champlain between 2002 and 2006, he notched a runner-up and a 12th-place finish, and only missed making a check once.
Coming off a sixth-place finish on the Delaware River, Skeet Reese (14.1 percent) also has a decent history in New York summer tournaments. In five Elite Series events between 2006 and 2012, he notched one Top 10, two additional Top 20s, and never finished out of the money. Additionally, he finished second on Champlain in a late July 2007 Elite Series event.
Despite his 23.3 percent ownership, Aaron Martens is my “Bold Bet” because he’s more likely than others to target offshore smallmouth with finesse tactics while the rest of the field power fishes for shallow largemouth. That’s a pretty big gamble here — especially when shallow-water specialist Greg Hackney (7.7 percent) is leading the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race over Martens by a mere ounce. But if he finds some giants, he’ll likely have them all to himself.
Note: In my Fantasy Fishing Insider podcast, Bassmaster TV co-host Mark Zona said Martens and Hackney will be factors this week. He said he’d give the nod to Hackney, but Martens will be “the X factor.”
Best Bet: Bernie Schultz
Safe Bet: Mike Iaconelli
Bold Bet: Steve Kennedy
In five Elite Series events on Oneida between 2006 and 2013, Bernie Schultz (0.4 percent) made the final-day 12-cut every time. Last August on the St. Lawrence River, Schultz took a chance on a shallow bite, when most other top contenders were fishing deep with drop shot rigs. The gamble paid off with a sixth-place finish, his best since Bassmaster launched the Elite Series tournament format in 2006.
Having already qualified for the Classic, Mike Iaconelli (28.1%) can fish to win, unlike many others in Bucket B, who must fish more conservatively to manage their AOY points. A bomb here could potentially drop them out of the Top 50, preventing them from fishing in the final tournament of the year.
In seven tournaments on Oneida, Iaconelli notched five Top 10s (two of them Top 5s) and only finished out of the Top 50 once. Of those events, five were Elite Series events and two were Opens. He’s also good friends with Pete Gluszek, who won the 2012 Open on Cayuga.
Zona said Ike won’t be “shy of ammo for this tournament.”
In five Elite Series events on Oneida between 2006 and 2012, Stephen Kennedy (1.1 percent) scored a runner-up and sixth-place finish, as well as another Top 20. In seven trips to Lake Champlain, Kennedy notched a third-place finish, a 15th and 20th. On the St. Lawrence River last August, he placed seventh.
Kennedy’s also got some momentum. Last week, he placed fifth, fishing shallow, in the Forrest Wood Cup. The week before, he placed 16th on the Delaware River.
Best Bet: Chad Pipkens
Safe Bet: Jeff Kriet
Bold Bet: Andy Montgomery
A Michigan native used to weighing mixed bags of largemouth and smallmouth, Chad Pipkens (10.4%) has a lot of history on New York waters. In 11 events between 2008 and 2013, he’s notched three Top 10s — an eighth and ninth in two FLW Everstart events and an impressive 10th last August in the Elite Series event on the St. Lawrence River. Also in the mix are a Top 20 and two Top 50s in New York. Consider that he’s coming off a 12th-place showing in the brutal Delaware River event, and Pipkens looks even better.
Zona told me Jeff Kriet “will be a headache in this tournament.” I agree; Kriet has both momentum and history on his side. In four summer Elite events on Oneida alone, he finished second and 11th. He also finished 24th on Champlain in Elite competition. Kriet is coming into Cayuga on the strength of a Top 20 finish on the Delaware River.
There’s a lot of fish-holding docks on Cayuga, and Andy Montgomery (3.8 percent) is one of the best dock-skipping aces in the game. He also fared well on the Delaware (27th) and has a Top 5 and a Top 20 in summer events on Champlain. Note: Gluszek’s winning Open game plan included fishing docks, in addition to deep, mid-lake weedlines.
Best Bet: Brent Chapman
Safe Bet: J. Todd Tucker
Bold Bet: Kotaro Kiriyama
Sitting at 68th in AOY points, Brent Chapman (11.8 percent) needs a great finish this week to keep alive hopes of qualifying for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic. I think he’s up to the challenge. Although he’s coming off an 89th-place finish on the Delaware, the bright spots in his history in New York in the summer should encourage him — a second and 13th on Champlain, and a sixth on Oneida. He made the Top 50 in seven of 11 events on those two fisheries.
J Todd Tucker (0.3 percent) has some stellar finishes in summer New York tournaments. In eight events on Oneida and Champlain, he made the Top 50 in six. His best finishes are eighth (twice), 10th and 15th. Like Chapman, though, he bombed on the Delaware (91st), so he’ll need to rebound well and get his head right.
If big smallmouth live in the zip code, you can bet Kotaro Kiriyama (3.1%) will try to find ’em. And if he does, watch out! He’s dominated several smallie-centric derbies in New York and elsewhere. Few will target smallmouth, so he could potentially have some schools to himself. But smallie schools are much harder to find offshore in Cayuga than on Oneida and Champlain, where Top 12 anglers have targeted them. Kota’s history in New York indicate he can weigh a pretty heavy mixed bag. In 15 events on Oneida and Champlain between 2005 and 2013, he made 10 Top 50s. Two of those were Top 5s, one was a Top 10, and two were Top 20s.
Best Bet: Boyd Duckett
Safe Bet: Boyd Duckett
Bold Bet: Tracy Adams
Boyd Duckett (30.5 percent) has both momentum and history going for him. Coming off a Top 12 on the Delaware River, he’ll be fishing water similar to that found on Oneida and Champlain, where he’s finished first and 15th, and eighth, respectively.
In nine events on Oneida or Champlain between 2007 and 2013, Tracy Adams (1.8 percent) made the Top 50 five times, including an FLW Tour win on Champlain in summer 2006. Other highlights are a runner-up on Oneida in the 2013 Open, and a third-place on the 2010 Open on Champlain.
By Ronnie Moore
UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. — After a fantastic Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing event on the Delaware River, I hope to keep it rolling as the Elites head farther north to Cayuga Lake.
Last event, I stuck to the river rats and cashed in more than 1,100 points, 200 more than the average score. This event is different because I don’t know much about Cayuga, but from what I’ve heard, largemouth may be the way to go for the better weights. I expect many mixed bags of smallmouth and largemouth to propel anglers into the Top 12.
Take Justin Lucas …
… but keep an eye on Cliff Crochet.
Justin Lucas excels at Southern fisheries, and he proved it early in the season. Although Cayuga is a Northern finger lake, I fully expect it to be a grass tournament. Grass should dictate the bite, and Lucas is not new to fishing in and around the green stuff.
Cliff Crochet is having a fantastic season and now he gets to pick up his frog rod (as if he ever put it down) and attack the shallows like Dean Rojas did a few years ago on Oneida Lake. In and on top of the grass should be the way to go this week.
Take Brett Hite …
… but keep an eye on Randy Howell.
Even though the Chatterbait is perceived as a prespawn lure, Brett Hite is so in-tune with this technique that he can make it work wherever and whenever he sees fit. Shallow grass is perfect for this technique, but in his win on Lake Seminole earlier this year, Hite targeted a little deeper grass because it was a highway for those incoming and outgoing bass. I expect the same this event for the Arizona pro.
Randy Howell is one of the best junk fishermen, and he seems to grind it out no matter where the Elites travel. I’m not saying Howell will win this event, but he is a safe bet to do well. The Delaware River threw a wrench in many anglers’ seasons, including Howell’s — he finished 76th. I expect a bounce-back event for the reigning Classic champ.
Take Fred Roumbanis …
… but keep an eye on Brandon Lester.
Fred Roumbanis knows how to fish a frog — very well. Same deal with some of the other picks, he fishes around grass very well, and I think he is even more motivated than normal. With a 17th-place finish on the Delaware and his new membership in the B.A.S.S. Millionaires Club, his sights are set on the Top 50 in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. To fish the final event in Michigan, anglers need to be in the Top 50; he is in 60th. Even though it seems so far away, Roumbanis can jump into contention with another Top 20 finish.
Brandon Lester is sixth in the Rookie of the Year standings, but he is actually the first genuine rookie who appears on the list. Anglers like Jacob Powroznik, Chad Morgenthaler, Brett Hite, Justin Lucas and Randall Tharp came from FLW and other series to fish the Elites. So for Lester to jump into the highest and most competitive series there is and be 46th in the AOY standings says a lot. I think he will fish his strengths and come away with a good finish and punch his ticket to Escanaba.
Take Hank Cherry …
… but keep an eye on Brent Chapman.
Hank Cherry has had an up-and-down season thus far, but last year’s Rookie of the Year is still a force to be reckoned with in specific tournaments. He is arguably the best jerkbait fisherman in the Elite Series field and during last year’s All Star week event he showed why…winning the tournament. I think he could find a way to be successful with his favorite technique on Cayuga as well.
Former Angler of the Year Brent Chapman is due for a really good finish to end this season. His last 50-cut was at Toledo Bend. I expect him to be one of the anglers to weigh in a mixed bag of smallmouth and largemouth each day of this event.
Take Grant Goldbeck …
… but keep an eye on Boyd Duckett.
There is something in my gut saying that Grant Goldbeck will be successful this week on Cayuga Lake. It has been a struggle this season, but every year you can expect everything to go right for an unsuspecting angler. I think Goldbeck can do it up North. He is used to fishing plenty of grass around the Potomac River area, and sometimes a shot in the dark hits the target. Plus the percentage of owners is low, so a Top 50 finish will bump his owners up higher than others.
I would pick Boyd Duckett here because of his recent success, but it’s one of those “when will it end?” kind of trends. Duckett called himself out this summer about poor finishes and then he did well at BASSFest and notched a Top 12 on the Delaware River. So things are looking up for the former Classic champ.
Set your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team for Cayuga Lake now, and discuss your picks in the new group on Facebook.
UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. — First off, welcome to my home lake.
Having lived on the Eastern Shore in Aurora for two years, it’s no wonder I call Cayuga my home lake. It’s unique and can be incredibly challenging if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
This vast body of water will fish small to some, and endless to others. It will offer the opportunity for anglers to fish their strengths, whether they are deep or shallow, and could set up to be one of the favorite lakes on the Elite Series in 2014 for a few.
I’m sure by now many people are tired of hearing about how cold last winter was. However, many lakes in New York were still frozen over (at least partially) on April 1. These late cold temps caused a serious delay in the growth of the hydrilla and milfoil grasses.
While much of the lake has recovered for the most part, it’s still behind in terms of where it would have been under milder circumstances. It has condensed the fish into tighter groups and made for some unbelievable weights thus far for the anglers who can find them.
What traditionally has required fairly modest weights to win or do well won’t cut it this week. Every week, winners are bringing in 24 pounds, and the New York B.A.S.S. Nation big bass record of almost 8 pounds was caught less than a month ago.
Factor in that the Elite Series pros are the best in the world and are hungry following the stingier Delaware River, and you have yourself the makings of a slug fest.
Cayuga sets up a lot like California lakes, which should give Chris Zaldain a big advantage this week. It’s roughly 500 feet deep and offers crystal clear visibility of nearly 20 feet in some places. Stocked with brown trout, lake trout and landlocked salmon, there’s really no shortage of forage for bass to feast on.
And while the tournaments here are dominated by largemouth bass, it’s not because the smallmouth don’t exist. Expect to see them this week. While those who flip grass will find it really congested from time to time, anyone targeting smallmouth or schooling fish and finding the larger of those will be alone. Cliff Pace would love this lake.
What will be the biggest factor this week will be a forecast that could be rougher than what most people find ideal, but that sets up really nicely for big swimbait guys. When winds blow in double digits from the north or sout, it can get nautical in a hurry, and four days this week are showing potential for that.
If the winds blow that hard, it’ll force many guys off the main lake and into the channel at the north end or smaller bays where the reprieve will be minimal. To some, this might sound impossible, but with the recently passing supermoon and moderate temps, I really think that the winner will break 100 pounds this week.
Many anglers have compared this lake to Oneida. There are some similarities, and the people who have done well there should do well here also.
For Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, I like Randall Tharp, Hank Cherry, Brandon Palaniuk, Chris Zaldain, and New York native Joe Sancho, who probably knows this lake better than anyone else this week.
See the 10-day forecast below, and click here for up-to-the-minute weather this week, provided by Weather Underground.
By Pete Robbins
UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. — I salvaged a decent finish in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing at the Delaware River largely on the strength of picking Ike, like the rest of the free world.
While I missed out on Bill Lowen and Kevin Short (the latter of whom competed in the same bucket as Ike), I only truly bombed with picking Joe Sancho in Bucket E. I desperately wanted to pick Boyd Duckett, but his performance to that point had been decidedly un-Duckett-like and I couldn’t pull the trigger. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
Fortunately, Ott Defoe and Jacob Powroznik showed up to play and Stephen Browning snuck into the check line. Once again, my hypothesis that “winners win” will be my guiding light this week.
While Cayuga isn’t as much of an unknown as the Delaware, the lake has yet to host an Elite Series event. Many of the competitors fished a 2012 Northern Open there, including James Niggemeyer (third), Mike Iaconelli (fifth), Ish Monroe (13th), Chad Pipkens (19th) and Kurt Dove (21st), and of course most of the field has fished one or more events on Oneida, so this one isn’t going to take anyone by surprise.
Also, it’s a relatively small lake, so unlike the Delaware, there probably won’t be any secret hidey-holes left to be discovered at the end of 2 1/2 days of practice.
The other complicating factor is that this is the last full-field regular season event of the year. There are some notable names trying to establish position for the Angler of the Year race, others trying to get into the Classic, and still others just trying to get into the final 50-man cut for Escanaba.
Additionally, the FLW Cup is taking place this week, so for a few guys — including Jason Christie, Randall Tharp, Matt Herren, Steve Kennedy and Casey Ashley — I might have considered, I’m ruling them out because of the Philly-Carolina-New York slog.
With all of that in mind, here are my picks:
Picked: Dean Rojas
Second Choice: Skeet Reese
It’s tough not to pick Skeet Reese here because he’s fishing out of his mind right now. While most of the talk about AOY has concerned Mark Davis, Greg Hackney and Aaron Martens, there’s the yellow killer in third.
Reese has earned a check in the last five events he’s fished, and six of seven this year, including three Top 12 finishes and a 13th place. He’s going to get you some points and could very well claim another AOY title.
Still, I can’t forget seeing Rojas at Oneida in 2008, holding the big Kermit doll on stage to celebrate his win. If the final day hadn’t been held on Onondoga in 2007, he probably would’ve won that one, too. They always say that all of the obvious frog fish will be picked off in practice or early in the event, and still he always finds a way to make bass — big bass — bite his SPRO frog.
Picked: Mike Iaconelli
Second Choice: Kevin VanDam
I know, not original and their ownership totals tell the tale that I haven’t made a dark horse pick by any stretch of the imagination, but I can’t resist.
Ike is fishing incredibly well, with the win in Delaware and the near-win the week before on Champlain. Combine that with his previous finish on Cayuga and I think that’s a nearly foolproof winning hand.
Still, I flip-flopped back and forth between him and KVD quite a few times. KVD is currently outside the Classic cut and not far enough inside the Top 50 cut for comfort. It would boggle my mind if he missed either of them, and that’s going to take a Top 20 finish here. I can’t imagine him not getting that done, but it might not matter for Fantasy Fishing purposes if Ike gets a Top 5.
Picked: Chad Pipkens
Second Choice: Shaw Grigsby
The fifth-place finish on the Delaware might have given Shaw some momentum after missing a check at every event since Seminole. That has him in 56th in AOY, 12 points out of the 50 cut, so he has everything to gain. Despite the Florida mailing address, he’s a veteran with a lot of experience up North, but his experiences at Oneida are average.
Pipkens, likewise, made the Top 12 at the Delaware. Certainly, he hopes that finish has turned his season around after three straight times of missing the money (including BASSfest and Champlain). As noted above, he had a good tournament at Cayuga in 2012, which helped him to get into the Elites. Right now he’s in 50th, the bubble boy for Escanaba, and you can be sure that he wants to fish the event in his home state. At less than 10 percent ownership, he could be a steal.
Picked: Ish Monroe
Second Choice: Hank Cherry
For the same reason I’m picking Rojas, I’m sticking with Ish, whom I often shy away from because he seems just as likely to take a big swing and miss as he does to win a tournament. But if it’s a frogging and flipping deal, he’ll stick with those until the last possible minute. He finished well here in 2012 and won the Oneida Open in 2011. Additionally, he probably can’t make the Classic without winning the tournament.
Hank Cherry has gone through a bit of a sophomore slump, and I keep expecting the guy who won in All-Star Week last year to show up, but any consideration I gave to picking him ended when I saw that nearly a quarter of the Fantasy Fishing players had chosen him. I need to make up some points, so I’m going monster hunting with Ish.
Picked: Boyd Duckett
Second Choice: Greg Vinson
Duckett didn’t move up far in the AOY standings, but he’s clearly the winningest angler in this bucket (or should that be “Buckett”?). I sincerely hope that the Top 12 finish last week, combined with a 22nd at BASSfest, has him back on track. If there’s any place it’s likely to keep going, New York would seem to be it. He won an Elite Series event on Oneida in 2012 and has earned several other checks there, including a 15th-place finish in 2008. In the E class, he should be a bargain.
There are lots of other talented anglers in this group, including past winners Jeremy Starks and Byron Velvick (coming off a Top 12 himself), but I keep expecting Vinson to break out of his tough season. Those expectations aren’t enough to trump Duckett’s talents and track record, though.
By Tyler Reed
PHILADELPHIA — The Bassmaster Elite at Delaware River is the monkey wrench that got thrown into multiple players’ plans for Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing.
That’s because many buckets were heavily skewed toward one angler, and that single angler performed really well — or really terribly.
Here’s the perfect team for Fantasy Fishing for the Delaware:
A: Skeet Reese, 316
B: Bill Lowen, 272
C: Edwin Evers, 251
D: Michael Iaconelli, 315
E: Boyd Duckett, 313
Total points: 1,467
No Fantasy Fishing player achieved a score that high.
Skeet Reese delivered the highest score in Fantasy Fishing this week by virtue of his sixth-place finish and Carhartt Big Bass, a 4-pound, 6-ouncer on Day 3. He scored 316 points total.
Reese had solid ownership at 9.1 percent, but he was not the most chosen in the bucket. That honor belonged to Aaron Martens at 18.8 percent, who finished nearly 100 points back at 219.
Greg Hackney was the next-most owned angler at 12.7 percent, and he earned 179 points for his owners.
If you didn’t choose Reese, you would have done well with Chris Lane, 295 points, or Jason Christie, 290.
This bucket is the one where many of the mighty fell, and fell hard. Exactly 40 percent of players chose Kevin VanDam. And exactly 40 percent paid dearly for that choice by earning only 81 points. Ouch.
That decision put VanDam owners 191 points behind Bill Lowen pickers. Lowen was owned by 9.2 percent of the field, and those players got 272 points.
If you didn’t choose Lowen, you should have gone with Scott Rook at 264 percent, although almost no one did. Less than 1 percent of players believed in Rook.
The two anglers most picked besides VanDam were Ott DeFoe, 14.4 percent, and Brandon Palaniuk, 14 percent. DeFoe pickers earned 229 points, and Palaniuk owners got 177 — which is not a great number, but it’s still much higher than VanDam’s owners received.
Only two Bucket B anglers scored lower than VanDam — Rick Clunn (1.7 percent) and Russ Lane (0.5 percent). What that means is, if you chose VanDam, you were beaten by (or tied with) 97.8 percent of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players. Double ouch.
In Bucket C, the most-owned angler delivered best. Edwin Evers pulled 251 points to give to his 37.4 percent of owners.
However, the second-most owned angler, Hank Cherry, delivered third-worst, behind Josh Bertrand and David Mullins — owned by a combined 1 percent. What that means for Cherry’s 13.9 percent of owners is that 99 percent of players beat them.
Two anglers who were not far behind Evers were Steve Kennedy with 243 points and Jeff Kriet with 239. Players who chose them were indeed behind Evers pickers, but not by much.
Mike Iaconelli was owned by the majority of the bucket — 66.9 percent — and his 315 points were pure gold to the people who believed in him.
But that high percentage had others scurrying to find an alternative. That proved to be a misstep, more for some than for others.
Players who picked Kevin Short (2.3 percent) and Shaw Grigsby (1.9 percent) were rewarded with 285 and 280 points, respectively. Those players were not hurt that badly.
Alas, the 7.3 percent of players who chose to go with Jonathon VanDam got a real hurting put on them. The goose-egg that he got on the Delaware transferred directly to them.
It hurts to get beaten by 100 points or even 200 points in a Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing bucket. But Jonathon VanDam’s owners were beaten by a solid 315 points by two-thirds of the field. And they were beaten by at least 69 points (Charlie Hartley, who posted the lowest non-zero score) by every single player.
Fantasy Fishing players have stood strong with Boyd Duckett all season. He’s been the second choice (behind Ish Monroe) in Bucket E all season. Finally, after all this time, it paid off — and paid off big.
Duckett’s big bag on Day 1 of 16-14, his Day 1 leader points, and his eighth-place finish earned 313 points for his owners. That vaulted 4.8 percent of the players into the lead in this bucket.
It gave them a 104-point lead over the 23.4 percent who chose Ish Monroe, who scored 209 points, and a huge 224-point lead over the 15.3 percent who chose Grant Goldbeck (89 points).
The next-best pick in E was Byron Velvick, who gave 260 points to his 1.4 percent of owners. James Elam was third in the bucket with 237 points for his 0.2 percent.
Buckets are open for the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake! This is your last chance to make a difference in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing while playing the whole field of pros.
PHILADELPHIA — With Mike Iaconelli so highly owned in Bucket D in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing (currently at 64 percent), several players looked for an alternative in case Iaconelli bombed.
Tommy Biffle was a worthy alternative. Pundits credited his flipping prowess and his success in tidal events. Ten percent of players jumped on the Biffle bandwagon, and he became the second-highest pick in the bucket.
But, Biffle’s wife, Sharon, suffered a heart attack over the weekend. He has withdrawn from the Bassmaster Elite at Delaware River to help her recover.
What that means for Fantasy Fishing is that the ownership percentages will shift as players disperse their anti-Iaconelli vote. Undoubtedly, many will move their allegiance to Jonathon VanDam, who is currently third in the bucket behind Biffle.
The Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing managers prefer for no player to score a zero when possible. We are shifting all of Biffle’s owners to the angler ranked ahead of Biffle in Fantasy points, Cliff Pirch. Iaconelli is actually ranked one place ahead of Biffle, but the percentage for Iaconelli is high enough already. So we moved up another place to Pirch.
In the meantime, anyone who had chosen Biffle and who will soon have Pirch can change their angler at any time before launch on Thursday morning.
This week’s event on the Delaware River is something different than what the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers face during a regular season. Keep that in mind when setting yourBassmaster Fantasy Fishing team.
The Delaware River can be described as an equivalent body of water to what anglers faced in Pittsburgh in 2005 and even in Chicago in 2000. The bite is expected to be tough and every fish will count. The smallest of keepers will make a huge difference in a Top 50 or finishing 70th.
…but keep an eye on Todd Faircloth.
John Crews has a considerable record when it comes to river systems. And even though all rivers aren’t created equal, one thing that it shows is that Crews can grind out weight in tough tournaments and make the needed adjustments when the river changes.
That will be key this week when the tide fluctuates. Another thing in his corner is that he doesn’t live too far from the Potomac River, which also revolves around tidal conditions. A shaky head will be key this week, and Crews is a good finesse fisherman.
The last time the Elite Series pros faced a low weight and very tough tournament on a river system, Todd Faircloth came out on top. In that Sabine River tournament, he averaged just less than 12 1/2 pounds per day. If he can achieve that weight per day, Faircloth might find his way high up the leaderboard.
Take Bill Lowen…
…but keep an eye on Ott Defoe.
For Bucket B, I’m going with a river rat. Bill Lowen has a proven track record on river systems and low weight tournaments, so this event should be right up his alley. Small crankbaits, shaky heads, target fishing and changing conditions every day should position Lowen in his comfort zone as much as this venue can.
Ott DeFoe has been on somewhat of a hot streak lately. In the last two months, he has finished in the Top 25 three times (Elite Series on Lake Dardanelle and two Northern Opens), and he took home a win among those finishes. It also helps that he posted a picture on Facebook of a very good fish during his practice, which has been hard to come by for the Elites during practice on the Delaware River.
Take Andy Montgomery…
…but keep an eye on Jeff Kriet.
Andy Montgomery is a solid jig/shaky head angler, and with so many targets to pitch/flip/skip and cast to, I think Montgomery could be successful this week.
Montgomery also has a track record for excelling in low weight events. He has a victory on Smith Lake in the Southern Opens, where it took just more than 11 pounds a day to win. The same can be said for his other Top 10s like at Lake Norman, West Point Lake and in 2012 at Smith Lake once again.
With good finishes for Jeff Kriet on the Sabine River and most recently the Red River, the “Squirrel” finds a way to build a solid pattern in these low weight events. It will be interesting to see who can keep their mind right during the dead periods of the tournament when bites are hard to come by.
Take Kevin Short…
…but keep an eye on Jason Williamson.
Kevin Short has had a tough season and one that he doesn’t probably want to remember. Outside of fishing, personal issues — such as the destruction of his home by a tornado — have cluttered his mind and have taken priority this season. He started the season strong with a Top 12 at Lake Seminole, but I think Short’s ability to navigate backwaters and find nooks and crannies should help him excel this week.
Instead of predominately focusing on shaky heads and finesse tactics, I could see a small crankbait in his hand, bouncing off the ample cover that the Delaware River provides.
Williamson has been a wildcard this season. To go with his three Top 25 finishes, he has two finishes 90th or worse. So don’t let his 68th place in the AOY standings fool you: He has more Top 12s this season than anyone else in Bucket D.
Take Fletcher Shryock…
…but keep an eye on Joe Sancho.
Fletcher Shryock hasn’t experienced the season he would have liked, but as the Elites head north, I could see Shryock finishing the season strong. After the hiatus since Chickamauga, Shryock has taken some time to do fun fishing and possibly bring some confidence into this event. One 3-pound fish can jump an angler up the standings, and Shryock could be that guy to turn it around.
Rookie Joe Sancho is taking his first season with the Elite Series on the chin, but the New York native is used to fishing around skyscrapers and weird objects floating in the water. I could see him finding his footing in the depths of the Delaware River.
Be sure to set your team before launch on Thursday morning, and discuss your picks in the new Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing group on Facebook.
PHILADELPHIA — This is the city of brotherly love.
Of Rocky Balboa.
But it will not be a “warm” welcome for anyone looking to get cozy.
Welcome to the North.
You’ll need to keep the temperatures — and the pros’ fishing styles — in mind when selecting your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team.
The Elite Series begins to close out the season at the Delaware River, and one thing I heard a lot of while at Champlain for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open presented by Allstate is, “Man, it’s cold up here.”
This has been just a cold year, period. I can’t remember an end of July/beginning of August that saw temperatures hover in the low 80s and try to reach the 50s at night. That’s just not a kind way to take off at 6 a.m. and drive at high speed. It’s also not your ideal largemouth weather.
But this is the North, and there’s another option.
Like we saw at Champlain, smallmouth play a huge roll up here. Find the big ones, and you can blow away your competition like Brandon Palaniuk did last year at the St. Lawrence River.
I think the smallmouth will have a huge impact this week, as their behavior isn’t nearly as impacted by the weather as their greener cousins. There’s rain in the forecast this week (surprise) and that too will cloud up the water and make largemouth fishing difficult during the first couple of days.
Barometric pressure will be higher than the preferable 30 to 29 and falling range for most of the event, climbing after Thursday and bringing clear skies for the rest of the week. Look for the event to open with a bang, then for weights to drop off and fishing to get tough. No clouds, no real wind.
Not enough? Throw in the tidal impact and it’s like you have the Frankenstein child of the James River and the St. Lawrence. In my mind, that’s another reason to pick guys who like to go brown when given the choice of smallmouth or largemouth.
Go with your finesse guys for Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing — especially the ones who were getting dialed in on Northern fish last week at Champlain, like Palaniuk, Aaron Martens and Ott DeFoe. The smallmouth bite will stay hot for anglers who can locate them. And this is the Elite Series; they’ll be found by one of those guys for sure.
Also, Mike Iaconelli is heating up, and he’s excited to be home (he lives not far away in New Jersey). Anytime Ike gets excited, it’s exciting!
See the 10-day forecast below, or get the most up-to-date forecast by clicking here.
PHILADELPHIA — Owing to a disconnect between the favorites and actual angler history on East Coast tidal waters in August, I almost balked at making my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks public this week. Had I the option to keep them secret, I’d like my chances to win.
That’s a bold statement, I know. But the numbers point away from most of the favorites (with one major exception) and toward anglers who are flying way under radar.
Because neither B.A.S.S. nor FLW has ever held a top-level tournament on the Delaware River, we can’t make apples-to-apples comparisons when evaluating angler histories. But with a wealth of tournament data from East Coast tidal fisheries like the Potomac, James and Hudson rivers, we can make oranges-to-tangerines comparisons, so to speak.
We’ll also consider — but not weigh as heavily — angler history on tidal fisheries like the California and Louisiana deltas. We’re not, however, going to consider history on the St. Johns or Sabine rivers. Even though they are tidal fisheries, most of their tournament bass are caught in areas not greatly affected by the tide. Successful tactics for sight fishing on the St. Johns River’s Lake George in early spring are not likely to translate to early-August fishing on the Delaware River, where the average tidal swing is 7 feet.
Although Aaron Martens and Greg Hackney are the most-picked anglers in Bucket A (18.4 percent and 16.5 percent), they’re a bit overvalued compared to anglers with similar histories but lower ownership percentages, like Skeet Reese and Randy Howell.
At only 2.9 percent ownership, Reese is the best value in Bucket A — and it’s not even close. Consider his track record on the Potomac in August: first, second (Elite Series) and third (Bassmaster Top 150). He finishes almost as well on tidal fisheries elsewhere and at other times — seventh on the Louisiana Delta in August; fifth, fifth, fourth and second on the California Delta in the spring; and fifth on the Columbia River in the fall.
At 4.3 percent ownership, Howell is undervalued also. In three top-level Bassmaster tournaments on the Potomac in August, he has finished increasingly better — 21st in 2000, 14th in 2006 and fourth in 2007. And in mid-June 2013, he won a Bassmaster Northern Open on the James River.
I’m sticking with Skeet.
Here’s another revelation I wish I could keep under wraps this week — Bobby Lane has excelled in summer tournaments on an East Cost tidal river. Of five FLW tournaments he fished on the Potomac between 2005 and 2011, he won two Everstarts and finished third in two FLW Tour events.
You’d think the safe play is Kevin VanDam — who doesn’t spend much time in Bucket B — but you won’t be getting as much résumé from the Kalamazoo Kid as you should for 47.9 percent ownership. In three trips to the Potomac in August, he’s been in the Top 12 only once, a fourth place way back in the 2000 Bassmaster Top 150. In 2006 and 2007, he placed 29th and 20th, respectively. He’s been better on other tidal waters and/or at other times of year — first on the Louisiana Delta, also in August; sixth on the James River in September (2003 Forrest Wood Cup); and sixth and eighth on the California Delta in spring Elite Series events. But he’s also finished 32nd and 29th on the Louisiana and California deltas, respectively.
I’m buying Bobby.
My best bets in Bucket C, Stephen Kennedy (3.7 percent) and Kelly Jordon (2.1 percent), come with caveats. Although the numbers indicate they have the best histories on tidal fisheries in August — specifically the Potomac — neither has ever been a Fantasy Fishing star.
For starters, most of the best finishes in their careers came in the last 10 years rather than the last five. Secondly — and this is not scientific in the least — whenever I pick one of them, they don’t even cash a check, it seems. That said, their numbers are best in the bucket.
In 2006 and 2007, Jordon won an Elite Series tournament on the Potomac River in August and was runner-up in another. In two other top-level tournaments on the Potomac, one in August, the other in June, he finished 36th and 30th.
Kennedy placed third and 14th in the August 2006 and 2007 Elite Series tournaments on the Potomac. He didn’t fare as well there in June FLW Tour events, however, placing 21st, 81st and 117th.
At 45.2 percent, Edwin Evers is overvalued this week. And not just because almost half the field is picking him. Tidal fisheries (not counting the St. Johns River, remember) have not been his best venues. In three tries between 2000 and 2007 on the Potomac River in August, he placed 90th, 30th and 71st. The California and Louisiana deltas have not been kind either: He finished 50th on the former (August 2003), and 85th and 96th on the latter (spring 2003 and 2007).
I’ve justified picking Jordon.
At 62.3 percent ownership, you’d think Michael Iaconelli would be overvalued. And if he were up against Bucket B or A competition — and on any other fishery — you’d be right. But in Bucket D on the Delaware River, the numbers make sense.
Iaconelli is one of the only Elite Series anglers — if not the only one — with a history on the Delaware. You can read about it here [http://www.bassmaster.com/news/delawares-rising-bass-tid] and here [http://www.bassmaster.com/blog/think-rocky-balboa].
Now, consider this résumé AND the fact that Ike needs to win a tournament to qualify for the Classic: August Bassmaster tournaments on the Potomac — fourth, fifth, 14th and 31st; June/July FLW tournaments on the Potomac — first, second and 27th; June/July Bassmaster event on the James River — third and fourth.
If, however, you want or need to go against the tide to make up ground against the field, consider picking Rick Morris. At 1.2 percent, he’s very undervalued. Although he did not cash a check the first two times he fished top-tier tournaments on the Potomac (65th and 58th, in 2000 and 2002), he got much, much better over the years. In four tournaments there between 2003 and 2007, he finished second, third, fifth and 39th. Also encouraging is a 10th-place finish on the Hudson River in August 2004.
Cliff Pirch (1.5 percent) is my dark-horse pick. He’s got a lot of experience on tidal rivers, but he’s never finished well on them consistently.
I like Ike.
Grant Goldbeck (11 percent) is the safest pick in Bucket E, but Derek Remitz (1.8 percent) has the potential to help you make a better move against the field.
A native Marylander, Goldbeck is no stranger to fishing tidal waters. He is, however, an inconsistent competitor on them. Between 2002 and 2007, his finishes on the Potomac were all over the map.
In Elite Series competition, Goldbeck has been stellar on tidal rivers in August, placing 15th and ninth on the Potomac in 2006 and 2007, respectively. His Bassmaster Open and FLW Everstart summer finishes on East Coast tidal waters, however, have been inconsistent — 11th in 2004, Hudson River; 134th in 2005, Potomac; 25th in 2013, Potomac; 28th in 2002, Potomac; 70th in 2011, James River.
Remitz’s history is not as good as Goldbeck’s, but it’s better than almost everyone else in the bucket, including Ish Monroe, who is most popular at 25.6 percent. In three summer tournaments on East Coast tidal rivers between 2007 and 2001, Remitz placed 19th, 28th and 24th. Monroe, on the other hand, has never cashed a check in a summer East Coast tidal river tournament — 92nd, 69th, 89th between 2000 and 2011. Interestingly, Remitz has fared better in Elite Series competition on West Coast tidal waters too. He placed second and 14th on the California Delta in 2007 and 2010; Monroe finished 47th and 49th.
I got Goldbeck.
Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Joe Sancho and 2014 Bassmaster Classic runner-up Paul Mueller reveal their Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks for the Delaware River.
PHILADELPHIA — Shortly after BASSfest at Chickamauga, the cryptic hashtags started to emerge:
With a healthy gap in the Elite Series schedule and a short time before the Delaware River went off limits, what seemed like hordes of pros made their way to Philly to scout the site of the next event. I’m sure there were even more there in semi-stealth mode, not broadcasting their whereabouts even if they were heading up and down the river in wrapped boats.
They posted pictures of urban scenery. They posted pictures of a few bass. Mostly they posted pictures of big freighters heading up and down the river, dwarfing their 20-foot fiberglass rockets. For those pros used to fishing the large reservoirs of the south and west, as well as the Great Lakes, the passing boats may have been big, but the Delaware is going to fish small. It’s going to confuse some of them.
Even though a bunch of pros have now visited the river, more than 90 percent hadn’t been there before this year (with one very notable exception among the minority), so for the first time in a while we have as close to a level playing field as possible.
I love it. Don’t get me wrong: Florida in March, Toledo Bend in the late spring and Kentucky Lake in the summertime are all great venues, but when those types of events are on the schedule, there aren’t necessarily a lot of new areas or tricks to uncover. At the Delaware, everything is comparatively new to almost everyone and the script has yet to be written.
When picking a Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team, you can try to work the angles to your advantage, picking river specialists or Northeasterners or those who best understand current. The more I think about it, though, the more I believe in one rule: Winners win. You are what your record says you are. When you don’t have much to go on, go with anglers who consistently do well on a wide variety of waterways. Here are my choices:
Picked: Jacob Powroznik
This bucket has lots of proven winners — Elite Series victors, Classic champs and AOYs — but to me, few are surer bets than Powroznik to be near the top. In nine career Bassmaster professional tournaments, he’s been in the money eight times and in the Top 10 on three occasions, including this year’s win at Toledo Bend. He’s also local to Virginia’s James River, a multi-faceted waterway with heavy industrial activity and a strong tide. That gives him the edge over Todd Faircloth, one of the best “win everywhere” anglers. Faircloth has won on two river systems (the Sabine last year, and the Mississippi in 2012), on a big Texas reservoir and on a highland reservoir, with five second-places (two in Florida) and three thirds (including one on the Red River). Tough not to pick him, especially since he’s having a slightly better year than Powroznik, but after a hot start, he cooled off substantially in the last two events. That’s enough to give the Virginia “rookie” my nod, especially because his ownership percentage is quite low.
Picked: Ott DeFoe
Almost Picked: Bill Lowen
Every time I pass up KVD, it makes me cringe, but I have to do it here, especially because he’s approaching 50 percent ownership. This event would seem to set up well for DeFoe’s proven versatility and expertise with current. He won this year’s Northern Open on Douglas in the current and won the All-Star event on the Alabama River in 2011 as well. He hasn’t yet had a Top 12 in Elite competition this year, but he’s been solid throughout, missing only one check. I wanted to pick Lowen, and one day he’s going to win one of these grind ’em out tournaments, but he’s burned me a couple of times and I’m afraid to take the chance with so many other top sticks in this bucket.
Picked: Stephen Browning
Browning’s Classic ticket is already punched via his Open win on the Red River, where he’s gotten the job done in consecutive years. He’s a winner and he knows river systems, including the industrial Arkansas River, so he seems like a safe pick. I’d love to pick Kennedy, who seems to win something on some tour every year, but he hasn’t finished higher than 29th on the Elites this year. I don’t know if that means he’s due or he’s in a slump, but he’s just as likely to finish 100th as he is to finish at the top, so with Browning rolling, I’ll err on the side of caution here. I thought about picking Edwin Evers, who, like Faircloth, seems to do well on every type of waterway, but at more than 45 percent ownership, I’ll go with Browning, who stands to earn me more distance from the competition if he wins.
Almost Picked: Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago
Seriously? Ike’s still in Bucket D? And he’s fishing on his home water? This one is like the free square in a game of “Bingo.” Unless he makes a hard turn and parks his boat on the bank or gets captured by the ASPCA, he’s money in the bank here. At the very least, he’ll get a good check. For sentimental reasons related to tough off-the-water issues, and because he’s a proven winner on river systems, I’d love to see Kevin Short turn the Delaware pink, but like Lowen he’s burned me too many times in the past when I’ve chosen him in tournaments where he was expected to do well. It’s not enough to overcome Ike’s built-in advantage. Yes, I realize that more than 60 percent have picked Ike, but truth be told, that’s fewer than I expected.
Picked: Joe Sancho
Almost Picked: Ish Monroe
Here’s one where I’m going against my own rule of picking winners. Boyd Duckett and Kevin Hawk have proven themselves on the sport’s biggest stages, but they’re both really struggling now. I’m also tempted to pick former Rookie of the Year Billy McCaghren, another Arkansas River rat, but he too can’t seem to get on track. I’d love to pick Ish Monroe, too, because of his four B.A.S.S. wins on four different waterways (one of them, Oneida Lake, in the Northeast), but they’ve all been relatively high-weight affairs. In low-weight tournaments, his results are less dominant, including a 42nd-place finish in the Pittsburgh Classic and 79th on the Mississippi in Iowa (2009). He did have a fourth place at the Sabine last year, but if I’m going to gamble in this case it’s going to be with an unknown commodity like Sancho. Sancho’s track record with B.A.S.S. has been mediocre, and since making the Elites, he’s yet to cash a check, but given his proximity to Philly, he’d be a fool if he didn’t put every ounce of effort before the cutoff into making this a career-turning event. For the sake of one Bucket E pick, I’m willing to bet that Joe Sancho (whom I’ve yet to meet) is not a fool.
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — If you’re planning to pick Mike Iaconelli for your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team for the Delaware River, know that you are among 62.2 percent of people who are planning to do the same. Picking against Iaconelli is a real gamble. If he blows it out on his home water and goes home with a win, you are now behind more than 60 percent of the other players — and because it’s Bucket D, you’re probably substantially behind. But if he stinks it up and you chose someone who did better, you’ve hit the mother lode. We asked Bassmaster Elite Series pros who they thought Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players should choose for their teams. Bernie Schultz’s response? “Ike, Ike and Ike!” Will you follow Schultz’s advice and go with the crowd? Or is there someone in Bucket D who is worth the gamble? Below are the Elite Series pros’ picks for Fantasy, bucket by bucket.
John Crews says you should pick him on the Delaware River. “I like what I saw [in pre-fish], so I would bet on myself,” said Crews. But, he added, “if you think I am just being biased, pick [Jacob] Powroznik.” Chris Zaldain based his picks on anglers who are good on waters similar to the Delaware. “Anglers with tidal water backgrounds know what to look for and where to go once the tide turns and targets dry up or disappear,” said Chris Zaldain. For Bucket A, that means Greg Hackney or Skeet Reese for their knowledge of their respective deltas’ tidal fisheries (Louisiana and California). Elite Series rookie Joel Baker would pick Aaron Martens. Currently, Martens and Hackney are the leaders in the A bucket for fan picks.
Zaldain will go with Terry Scroggins in the B bucket for his knowledge of tidal fisheries. Crews agrees, kind of: “Never bet against KVD, but if you do, go for the Big Show,” referring to Scroggins. Baker is going with a pick of Ott DeFoe. Right now, it appears that many people are on board with Crews as far as not betting against VanDam. He is owned by 48 percent of players right now, surely thanks largely to his 2005 victory in Pennsylvania when the pros visited Pittsburgh for the Bassmaster Classic. Brandon Palaniuk is owned by 14 percent, and third in popularity is DeFoe. Zaldain’s pick of Scroggins is only at 1 percent currently.
Baker is going with Edwin Evers in Bucket C, as are most players. Evers, in a low bucket for someone with such a résumé, has garnered 45 percent of the players’ confidence on the Delaware. Zaldain will pick himself in C because of his experience on the California Delta’s tidal waters. For Crews, it’s Stephen Browning. “Browning is the name that jumps off to me, but there are multiple other decent choices here,” said Crews. The highest-owned angler next to Evers is Hank Cherry, far back at 16 percent but still a much more popular pick than anyone else in C.
Mike Iaconelli is definitely the star of the show in this bucket. At 62 percent ownership, a lot of fans are pinning their hopes on Iaconelli’s performance and will likely be either elated or devastated with the results. Baker, Zaldain and Crews are all picking Iaconelli, but Crews said to not rule out Rick Morris, who is owned by only 1 percent. “Morris will likely do well, too,” said Crews. The counter-Ike picks in this bucket are going to Tommy Biffle, who’s got 10 percent, and Jonathon VanDam, who’s got 7.
Oh, Bucket E. You cause so much trouble. This one is often the hardest to choose from, yet the biggest points producers usually come from it because the angler who gets away from the pack usually gets far ahead. Players can spike or bust on their pick in this bucket alone. Ish Monroe gets the nod from Crews and Zaldain. Zaldain chose him for the same reason he chose himself and Reese – that California experience in the delta. Crews said Monroe will be able to fish his strengths there, and that’s why he’s a good pick. Monroe is currently on the team of 25 percent of players, the highest of the bucket. Crews also recommends Fletcher Shryock and Tracy Adams. “Fletcher is a good river angler,” said Crews, “and Tracy is a good tidal river angler because I have competed against him.” Joel Baker chose himself in this bucket, just like Crews, Zaldain and Howell chose themselves when asked. You’ve got to have confidence in yourself or why should anyone else have confidence in you? The other top picks so far in this bucket behind Monroe are Grant Goldbeck, 11 percent, and Jeremy Starks, 10 percent. Who are you picking for the Delaware River? Do you trust Elite Series pros’ judgments better than those of other pundits? Post your comments below or discuss your picks in the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing group on Facebook.
PHILADELPHIA — Results build confidence, and confidence builds results. So says Bassmaster Classic champion Randy Howell. “Momentum is a big factor in how well we do in tournaments,” said Howell, “and I think more people should think about that in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing. Everybody feeds off confidence. If you put two or three bad tournaments behind somebody, they’re probably not going to go and win the next one.” Howell helps his wife, Robin, set her Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team each event. “She’s ranked 5,099. That’s my fault.” He pauses, then laughs and says, “No, it’s the guys’ faults for not doing so well after I pick them!” The Howells may be ranked lower than they’d like, but they’re in the 80th percentile, and they have the added advantage of being Bassmaster Elite Series insiders. Here are Randy Howell’s top picks for a Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team leading into the Delaware River, Aug. 7-10.
“All of us need to pick ourselves,” said Howell. “If we don’t, it means we don’t have confidence in ourselves. So my first pick is me. “Bucket A is the hardest group because all of these guys are doing well and have momentum. That momentum is a big player in my picks, and it should be on any Fantasy Fishing player’s mind. “My next pick for this bucket would be Greg Hackney. I’d almost rather pick him than me,” Howell said with a laugh. “He’s had a phenomenal year, with a win on FLW and other Top 5s and Top 10s. “Also, he’s a great river fisherman. He won the FLW Championship in Pittsburgh in 2009 [on Three Rivers]. So I think he would be a great pick.” We asked Howell for a dark horse pick in every bucket. “It’s hard to even find a dark horse in A. I would say Jason Christie, but he might even end up being a white horse! “If I have to come up with a dark horse, I’d say Randall Tharp. He’s not really a dark horse, but he’s considered a rookie on the Bassmaster Elite Series, even though he’s not a rookie to fishing. “He’s a good river fisherman, and he did well in FLW up there. So I would go with him.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Howell picked Bill Lowen for Bucket B. “He is a very good, experienced river fisherman, especially in fluctuating tidal fisheries,” said Howell. “The Ohio River is really tough, but he’s done well on it all his life. It’s similar to the Delaware. “I’ve got confidence in Bill.” Howell also recommends Ott DeFoe as a Bucket B pick. “Ott is a really good shallow fisherman and river fisherman,” said Howell, “and he’s got good momentum.” For a dark horse, Howell suggests Kevin VanDam. “That’s pretty bad to say Kevin VanDam is a dark horse, but let’s do it,” said Howell. “Get him as a bargain while he’s in the B group. Plus, of course, he won the Classic in Pittsburgh,” said Howell, referring to the 2005 Bassmaster Classic held on the Three Rivers.
“I’d go with Stephen Browning in Bucket C,” said Howell. “He’s got a lot of good history on rivers, and he’s already going to the Classic because of his Red River win in the Opens. He’s proved himself, and because of that Classic qualification, there’s not a lot of pressure on him. “Next, I’d go with my buddy Brent Chapman. He’s typically in a higher group than C. But he’s a good river fisherman, and we fish a lot alike, so I know. He’s on his way to scout and prepare for the Delaware River now. He’s got to do well to get into the Classic. “For my dark horse, Andy Montgomery stands out to me,” said Howell. “He’s a good shallow river fisherman. He’s come out strong in the first part of every tournament so far, but then he doesn’t have a good second or third day. He hasn’t had the finishes he’s had the starts for. He’s due for a better finish this time. He’s hungry. And he’s got a little pressure on him with a baby coming along soon.”
“It’s a shocker to me that Mike Iaconelli is in the D group,” said Howell. “His momentum is really strong, and his state of mind is positive. And we’re going to his back door, right near to where he lives. He’s fished club and B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments there, and his good friend and Bassmaster University partner Pete Gluszek is a guide there. “Iaconelli will be hard to beat in this tournament,” said Howell. “He’s got advantages in every direction.” Tommy Biffle would be another good pick in D, according to the Classic champ. “He’s a seasoned angler. He’s great at flipping in rivers and in tidal events. He should be a strong finisher. “My dark horse would be Kevin Short. He’s good on the Arkansas River. And he can all of a sudden come in with a big stringer from time to time.”
“I’m going to start right at the top alphabetically here for this one,” said Howell. “Tracy Adams is not as well-known as some of the others. Like Tharp, he’s a Bassmaster Elite Series rookie, but he’s not a real rookie. He’s made it to the Classic through the Opens. “He’s a North Carolina boy, good at shallow and river fishing. He’s doing pretty good recently. He’s got that momentum.” Howell also recommends Billy McCaghren. “He might not stand out to some people, but he’s a good Arkansas River guy. He’s good at those square-bill-type fisheries. He’s a good one to look at.” And for a dark horse? “Greg Vinson. He’s an Alabama boy, but he’s good at that shallow fishing. He doesn’t have great momentum right now, which is not characteristic of him. It happens to every fisherman some time. He’s due to break out of his bad luck spell and do better this time.”
We’ve got one last question for Howell: “Does it affect you when you see that lots of players have chosen you for their Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team — or when almost none have?” “I’m happy when people are picking me,” said Howell. “I feel a responsibility to do well, and I want the ones who have chosen me to do well in Fantasy. “You can’t take it personally when no one chooses you, though. I only think about it when I’m looking at the screen. Once I get up from the computer, it’s out of my head. Back in the day when no one ever picked me, I didn’t let it bother me. They’ve got to play it smart, just like in any fantasy sport. They’ve got to base it on the numbers.” Your turn! Who will you be picking for your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team for the Delaware River? Discuss your team in the new Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing group on Facebook. Be sure to set your team before launch on Aug. 7.
We’ve created a group on Facebook where you can chat with other Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players about which anglers to pick. Join the discussion here.
DAYTON, Tenn. — If you picked local for your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team for BASSfest, you’re surely wishing you hadn’t. Here is the best possible team you could have assembled: Bucket A: Gerald Swindle, 290 points Bucket B: Kevin VanDam, 300 Bucket C: Hank Cherry, 300 Bucket D: Jason Williamson, 264 Bucket E: Tracy Adams, 245 Total: 1,399 No Fantasy Fishing player achieved a score this high. The 8.1 percent of players who chose Hank Cherry got a bigger boost for their overall points because in Bucket C, Cherry beat his closest opponent, Nate Wellman, by 67. Here is the breakdown, bucket by bucket, of the best picks and the biggest disappointments.
Gerald Swindle, with his fourth-place finish, gave 290 points to the 2.4 percent of people who chose him. That’s only 10 points ahead of Greg Hackney pickers, who made up 6 percent, and 14 points ahead of Casey Ashley pickers, 4.9 percent. The most-picked anglers in Bucket A were the biggest disappointments. Aaron Martens, at 15.1 percent, delivered only 77 points. David Walker’s fans, 11.8 percent, earned 155. And Mark Davis fans, 10.1 percent, scored 91.
In Bucket B, two anglers were heavily favored: Kevin VanDam and Ott DeFoe. VanDam owners came out way ahead of the local pro’s owners. VanDam, who was owned at 24.4 percent, delivered a solid 300 points to his fans. DeFoe, who held more than a third of the players with 36.5 percent, was a big letdown at 178 points. DeFoe pickers not only came out behind VanDam pickers but also several other angler owners. Bucket B was full of top performers who were close enough to VanDam’s final points to not hurt their Fantasy Fishing owners too much, including Matt Herren, 295 (0.3 percent), Brett Hite, 285 (2.9 percent), Terry Scroggins, 272 (0.8 percent) and Russ Lane, 268 (1.4 percent). Two other highly owned anglers, Tim Horton (8.6 percent) and Brandon Palaniuk (10.5 percent), delivered points similar to DeFoe (180 and 187, respectively). If you were part of the VanDam/Herren/Hite/Scroggins/Lane crowd (29.8 percent), you beat more than half the players (55.6 percent with DeFoe/Horton/Palaniuk) by an average of 100 points.
Hank Cherry’s huge fish, a 10-11 on Day 2, gave Cherry’s owners a welcome 40-point boost. Added to Cherry’s 12th-place finish, he earned 300 points for his fans. The next-closest angler, Nate Wellman, had 133 points. The fans who were hurt the most in this bucket were Edwin Evers’ 38.6 percent holdings. He delivered only 209 points, putting more than one-third of the players nearly 100 points back from Cherry’s owners. Other highly favored anglers in this bucket were the locals, Brandon Lester and David Mullins. Lester’s 6.3 percent of fans earned only 125 points. Mullins’ 10.8 percent were unhappy with his 100-something-place on Day 2 but relieved when he made the Top 10 in the Second Chance tournament, moving him up more than 50 places. He ultimately posted 170 points for his fans.
At first, it looked like Mike Iaconelli was the breakout in Bucket D. His 24.5 percent of fans rejoiced on Day 1 when he took the lead, but he ended up finishing in 42nd place. He posted 206 points for his fans. The next-highest pick in the bucket was Jonathon VanDam at 19.5 percent. His fans earned almost the lowest score in the bucket, 79. Ouch. Jason Williamson, who had 2 percent ownership, was the best pick with 264. Right behind him was Fred Roumbanis, 5 percent, with 257 points.
The Bucket E picks are generally the hardest. Usually, one angler breaks out of his season slump and does something amazing in each tournament, but figuring out who that might be and placing your bet on the right guy is really tough. Fans keep betting on powerhouse Ish Monroe, but he has not delivered the points very often this season. The same thing happened again at BASSfest. More than a quarter of the players (26.2 percent) added him to their team, and he ended with 161 points. That score put Monroe pickers more than 80 points behind the 1.6 percent of people who chose Tracy Adams (245 points) and nearly 80 points behind the 9.1 percent of Boyd Duckett’s faithful fans (237 points). The only other high picks in this bucket were Kevin Hawk, 9.8 percent, 174 points; Greg Vinson, 12.2 percent, 135; and Jeremy Starks, 11.8 percent, 184. It’s nearly two months before the next Bassmaster Elite Series event, the Delaware River, Aug. 7-10, but you can go ahead and set your team. This break gives the anglers a little bit of R&R and gives Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players plenty of time to figure out who they should add to their roster. Good luck!
By Tyler Reed You may have noticed your score shifted some overnight. That’s because we made a correction on a technical error that was giving some Opens anglers Fantasy Fishing points, therefore shifting Elite Series anglers down in points. All anglers were affected at least by a couple of points, but the most significant change occurred to the anglers at the very bottom. Everyone who is currently below Mark Davis in 113th place was erroneously awarded zero points; all of them now have points. That change comes as very good news to the high percentages of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players who had Jonathon VanDam, David Mullins and Aaron Martens on their teams.
By Tyler Reed If you’re one of the 10 percent of anglers who chose Keith Combs for your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team or one of the 26 percent who picked Ish Monroe, don’t panic just yet. You, just like the anglers you picked, get a second chance tomorrow. The competitors who did not make the Top 50 cut today get a whole day of fishing on Nickajack. The Top 10 from tomorrow’s competition will advance to Saturday, and they’ll do so with today’s weight. Here are two potential occurrences: 1. Combs, who’s currently in 53rd place, if he is anywhere in the Top 10 tomorrow, will begin Saturday with his current weight of 25-6. 2. John Murray, who’s currently the last-place Elite Series angler in the 138 spot, if he is anywhere in the Top 10 tomorrow, will begin Saturday around 60th place with his current weight of 3-10. Two other important things to note: Although all Elite Series pros earn Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing points on a sliding scale that pushes them into the next-highest Opens angler’s spot, they do not earn bonus points that Opens anglers earned. That’s why today, owners of Kevin VanDam do not get daily leader points. Jacob Wheeler, from the Opens, earned them, and they do not move down to the next Elite Series pro. Also, no bonus points will be earned tomorrow on Nickajack. Regardless of who leads, he will not give you 5 points. And even if someone brings in a 10-11 that trumps Hank Cherry’s big bass from today and ultimately is the biggest bass of the entire tournament, he will not earn you 40 points. The same goes for the biggest bag of the tournament. There will be no live leaderboard tomorrow, but you can check the Live Blog or follow us on Twitter for updates during the weigh-in. And, because the second chance tournament will not affect Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing points, you won’t see any updates to your points tomorrow either. Good luck to those of you who own one guy — or even all five — in the second chance tournament. We’ll see you back on this page Saturday evening after the weigh-in.
While Chickamauga’s deeper ledges do hold good populations of big bass, there aren’t nearly as many ledges here as there are on other TVA lakes known for ledge fishing, like Kentucky Lake. So Chickamauga’s ledges are going to be crowded this week, especially with the expanded BASSfest field of Opens anglers.
There’s always some summer fish shallow, and on Chickamauga, they’re likely to be around grass. Chickamauga has been described recently as a “mini Guntersville,” based on a resurgence of grass — aquatic vegetation like hydrilla and milfoil. Some good shallower bags might be caught also in manner similar to how Greg Hackney won an FLW tournament last week on Pickwick, another Tennessee River reservoir known for summer ledge fishing. He caught prespawn and postspawn bass cranking a shallow shellbed in a backwater.
Weather could be a factor also. It’s supposed to rain a lot prior to, and during, the tournament, which launches Wednesday morning (a day earlier than usual). That could muddy up the main-river ledge bite, sending anglers looking for clearer water in shallower pockets and cuts.
Because Bassmaster has not visited Chickamauga in the Elite Series era, I researched summer FLW tournaments there, May and June Guntersville Elite Series tournaments, and other June Elite Series and FLW tournaments won fishing ledges on riverine reservoirs like Kentucky Lake, Wheeler and Old Hickory.
Anytime and anywhere bass can be caught deep on a crankbait, I’m considering picking Keith Combs (7.8 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership). He doesn’t have a long history of success in summer ledge tournaments as do some others in Bucket A, but the highlights in his young career are impressive: fifth onGuntersville in a June 2010 tournament and 15th on Wheeler in a June 2011 Elites Series event.
Although Skeet Reese (2.3 percent) wasn’t the first name that popped into my mind when I started my research for this tournament, I kept coming back to the notes I took on him. Call it a hunch, but I think Reese gets back in the headlines this week.
Reese certainly has the history on summer ledge tournaments to justify picking him — a win onGuntersville in a May 2010 Elite Series event in which the winner cranked ledges; fourth in two Kentucky Lake tournaments in June (2006 and 2009); and 14th in a June 2008 event on Wheeler.
Even at 21.9 percent ownership, Kevin VanDam is a bargain in Bucket B. No one in the field has a résumé this impressive for major summer ledge-fishing tournaments: two wins, a runner-up and a third on Kentucky Lake, all in early to mid-June; two runners-up and a fourth on Wheeler, all in early to mid-June; and ninth place in an early May tournament on Guntersville that was won not in the grass, but by cranking ledges.
Rookies Brandon Lester (5.6 percent) of Fayetteville, Tenn., and David Mullins (10.6 percent) of Mount Carmel, Tenn., are getting more Fantasy Fishing attention this week than ever before, owing to their home-state status. Which one to choose?
Lester categorizes himself a shallow-water angler, but he went to college for a few years in Chattanooga, the closest city to Chickamauga. Mullins cut his teeth on Douglas and Cherokee lakes in Tennessee, and travels with Aaron Martens, whom he became friends with as a high schooler when he met Martens at a Douglas Lake boat ramp. I give the edge to Lester.
If you’d rather base your pick on Elite Series history in summer ledge tournaments, however, consider Kelly Jordon, who is a pretty good value at 2.9 percent. In 10 summer ledge-fishing tournaments between 2003 and 2011, he scored three Top 12s, two more Top 20s and finished out of the money only twice. Only Edwin Evers has a better résumé in this bucket than Jordon, but at 42.1 percent ownership, it makes more sense to pick against Evers if your player percentage is below 95 percent.
Tommy Biffle (9.5 percent) is too good a value in Bucket D to not take him. While others elbow for position on the ledges, Biffle will likely find shallow to mid-depth water of his own and throw his Biffle Bug/Biffle Hardhead combo to shellbeds and other small hard spots to make the Top 12.
A lesser owned option would be Jason Williamson (1.9 percent). Based on his history in summer ledge tournaments, Williamson is likely to finish about 25th. In seven such tournaments between 2008 and 2011, his in-the-money finishes were 21st, 23rd, 30th, 31st and 36th; his out-of-the-cut finishes were 56th and 74th.
In 2010, Derek Remitz (5.9 percent) racked up three Top 12s on riverine reservoirs known for ledge fishing, one of which was an eighth-place showing in an FLW event. That one, however, was held in mid-September. Still, in June of that summer, he placed fifth on Kentucky Lake in an Elite tournament won by cranking ledges. In May of that year, he placed 12th on Guntersville in an event also won by cranking ledges.
In five June ledge-cranking tournaments between 2008 and 2009, however, Remitz did not fare as well: 34th, 43rd, 67th, 69th and 83rd. That said, few others in this bucket have any Top 12s to go along with out-of-the money finishes.
The other angler in this bucket who has had a modicum of success in summer ledge-fishing tournaments is Matt Reed, who’s a decent value this week at 1.2 percent ownership. In early June 2008, Reed finished eighth on Wheeler; in mid-June 2008, he finished 16th on Kentucky Lake. In five more June tournaments on ledge-fishing riverine reservoirs between 2006 and 2011, he finished in the money three times (29th, 39th and 40th).
Be sure to set your team before launch tomorrow. Remember, this tournament is an out-of-the-ordinary Wednesday start rather than the traditional Thursday.
By Ronnie Moore DAYTON, Tenn. — The last Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Dardanelle was a mix of emotions as I successfully picked John Crews and Mike Iaconelli to do well, and they both notched Top 12 finishes for my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team. The bad thing is that local pro Scott Rook didn’t do so well, and neither did Yusuke Miyazaki. Davy Hite successfully placed in the mid-20s. The really bad part? I never actually set my Fantasy Fishing lineup. (I know…way to drop the ball). So as a result, my week could have been successful, but I will take my “good lineup” and just reassure myself that I am not bad at picking teams (as long as I actually select them). That said, check out my team for Chickamauga and the sleepers that you should keep your eye on.
My choice: Jacob Powroznik
Sleeper pick: Casey Ashley
Many don’t realize this, but the current Rookie of the Year leader won on Lake Chickamauga this year. Jacob Powroznik and his partner won the Fishers of Men National Championship on the Chick one week before Powroznik took home the Toledo Bend title.
J-Proz didn’t cash a check for the first time this season at Dardanelle, and he probably didn’t like the way his 77th-place finish tasted. Expect him to come back strong.
Casey Ashley has been underrated this season and with a 12th-place standing in the Angler of the Year race. Ashley has proved that he is on the same level as many of the top pros. Since an 89th-place finish to start the season, the South Carolina pro has reeled in finishes of 24, 27, five and 22. Ashley also notched a victory on Lake Hartwell in March on the FLW circuit.
My choice: Timmy Horton
Sleeper pick: Mike McClelland
Timmy Horton is a great postspawn fisherman. Lake Chickamauga is one of those monsters in a sense that the winning school of fish is lurking anywhere and everywhere on this lake. As Casey Martin showed on last season’s FLW Tour, more than 100 pounds in four days of competition is possible, and for crankers and draggers, it’s there for the taking. Horton lives near Pickwick Lake, the last lake on the Tennessee River, so he undoubtedly knows how to fish these bodies of water.
Mike McClelland is one of those draggers who can dissect a school of fish and milk everything he can out of them. McClelland already has a win this season and his ticket to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic is punched. He can freely go big or go home and gamble to make Top 50 and even Top 12 cuts. That’s what I expect him to do.
My choice: David Mullins
Sleeper pick: Chris Zaldain
David Mullins is an east Tennessee fisherman, and Lake Chickamauga isn’t far from him at all. You have to expect that one of the local fishermen (Ott Defoe, Brandon Card, David Walker and Mullins) will do well at this event, but the others have a huge following and their ownership percentage shows that. With only 5 percent owning Mullins, there is no way I can’t take him here.
Why not Chris Zaldain? He started the season flat and was in the cellar of the AOY standings, but with back-to-back Top 12s and a renewed confidence, I expect the California kid to keep the train rolling. Only 7 percent have him on their team, and the risk is worth the value when it comes to choosing him.
My choice: Jonathon VanDam
Sleeper pick: Bradley Roy
Jonathon VanDam has shown strength over his career during the later parts of the Elite Series season. After already making a Top 12 early this year, I expect JVD to keep up some of his success and find the postspawn schools that will put him in contention this week.
Bradley Roy is from Kentucky, and Chickamauga, in many ways, fishes like a Kentucky Lake. Roy has a chance to turn around his season and I can see it happening in his neck of the woods. With the shad spawn starting on many of the east Tennessee lakes, it’s anyone’s game. But I have no doubt that the winner should come by fishing the deep parts of Lake Chickamauga.
My choice: Jeremy Starks
Sleeper pick: Kevin Hawk
Jeremy Starks registered both of his Elite Series wins on and in the vicinity of the Tennessee River (Wheeler Lake and Douglas Lake), and if you can fish one TVA lake, you should be able to fish others well, too. Only 7.5 percent of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players own him, and I will be a part of that group for sure.
Kevin Hawk has had somewhat of a disappointing season to date, and while his only Top 12 this season came on Table Rock Lake, I can see Hawk fishing a big school of fish well. Hawk is good with a football jig and a drop shot. Casey Martin won the Chickamauga FLW event last season mixing in a drop shot with a power fishing approach. This should be right up Hawk’s alley.
Be sure to set your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team by launch on Wednesday, June 11, to have a chance at winning a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card for winning the tournament or a Triton/Mercury package valued at $38,450 for winning the whole season.
By Pete Robbins DAYTON, Tenn. — I was pretty pleased with my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing advice at the last Elite Series. I went mostly with anglers who’d been chosen by few fans, and the picks paid off. Specifically, I had Greg Hackney (third), Cliff Crochet (seventh), world’s greatest bargain Zell Rowland (17th) and Tommy Biffle (30th). Stephen Browning was my only non-check-casher, just out of the money in 57th. More importantly, when you compare them to my second choices in each “bucket,” it shows that my picker was working well.
That may be dumb luck, but I’m going to ride this gut hunch horse until it leads me to the glue factory. With rare exceptions, I’m just not convinced that there’s a more scientific way to do this. Most of us expect that this event is going to be a slugfest. Last year, just a few weeks later in the season, Casey Martin won an FLW Tour event on Chickamauga with 103-3. There are two things that make that deceiving. First off, second place was a still-impressive-but-far-less-so 80-8, and the 10th-place finisher had 20 bass for 65-15. Second, Martin and many of the other top finishers did much of their damage with an Alabama rig, which Elite Series pros can’t use. Still, it’s the Tennessee River and big fish live there. A few members of this stacked field are going to whack them. The other potential complication is that the field is larger than normal with the addition of a few dozen Open-level pros. As Tyler Reed explained, though, while they’ll impact the final payout, their presence likely won’t meaningfully change things as far as Fantasy Fishing goes. If it was a body of water where you had to scratch and claw for every bare keeper, I’d say that their dilution of the fishery could be a game changer, but this place is a pig factory. FLW also visited in 2011, and current Elite Series pro Clifford Pirch won, but he didn’t fish last year’s tournament. Is one event enough to justify a pick? For that matter, are two events enough? The only angler in this year’s field who had two very good finishes in FLW Tour events on the Chick is Brett Hite (fifth and 32nd). Others, such as Justin Lucas and Randall Tharp, paired finishes in the teens with another worse than 70th place. All of these guys can fish grass. It may just come down to who averages a little bit more per fish to make a difference of a lot of points. Without further delay, here are my picks.
Almost Picked: Walker
As usual, this bucket is loaded. David Walker may be the closest thing to a local in this group, but at more than 14 percent ownership, I can’t quite justify him as a dark horse or a hunch. Jason Christie (8 percent) is tough to pass up, as is Todd Faircloth, at approximately the same percentage of ownership and one of the best grass anglers on the planet.
Without the castable umbrella rig in play, and with big fish at stake, I think a cranker will win it, and Keith Combs is my pick. Despite what I’ve written previously about his exceptional Lone Star State prowess, he’s due for another win elsewhere.
Almost Picked: McClelland When was the last season Kevin VanDam was in anything but the first class cabin (i.e., Bucket A)? I desperately want to pick him or Ott DeFoe, but even if one of them were to win, the high ownership percentages wouldn’t allow me to separate from the pack. I was tempted to go with Timmy Horton, a Tennessee River stud, or Mike McClelland, one of the best offshore anglers in the game, but I’m taking a gamble on the inconsistent Palaniuk, another cranker who knows how to win. Go big or go home, indeed.
Almost Picked: Lester or Pirch As with KVD in Bucket B, it’s a rare Evers sighting here in Mendoza Line territory. Apparently the whole world has figured that out, because right now just about one of every two Fantasy Fishing players has last year’s near AOY winner as their pick. I suppose you could call Brandon Lester the home state favorite, but to tell you the truth, I couldn’t pick him out of a police lineup. I’m sure he’s a great guy and a great angler, but his hometown is 139 miles from Dayton, slightly less than Atlanta and slightly more than Guntersville, so there’s no guarantee he’s fished Chickamauga much. That being the case, I’m going with the guy who had the longest commute — Zaldain — who seems to have gotten on track with back-to-back eighth-place finishes. How’s that for the scientific method?
Almost Picked: Card If you think KVD is an outsider in Bucket B and Evers doesn’t belong in Bucket C, what the heck is Iaconelli doing in Bucket D? It’s like finding a $400 swimbait in the bargain bin marked down to $3.99. It may not be, strictly speaking, a ‘necessary’ purchase, but you can’t pass it up, even at more than 26 percent ownership. Brandon Card lives about 90 miles away and I often succumb to the need to pick Tommy Biffle on big fish fisheries, but again my pick here is clear. Similarly, it’s tough to disregard past winner Pirch, especially at less than 2 percent ownership, but this time, to coin a phrase, I like Ike.
Almost Picked: Duckett I had to go back three times because I kept reinserting Boyd Duckett. Once again, this bracket offers up a lot of value investments, with no clear-cut winner. I had to rule out Ish Monroe because a third of the contestants picked him. After that, only Greg Vinson was picked in double digits. I desperately want to pick Duckett, who doesn’t live far away, and has loads of Tennessee River experience, but he’s coming off four finishes of 90th place or worse in a row. Really? Did I read that wrong? Maybe there’s some off-the-water issue that we don’t know about, but that kind of funk can’t last for an angler that good. Still, that kind of negative momentum could be hard to overcome. Would a mere check be satisfactory? Maybe for him (although I doubt it), but 49th doesn’t do players a whole lot of good in Fantasy Fishing. As a result, I’m going with Kevin Hawk, who is not fishing the Opens this year in order to put more time into the Elites. He’s had some clunkers, too, but this is the time in the season when he tends to figure a little something out. Be sure to pick your team by takeoff on Wednesday, June 11!
DAYTON, Tenn. — BASSfest is a multifaceted event with multiple cuts, a unique second-chance tournament and a field made up of Opens pros in addition to Elite Series anglers. Those distinctive features — as well as being on a body of water the Elite Series trail has never visited — could make choosing a Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team difficult. We can’t help you decide who will be good on Chickamauga Lake, but we can spell out for you how it will affect Fantasy Fishing.
First of all, no Opens pros are accounted for in Fantasy Fishing. Points will be calculated based on the number of points an Elite Series pro would have earned if no Opens anglers were participating. If an Opens angler wins BASSfest, the next-highest-finishing Elite Series pro will earn winner points. For example, if the final Top 5 looks like this: 1. Gary Clouse (Opens) 2. Ott DeFoe (Elites) 3. Skylar Hamilton (Opens) 4. David Walker (Elites) 5. Kevin VanDam (Elites) Then the Fantasy Fishing points awarded will look like this: 1. Ott DeFoe (300 points) 2. David Walker (295) 3. Kevin VanDam (290)
Bonus points that are not awarded to Elite Series pros will not be counted. If Opens pro David Kilgore wins the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament, then no Fantasy Fishing player will earn the coveted 40-point big bass award. The same goes for the 5-point daily leader award and the 40-point big bag award. But if an Elite Series pro collects either of those honors, his Fantasy Fishing owners will collect the points.
BASSfest contains several cuts and the second-chance tournament. A full field of Elite Series pros and 33 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens pros will compete on Days 1 and 2 on Chickamauga. The Top 50 will advance to Day 4. Day 3 is reserved for the anglers who did not make the Top 50 cut. All of those anglers — about 90 competitors — will advance to a second-chance tournament on nearby Nickajack Lake. The bags weighed in on Friday only (their previous weight does not count) will either get them into the Top 10 — in which case they advance to Day 4 with the rest of the Top 50 — or the tournament is over for them. On Day 4, the Top 50 from Day 2 and the Top 10 from Day 3 go back to compete on Chickamauga with their final weight from Day 2. It does not matter on Day 4 how much weight the anglers sack on Day 3; it only matters if they got into the Top 10. For instance, if Alton Jones comes in 51st place on Day 2 and in 10th place on Day 3, and Steve Kennedy comes in 112th place on Day 2 and first place on Day 3, Jones still begins Day 4 in 51st place and Kennedy starts with his 112th-place weight. So, on Day 4, 60 anglers are competing to get into the Top 12 and compete on Day 5.
The second-chance event on Nickajack does not affect Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing points. No leader points will be awarded, and if the biggest bass or biggest bag is caught on this day, it will not count. The biggest bass and biggest bag must both come from Chickamauga. There will be no update to Fantasy Fishing on Day 3.
Now that you understand how it works, all that’s left is for you to pick your team! You have until the Day 1 launch on Wednesday, June 11, to set your anglers. Good luck!
By Tyler Reed RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — If you didn’t get your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks for Dardanelle right, don’t worry. No one did. Here are the anglers who made up the perfect team for Fantasy: Bucket A: Greg Hackney, 300 points Bucket B: Jason Christie, 305 Bucket C: Rick Clunn, 285 Bucket D: Mike Iaconelli, 276 Bucket E: Zell Rowland, 321 Total: 1,487 points No Fantasy Fishing player achieved a score that high. Zell Rowland’s big bass on Day 2 made him the best Fantasy Fishing pick of all. With his Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament, he earned more than 100 points better than anyone else in the bucket. Here’s how each bucket breaks down: Bucket A: Hackney A moderate number of players chose Hackney, with 4.7 percent ownership, and with two days of leader points and a third-place finish, he scored 300 points for his fans. And 1 percent of players chose Keith Combs, who delivered 280 points. Gerald Swindle, who finished in second place, performed well for his very small number of owners (0.9 percent) with 295 points. Mark Davis, who had very small ownership percentages until now, finally picked up a huge number of owners at 33.2 percent. But they jumped on the Davis train too late. He outscored most other anglers the last several events, but this time, he was a letdown. He only delivered 113 points. Other big letdowns were Randall Tharp, 8.5 percent, 115 points, and Kevin VanDam, 17.7 percent, 133 points. Look at it this way: If you were one of the 6.6 percent of people who chose Hackney, Swindle or Combs, you beat 59.4 percent of players — those who chose Davis, Tharp or VanDam – by an average of 170 points. Bucket B: Christie Jason Christie had a solid number of owners at 13.6 percent. Those owners are sitting pretty with at least a 33-point advantage over anyone else in Bucket B. The next-closest angler was Cliff Crochet with 272 points and a 3.3 percent ownership. And John Crews was not far behind with 269 points, although a scant 1.5 percent of owners got to enjoy that. Randy Howell’s Fantasy Fishing owners — and there were a lot at 22.2 percent — collected 235 points, which is strong, but it created a 70-point deficit behind the Christie pickers. Ott DeFoe (11.3 percent) and Brandon Palaniuk (13.7 percent) similarly had high ownership percentages but posted lower scores (225 and 163, respectively). Bucket C: Clunn Rick Clunn’s ownership was not nearly as high as it should have been, considering the veteran angler’s tournament history. But with Stephen Browning and Edwin Evers sharing the bucket, he couldn’t garner the vote. The 2.9 percent of people who believed in Clunn were rewarded with 285 points. The next-closest angler was 25 points back, with another veteran — Paul Elias — who had only 1 percent ownership. The bandwagoners who chose Browning (26.3 percent) and Evers (34.7 percent) earned only 161 and 229 points, respectively. In other words, if you were one of the 3.9 percent of people who chose the veterans (Clunn and Elias) over the younger hot sticks (Browning and Evers), you beat 61 percent of the bucket by an average of 77 points. Anglers with moderate ownership numbers — Fred Roumbanis, 7.9 percent, and Davy Hite, 8.9 percent — gave their fans 101 and 221 points, respectively. Bucket D: Iaconelli Mike Iaconelli, despite his lack of helping out Fantasy Fishing players this year, was owned by 11.6 percent of players on Dardanelle. And this time, he was a big help, earning 276 points for his fans. Chris Zaldain was the next-closest angler with 268 points that he gave to 4.4 percent of players. Kevin Short was heavily favored for this tournament because it’s his home water. He was owned by 22.5 percent of players, despite the fact that his house was just destroyed by a tornado. Fantasy Fishing players who wanted to choose a local angler but thought Short might be preoccupied with his natural disaster issues went with Billy McCaghren instead, who garnered 9 percent of the vote. Neither Short nor McCaghren were good choices. Short delivered 149 points, and McCaghren was even worse with 95 points. Bucket E: Rowland If you didn’t pick Zell Rowland in Bucket E, you flat-out lost. That means 97.5 percent of players were big losers in E. Rowland’s big bass and high finish earned 321 points for his fans. The next-closest angler was Kenyon Hill at 213 points. The 2.5 percent of players who picked Rowland had at least 108 points over all the other players. Most players chose Ish Monroe (24.9 percent) and Greg Vinson (24.5 percent). Those two anglers only posted 153 and 63 points, respectively. Ouch. If you chose Rowland, you had twice the score of one-quarter of your opponents (the Monroe pickers) and five times the score of another one-quarter of them (Vinson pickers). This tournament marks the second event in a row in which a Bucket E pick was the defining decision in a lineup. At Toledo Bend, it was Chris Zaldain who gave a huge boost to his Bucket E owners. Never ignore Bucket E. The buckets are open now for Chickamauga Lake in Tennessee. It’s going to be a very different tournament, scoring-wise, so stay tuned for updates on how Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing will work for that event.
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — Ozarkians and Alabamians will likely dominate this week on Lake Dardanelle, which is essentially a wide spot on the Arkansas River. Keep that in mind when setting yourBassmaster Fantasy Fishing roster. That anglers hailing from the Ozarks region of Arkansas are likely to succeed on familiar waters relatively close to home is no secret: Arkansans Mark Davis and Stephen Browning are the most-owned anglers in Buckets A and C, at 36.2 and 24.7 percent, respectively. But consider also anglers with track records of April and May success on the Alabama River and Alabama riverine reservoirs Logan Martin, Wheeler and Neely Henry. Not surprisingly, many anglers with good history on those Coosa River impoundments hail from Alabama.
It was Alabama native Randall Tharp (4.3 percent ownership) that told me in a recent interview that Dardanelle would fish similar to Coosa River reservoirs. And that’s partially why I’m picking him this week in a bucket that’s stocked with anglers with both the momentum and résumés to justify picking them instead — such as Kevin VanDam (17.3 percent), Mark Davis, Greg Hackney (5.3 percent) Alton Jones (1.1 percent) and Aaron Martens (6.2 percent). My other reason for picking Tharp is that I think this tournament will be won fishing shallow grass, which is Tharp’s strong suit. Two weeks ago, he flipped grass to place third on Toledo Bend. Flipping and swimming grass could be the ticket this week. My Bassmaster.com colleague David Bell made a good case for KVD, who has notched numerous postspawn Top 5s and 10s on Dardanelle and similar reservoirs, and it was hard to ignore that history. I was intrigued also by Jones, whose 1.1 ownership percentage is way too low for someone with two springtime Top 12s on Dardanelle and four Top 20s on comparable reservoirs (one of which is a fourth-place finish on the Alabama River last year in the second week of May).
Having grown up fishing in the Ozarks, Kansan Brent Chapman (5.5 percent) has a solid springtime history on Dardanelle and on similar riverine reservoirs: third, 20th and 27th on Dardanelle (April 2004, May 2005, March 2009); two second-place finishes on the Alabama River (May 2003 and 2005); and fourth on Wheeler (April 2009). On the other hand, his résumé also includes a 93rd-place bomb in early April on Neely Henry and a 155th-place showing in a mid-May 2005 event. Alabamian Matt Herren (2.6 percent) has a better average finish on Dardanelle than Chapman, having won an event here in May 2007 and placed ninth in a late March 2009 Elite Series tournament. His springtime body of work on similar riverine reservoirs, however, is not as good as Chapman’s. In five April or May events between 2005 and 2013, his finishes were: 16th, 30th and 100th on Wheeler; 110th on Neely Henry; and 50th on the Alabama River.
I’m following the crowd in Bucket C and taking Hot Springs, Ark., resident Stephen Browning (24.7 percent), who enters this tournament hot off his Open win on the Red River. With his Classic ticket already punched, Browning will be able to fish pretty loose and aggressively on pretty familiar water. Browning placed 23rd on Dardanelle in a late March Elite Series tournament and 16th in a late August 2007 one. In three springtime visits to comparable riverine reservoirs, he placed 10th (Wheeler, early April), 13th (mid-May, Logan Martin) and 65th (early May, Alabama River). South Carolinian Davy Hite (6.8 percent) has an up-and-down track record on Dardanelle and similar riverine reservoirs in the spring. In addition to a mid-May win here in 2005 and an 18th-place showing in late March 2009, he just barely made a check in mid-April 2004, placing 49th. Likewise, in mid-May 2013, he placed 15th in the Alabama River, but finished 80th and 81st on Wheeler in mid-May 2000 and early April 2009.
Only in Bucket D am I straying from my overall theme and not recommending an Ozarkian or Alabamian. Instead, I like veterans Gary Klein (4.1 percent) and Tommy Biffle (19.2 percent), of California and Oklahoma, respectively. I’m giving the nod to Klein, who has a great history here and on similar riverine reservoirs this time of year — fifth and 10th on Dardanelle (May 2005, April 2004); 11th and 20th on Wheeler (April 2009, May 2000); and 15th on the Alabama River in late May 2003. On the other hand, he bombed on the Alabama River in the second week of May last year, placing 63rd. While Biffle has never notched a Top 10 on Dardanelle in the spring, he placed 22nd here in May 2005. On similar fisheries, he won an April 2009 Elite series event on Wheeler, placed 28th on Wheeler in May 2005, and placed sixth on the Alabama River last year in May. On the other hand, his spring history on riverine reservoirs also includes finishes of 35th, 38th and 42nd place on Dardanelle, and finishes of 60th, 129th on Neely Henry and Wheeler, respectively.
I’m with the crowd again in Bucket E, where I’m picking Alabama’s Greg Vinson (20.5 percent). Although Vinson placed 43rd on Dardanelle in a May 2007 event, he balanced out his résumé here with an 11th-place showing in a March 2009 Elite Series tournament. In five April or May tournaments on similar riverine reservoirs, he finished out of the money only once (58th, Wheeler), in the 20s twice, in the 40s once, and was the runner-up on Logan Martin in last May’s Open there. A good case can be made for Duckett, another Alabamian, who won here in late August 2007. Conditions then, of course, were not similar to now, but Duckett does have two high finishes on similar riverine reservoirs in April or May — fourth on Neely Henry (2009, PAA), and 14th (2013, Elites). Who are you picking for your Fantasy Fishing roster?
Whoever makes the run north at the Bassmaster Elite on Lake Dardanelle is going to win. Period. Remember that when you’re setting your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team. Running north is not as easy as it sounds, and it could be downright dangerous. Last Monday, May 5, there was a small craft advisory with only a 6 mph wind from the southeast. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t imagine how any lake, let alone a river system, could generate waves of that magnitude from such a small wind. I grew up on Lake Ontario, and those waves will practically lay down at 6 mph! What’s different at Dardanelle is the current, and any time you have a southeast wind, it’s going to push up against that current and get nautical real quick. Why would I bet the winner would battle through that? That’s what Elite Series pros do. Right now, there are nasty thunderstorms slamming into Russellville that are creating flash flood advisories, which will no doubt muddy the waters. The forecast also shows a cold front moving in late Monday night and early Tuesday morning that will replace the mid-80-degree temperatures that have been there with mid-60s to high 50s, as well as lows threatening to touch the 30s midweek. Welcome, all you guys who just got sunburned in Texas! I’m starting to wonder if B.A.S.S. is dragging this front with it everywhere the tournament trail goes. The end of the week shows a couple of small storms, but only on one day (as of now) is there a chance of that wind coming out of the southeast, and that’s Friday. So why head north? Charles “Chuck” Morrison at Classic Catch Guide Service gave me some different thoughts on the lake and told me that the fish are done spawning for the most part. There are still some on beds, still some males guarding, but the majority of the spawn is over. On the north end of the river, those bigger schools of large fish will be condensed and easier to find day after day. They’re also more likely to be left untouched by guys unwilling to drive more than an hour each way. The fish here are river fish, not lake fish, so they rely on current. The north end will have plenty of that and won’t be impacted as greatly by water being pulled by the dam. Morrison said there is also a school of monsters at the south end. However, those fish can be hard to find day after day and may not produce 20-plus pounds a day like the school to the north will. Pros looking to stay in the central or main lake fishing the water willows and hydrilla will find good topwater action in the morning. Morrison said swim jigs and crankbaits will dominate. Like we saw at Toledo Bend, guys will pretty much be able to fish their strengths this week in Arkansas. I love that about this time of year. Just remember that a lot could change between now and Saturday, and if that front hangs around, it could be a finesse fishing fiesta, and a guy like Aaron Martens could be dominant. My Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks for this week are Mark Davis and Brandon Palaniuk. Davis is the hometown favorite who also just happens to be hotter than a $2 pistol, but we’ve seen Palaniuk make runs more than an hour long at the St. Lawrence to pull in the huge smallmouth that led to victory in New York. If anyone would make that run this week, it’s him. See the weather predictions for Russellville below, or get a real-time update here.
By David Bell
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — The Elite Series heads to Lake Dardanelle, May 15-18. This marks the third stop for the Elite Series at Lake Dardanelle and the first since 2009. It’s time to look at previous tournament data from Dardanelle as we set our Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing teams.
Mark Menendez worked a smaller aluminum boat through a culvert to win the event back in 2009. (Side note: I wish Mark was able to defend his Lake Dardanelle title this year, but I am also glad to see all the support from Skeet Reese, Dave Mercer and all the other Elite anglers helping support Mark and his family after his wife died earlier this year.)
Anglers will not be able to reach that area this year because they have to use the same boat they started the season with. The bigger fiberglass boats will not fit through that same culvert. There are still several big areas that anglers can focus on at Lake Dardanelle that could be the winning areas. The main river can be a place to catch a big sack in the summer, but with the cold winter, the bass have not moved out that far yet. Illinois Bayou by the launch site and Spadra Creek at the north end of Lake Dardanelle should be the two biggest players in the tournament.
Remember, the percentages listed here are likely to change before the tournament starts. Keep that in mind when deciding on your Fantasy Fishing team.
Kevin VanDam is having a “slow” season sitting 14th in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings. This sounds like a copy from any event, but this lake blends well into the way VanDam likes to fish. With four major B.A.S.S. events on Lake Dardanelle, VanDam has finished no worse than 10th (eighth in 2004, 10th in 2005, third in 2007, and second in 2009). VanDam was the runner-up to Mark Menendez in the 2009 event on Lake Dardanelle. KVD is the second-most owned Fantasy Fishing angler at 13.4 percent, but that is still pretty low considering his past history at this lake. I hope this is the event KVD wins and makes a strong charge up the AOY leaderboard.
Greg Hackney may be from Louisiana, but he has fished a lot of tournaments in Arkansas. Lake Dardanelle offers a lot of areas to fish the way Hackney likes to fish. Hackney has fished three B.A.S.S. events at Lake Dardanelle, making a check at each event, and he took home a Top 12 at two of those events. He is only owned by 1.4 percent of Fantasy Fishing players, so he really is a steal for the bucket.
There are very few anglers on the Elite Series that have as much experience on the Arkansas River as Scott Rook. Rook has more experience farther down the river around Little Rock or Pine Bluff, but do not be afraid to take Rook on your Fantasy Fishing team. He is having one of his best seasons in a while on the Elite Series, sitting in 10th in AOY. Rook is owned by 1.9 percent of players, so there is plenty to be gained over other players by taking him. Having a few of VanDam’s lucky cookies in his box does not hurt. I left Mark Davis off not because I expect him to have his first bad tournament, but more for his 44.5 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership. With this being a postspawn event on a lake not far from his home, Lake Dardanelle could easily host Davis to his fifth Top 12 finish out of five events this season.
Brent Chapman is sitting right around the cut line for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic, currently at 27th in AOY. Interestingly enough, 27th is Chapman’s worst finish in four B.A.S.S. events on Lake Dardanelle. Chapman is the fifth-most-owned angler for the bucket at 5.0 percent. I am hopeful Chapman is the highest points earner for the bucket, but I expect him to at least beat several of the other anglers who have higher ownership percentages.
Classic champ Randy Howell is a camping buddy of Brent Chapman’s. These two have a chance to be battling each other Sunday on Lake Dardanelle. Howell has made a check in three B.A.S.S. events on Lake Dardanelle, including a win in 2004. The one event Howell did not make a check at Lake Dardanelle was 2007, when only the Top 25 earned a check, and Howell finished 28th. Howell is the favorite for the bucket at 24.8 percent, so if you need a safe pick, Howell should be your choice.
Matt Herren has only fished one B.A.S.S. event on Lake Dardanelle, but he made the Top 12 cut in that event. He is having a solid season with three Top 50 finishes in the four events so far. At 1.8 percent ownership, he is a real steal. Look for Herren to be right in the hunt for his first Top 12 finish of the season.
Davy Hite mentioned on First Look at Toledo Bend that he did not make the cut there but that he will make the Top 12 at Lake Dardanelle. It did not look like he was saying it to blow smoke, either. Hite won an event on Lake Dardanelle in 2005 at the same time of year. He also finished 18th at the Lake Dardanelle event in 2009. Only 4.6 percent of Fantasy Fishing players are taking Hite right now, so if he has a strong finish, his players have a lot to gain over other players.
Fred Roumbanis had a bit of an off-tournament at Toledo Bend, but Lake Dardanelle could be just what he needs to forget about that. He has fished two B.A.S.S. events at Lake Dardanelle and took home Top 12 finishes in each event. I have a feeling it could be Hite and Roumbanis fighting for the best finisher of this bucket. Roumbanis is owned by 7.8 percent of players, so there is still plenty of opportunity to gain an advantage.
Stephen Browning, who’s from Hot Springs, Ark., may have as much experience on Lake Dardanelle as Scott Rook. Browning already has a Classic spot with his win at the last Central Open on the Red River. The combination of Browning having experience here and a Classic spot wrapped up should let Browning fish a little more aggressively. Watch for Browning to be near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday. The only reason to avoid Browning is his 26.1 percent ownership. If you want a safe pick for this bucket, Browning would be the angler to take. If you want to try and pass other fantasy players, I would look for a lower owned angler.
No one will have a bigger cheering section or fans pulling an angler to have a great tournament than Kevin Short will. What his family has been through in the last two weeks — with the tornado destruction in his hometown of Mayflower, Ark. — is something no one would want to go through. However, Short is not just a sentimental pick, but a smart pick. He has fished Lake Dardanelle since he was a boy. He has seen the lake through its ups and downs over time. Short may have a lot going on in his hometown, about an hour from Lake Dardanelle, but he will be able to find what he needs to excel at this event. Short is the most-owned angler at 23.4 percent for the bucket, but that does not really matter to me this week. He is a stick on Lake Dardanelle, and a solid tournament can be the right therapy for him at this point.
Tommy Biffle is the third-most-owned angler in the bucket at 14.8 percent, but he has made a check in all four events he has fished on Lake Dardanelle. He won an event not far up the Arkansas River at Fort Gibson. This has not been the best season for Biffle, so he needs to do what it takes to shoot for a win and the automatic Classic berth that comes with it.
Billy McCaghren lives in Mayflower as well, but he was spared from the tornado. Like Short, McCaghren has fished Lake Dardanelle most than almost any other lake. He took home a 14th-place finish in his one B.A.S.S. event on Lake Dardanelle. Watch for him to be right there again battling for a Top 12 finish. McCaghren is owned by 9.3 percent of players, which seems pretty low considering he lives so close to Lake Dardanelle.
Greg Vinson has fished one B.A.S.S. event at Lake Dardanelle, taking home an 11th-place finish in 2009. Lake Dardanelle is the type of fishery that fits right into the way Vinson likes to fish. He is the second-most-owned angler at 20.8 percent, but that is because he could be the safest pick for the event. If Vinson is the highest finisher for the bucket, he can still beat four out of five Fantasy Fishing players for you.
Boyd Duckett is the angler I wanted to take for Lake Dardanelle this week, but he has not had a solid finish yet this year, which has hurt my Fantasy Fishing team a couple times already. Duckett won the Bassmaster Major event at Lake Dardanelle in 2007 and made a check at the 2009 event. He is a nice value pick at 8.9 percent ownership, but his strategy of fishing for Sunday is a high-risk/high-reward strategy. Get Duckett on your team if you think he gets his first Top 12 finish of the season at Lake Dardanelle.
Pete Ponds may not be the first name to jump out at you in Bucket E, but do not let him surprise you. Ponds was the last angler to make a check at the 2009 event on Lake Dardanelle. His last Top 12 finish came at West Point Lake in 2013 fishing a secret little runoff flowing into the lake. Lake Dardanelle offers places that could set up just like this if Ponds can find them. A 2.1 percent ownership does not hurt, either.
Remember to get your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team locked in before the event starts May 15. The person who chooses the best team for Dardanelle wins $2,500 in Bass Pro Shops gift cards.
By Ronnie Moore Last event at Toledo Bend played out well for my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks, and for that, I was rewarded with almost 1,200 points to show for it. Chris Zaldain came through in the clutch, and all five of my anglers made the 50 cut and “cut” themselves a check in the process. Lake Dardanelle is the next stop and it has me scratching my head (kind of).
Who I’m taking: Scott Rook The tempting choice: Mark Davis So many heavy hitters are in this all-important bucket and for good reason. I chose Rook here because of his consistency this season. As quiet as he may be, he is sitting in 10th in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. With his lone slip up being a 54th-place finish at Lake Seminole, I’ll take it. Not to mention, he is from Little Rock, so he is a local in my mind and a good enough postspawn fisherman to bank on his consistent skill set. Hard not to pick the AOY leader Mark Davis when he has reeled off such a fantastic season thus far, but he stumbled in his last event (SARCASM) and is coming off his worst finish of the season — fourth place at Toledo Bend. He is a great fisherman wherever the Elites go, but his going rate of 44 percent is too high for me. I’ll stick with the underdogs.
Who I’m taking: John Crews The tempting choice: Morizo Shimizu With 57.6 percent of people in Bucket B choosing Jason Christie, Brandon Palaniuk or Randy Howell, I would steer clear if you want to leapfrog some Fantasy Fishing participants in the standings. John Crews is due for a Top 12 and, when it comes down to it, I think he can do it here on Dardanelle. He has missed two cuts this season (52nd place at Toledo Bend, 58th at Seminole) and has been on the edge of making every cut. He has been a great pick for a mid-30 finish. I think he gets it done this time around. Another angler to consider when picking from this bucket is Morizo Shimizu. He has made the cut in three of the four regular season Elite Series events, and with a 0.3 percent going rate, snagging him comes with low-risk, high-reward potential. Shimizu has proven he can compete during the season before they hit the Northern smallmouth fisheries.
Who I’m taking: Davy Hite The tempting choice: Brandon Lester Davy Hite has had an up and down season thus far and with two early checks to start the year, I think Hite will bounce back for a good finish on Dardanelle. If a 5.1 percent rate doesn’t have you smiling already, a win in May 2005 on Dardanelle will stretch your smile ear to ear. Hite obviously has history on this lake during this time of the year. Under the radar and off the beaten path, rookie Brandon Lester has done well in his freshman campaign. He has cashed two checks (one at Seminole and this past event at Toledo Bend) and with an “unknown” vibe, many people will overlook him. Even with a ninth-place standing in a stacked rookie class, Lester has shown he can hang so far this season.
Who I’m taking: Mike Iaconelli The tempting choice: Kevin Short This season has been one of a train wreck for Iaconelli. Actually, the train is still at the station waiting to take off. And this is the exact reason I’m buying stock in Ike as I type this. Usually at a solid 30 percent ownership, Ike is owned by just 11 percent of Fantasy Fishing players and this (in my opinion) will be the biggest payoff for those risking it by choosing him. Dardanelle will be a confidence booster for Ike, who started the season with finishes of 75, 64, 33 and 100 respectively. My heart goes out to Kevin Short and his family for the situation they are faced with after the devastating tornadoes that ravaged Mayflower, Ark. I could see this tournament lining up to be a great storybook finish with Short rising above the adversity and clinching his berth to the Classic with a win. Then again, he has more pressing issues ahead of him and his head might not be in the game.
Who I’m taking: Yusuke Miyazaki The tempting choice: Dennis Tietje Miyazaki has stepped his game up in the recent years and has been successful. With big (and recognizable names) such as Ish Monroe, Boyd Duckett and Greg Vinson, I could see many Fantasy Fishing players choosing them over anglers they aren’t that familiar with. Maybe that’s just me. But the 7 percent of you who have picked Miyazaki, he could be a points-earner. I truly could see Tietje doing well here. He was the local favorite last event at Toledo Bend, but that isn’t always a good thing for an angler’s mindset. Same deal with Cliff Prince. He was a favorite on the St. Johns and didn’t do well, and then he got a Top 12 on Table Rock — a completely different fishery. We will see.
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — Last week at Toledo Bend, I tried to play it safe in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing and choose anglers I “knew” would garner me some key points — safe bets, such as Dean Rojas, Todd Faircloth, Edwin Evers and Dennis Tietje, all of whom had strong records on the Bend. Expecting that it was going to be a big weight event, I also picked Ish Monroe, who has a strong track record in slugfests, but seems equally likely to score a bottom 20 finish as a Top 20 finish. Unfortunately, I got the Mr. Hyde version of Ish instead of the Dr. Jekyll iteration, as he finished a dismal 94th. At least I still had my four “safe” picks to salvage the event, right? Well, Rojas and Faircloth did the heavy lifting, finishing sixth and ninth, respectively. Meanwhile, Evers turned in a very un-Evers-like performance, landing in 68th. Home crowd favorite Dennis Tietje didn’t help me, either, and ended up 92nd. In short, my picks averaged a 54th-place finish, smack dab in the middle of the 108-man field. Actually it was slightly worse than that because two anglers sat the event out. In other words, I probably could’ve had a computer pick an angler from each bucket at random and do at least as well. I recognize that picking a Fantasy Fishing team is far from an exact science. We don’t have the reams of information that analysts in other sports have in front of them to inform their picks. Still, it burns me up to get my butt kicked like I did at Toledo Bend, especially because I tried to play it close to the vest. If I’d picked a group of no-names or has-beens and gotten killed, it wouldn’t be so galling. The best analogy I can come up with is an angler who “chases checks” rather than betting on a few big bites, and ends up with neither. With that in mind, I’m going to do my best to take some risks this week — maybe not extreme risks, but enough that if all goes well, it’ll help me leapfrog a few people who have been more prescient up to this midway point of the season. Here are my choices for Dardanelle.
Picked: Hackney Almost picked: Rook Reasoning: Tough not to pick Kevin VanDam here. In three B.A.S.S. events at Dardanelle dating back to 2004, he’s finished eighth, third and second, so if the upward trend continues there’s only one slot left to move. Tough not to pick Mark Davis, Jared Lintner or Chad Morgenthaler, either, because all three are fishing out of their heads. I’m going with Greg Hackney, though, whose ownership percentage is remarkably low. He’s a shallow-water stud and it’s close to home. He was second here in 2004 when Randy Howell won and eighth when Boyd Duckett won in 2008, so no one’s going to be surprised if he wins — except the thousands of people who failed to pick him.
Picked: Crochet Almost picked: Lowen Reasoning: Man, this one hurts. Bucket B is stacked. From what I’ve gathered informally, it’s going to be won shallow in the grass. Cliff Crochet doesn’t have B.A.S.S. experience here, but he’s rapidly becoming known as a premier level frogger. Matt Herren won here on the FLW Series, and Randy Howell won the 2004 Bassmaster E-50 here. Bill Lowen came in 17th in 2009 and he’s only gotten better since then. I could pick any of the four and feel good about it, and all except Howell have low ownership percentages. Last week, I went with “conventional wisdom” and it hurt me, so this time I’m going with Crochet as the gut pick.
Picked: Browning Almost picked: Kennedy Reasoning: When in doubt, go with the home-state boy. That didn’t work last week with Tietje, and for some reason I’m consciously avoided the Mark Davis momentum train (which pulls into its home station this week), but Stephen Browning is fishing well and Dardanelle is his type of fishery. I love picking Steve Kennedy, but he seems to burn me a lot, and I want Kelly Jordon’s career to rebound back to on-the-verge-of-superstardom again, but he’s in some kind of atypical funk and I’m not ready to take that much risk. If I have to make one high-ownership-percentage pick, let this be the one.
Picked: Biffle Almost picked: Short Reasoning: Man, Tommy Biffle is one of those Ish-type picks, not afraid to finish 90th if he feels there’s an equal chance he’ll win. Of his seven Bassmaster wins, four have come in the May-June-July time period. It’s when the jig works — not only flipping but also his crazy bottom-bugging deal — and that led me to pick him, despite a relatively high ownership rate. For sentimental reasons as well as logical ones (he’s a Dardanelle fixture), I wanted to pick Kevin Short, but I don’t have a sense of where his head is after his family’s recent tragedy. Can he compartmentalize his life enough to put his head down and earn his first B.A.S.S. win (Tour or Open level) since 2011 and his first in his home state? This is one bucket where it wouldn’t hurt too bad to have buyer’s remorse.
Picked: Rowland Almost picked: Duckett and Vinson Reasoning: Boyd Duckett won here in 2008 during the white-hot stretch of his career, and his ownership percentage isn’t too high, certainly not as high as that of Ish Monroe, who burned me last week. I really wanted to pick Greg Vinson because I have a feeling that swimming a jig will play a key role and he scored a Top 12 here in 2009, but his high ownership percentage scared me off. I need to make a move and can’t do it by being conventional. I’m tempted to go with one of the old-school veterans like Pete Ponds and Matt Reed, but neither has done well here in past events. My gut tells me to bet on Zell Rowland, who despite some struggles in recent years has had occasional flashes of success. He also had a Top 5 finish in the E-50 that Howell won. Gotta take a risk or two to get ahead, and there’s nothing less stable than a Pop-R bite. Who are you picking for your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team?
MANY, La. — The No. 1 lesson from Toledo Bend regarding Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing is that jumping on the bandwagon doesn’t always pay. No one earned the maximum number of points available at Toledo Bend. Here’s the perfect lineup: Bucket A: Jacob Powroznik, 310 points Bucket B: Dean Rojas, 281 Bucket C: Cliff Crochet, 254 Bucket D: Cliff Pirch, 248 Bucket E: Chris Zaldain, 308 Total points: 1,401 The Fantasy Fishing players who hurt themselves the most are the ones who stuck with big familiar names like Edwin Evers and Aaron Martens and neglected the lesser-known pros. The big-name strategy worked at Table Rock, but it did not pay off on Toledo Bend. Here’s how each bucket fared.
Jacob Powroznik was the best pick by 15 points in Bucket A. And yet, he was the second-least angler owned with only 0.19 percent of fans believing in him. The highest-owned angler was Todd Faircloth at 25.56 percent. He performed well for his fans, posting a ninth-place finish, but his Fantasy Fishing points at 264 were no match for Powroznik’s 310. Similarly, Mark Davis had a high ownership (16.92 percent) and finished in fourth, delivering 285 points for his fans. Like Powroznik, Chad Morgenthaler had very low ownership (0.27 percent), but his second-place finish posted 295 points for his fans. Jared Lintner, at 302 points, scored strong for his small group of owners, only 0.58 percent. The way to get ahead of the field in Bucket A was to choose Powroznik, Morgenthaler, Lintner or Randall Tharp (4.19 percent with 290 points). The players who picked them eclipsed the majority in the bucket, who chose Faircloth or Davis. The biggest letdowns (high ownership, low reward) were Greg Hackney (13.64 percent, 207 points) and Aaron Martens (12.61 percent, 169).
Dean Rojas made a lot of fans happy in Bucket B. He was the second-highest owned angler, and he posted 281 points, the best of the bucket. Kevin VanDam was the highest-owned at 28.74 percent, and his 19th-place finish garnered 237 points for his fans. By picking Rojas over VanDam, the Rojas owners earned an extra 44 points. Randy Howell (11.63 percent ownership) ended with 229 points, and Brent Chapman (10.04 percent) ended with 221. Fans guessed right by not picking Casey Scanlon or Rick Morris. At only 0.12 and 0.18 percent ownership respectively, they delivered only 83 and 67 points. Strong picks besides Rojas were Casey Ashley, 3.07 percent, 280 points (only 1 point behind Rojas), and Skeet Reese, 2.88 percent, 272.
Cliff Crochet had a strong but not overwhelming ownership at 7.01 percent, and he brought it home for his fans with 254 points. Those 7 percent of owners are rejoicing right now that they didn’t jump on the bandwagon and choose Edwin Evers.
Evers was the biggest letdown of the tournament, as far as ownership/reward goes. He practically owned Bucket C with 43.95 percent of players picking him, but his 68th-place finish delivered a measly 141 points, putting his owners behind most in the group.
Brandon Palaniuk’s owners, 15.97 percent of players, didn’t match Crochet’s, but they were only 21 points behind them at 231 points. The best thing for the Palaniuk players is that they beat all of Evers’ owners by 92 points.
And ahead of Palaniuk was Glenn Browne with 251 points (only 3 points behind Crochet), but only 0.16 percent of players earned those points.
If you didn’t choose Crochet, Browne or Palaniuk, you would have done well with Mike Kernan, who gave 245 points to his small audience of 0.68 percent owners, or Hank Cherry, 243 points, 2.64 percent.
Cliff Pirch was middle-of-the-pack on ownership, with 2.79 percent of players picking him. He earned 248 points for his owners, 23 points more than the next-highest scorer in the bucket, Rick Clunn.
Clunn had 6.97 percent of the ownership in D. Above him were two big letdowns, more than 100 points back: Tommy Biffle (27.35 percent, 123 points) and Ish Monroe (24.99 percent, 89 points).
If you didn’t choose Pirch or Clunn, you would have done well with David Mullins (0.46 percent, 215 points) or Chad Pipkens (0.31 percent, 209 points).
To get ahead in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, you should have chosen Chris Zaldain, hands-down. He had the biggest spread in the whole event, winning his bucket by 48 points. His Carhartt Big Bass on Day 1 earned him 40 of those points, and he finished in eighth place. His overall points for this tournament was 308, only 2 points behind the winner, Powroznik. Only 4.85 percent of players picked him and outdid the rest of the field.
If you didn’t choose Zaldain, you should have gone for Jonathon VanDam with 260 points. He was the second-highest earner and the second-highest pick (15.60 percent). The third-highest earner, Kotaro Kiriyama, was more than 100 points behind Zaldain with 197.
The biggest letdown was Dennis Tietje. Home lake advantage is sometimes a myth, and that’s what happened here. Tietje’s extensive experience on Toledo Bend prodded 23.31 percent of players to pick him, but he earned a dismal 93 points. Tietje was another example of the bandwagon busts.
You can go ahead and set your team for the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Dardanelle; buckets are already open. Don’t forget the pros who are likely to catch the biggest bass because, as was the case with Zaldain, the angler who catches the heaviest earns 40 points for his owners.
Good luck at Dardanelle!
By Pete Robbins
I spent the first day of the 2008 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell in Kelly Jordon’s boat. I don’t remember much of it because my eyeballs iced up and I couldn’t see 5 feet in front of me. If memory serves me correctly, it didn’t get above 37 or 38 degrees that day, and coupled with a nonstop and occasionally heavy rain, it made it just delightful to sit and watch someone else fish. My feet thawed out the following June.
I thought that would be the coldest day I’d ever spend in a bass boat. Then came the Grand Lake Classic of 2013. My map gave me no clue that Tulsa is actually in Alaska, but that’s what it felt like. It’s never a good day to be a bass blogger when they have to de-ice the boat ramp. Fortunately my boat driver brought a little propane heater on the water, which kept my blogging fingers fairly useful.
Read the rest of the article here or below.
South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell is the host lake for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic. When it comes to selecting my Classic picks for Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, I like to pick anglers who have a knack for swinging for the fences and also anglers who know how to close it out in crunch-time situations.
Here are my picks:
By Jesse Heinecke
I am a bass/B.A.S.S. junkie. I read and watch anything I can on our sport, and I am super excited for the Classic and all the Fantasy Fishing fun that is to follow. With Wisconsin water frozen, I get to research and talk bass fishing in our offseason while I tinker, retie, read, daydream, re-spool, reorganize, and watch every fishing show I can, looking for that next tip or technique to try … in a few months.
By Cody Hanley
On the borders of South Carolina and Georgia lies Lake Hartwell, and you can expect it’s going to be a great show at the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 20-22.
We’ll see some deep fishing in which the bass are staging to come shallow, schooling fish and shallow prespawn largemouth. The water will be cold and bass will be on the verge of being lethargic.
The Classic may be the toughest tournament of the year for Fantasy Fishing. Unlike regular season events, when you can usually rule out 10 or 20 guys as dead weight for one reason or another, here they’ve all come to play and they’ve shown that they can either win big or be consistently near the top of the heap.
Also, there are different incentives at play — many anglers will take risks they wouldn’t try during a “normal” tournament in order to come in first, which pays much, much more than second.
Furthermore, the spectator traffic is exponentially heavier, so anglers whom you’d normally expect to dominate may get taken out of the hunt by an overzealous flotilla. Therefore, you try to develop little rules to guide you — aphorisms along the lines of “never play cards with a guy who has the first name as a city.”
Unfortunately, the rules don’t seem to work anymore. My No. 1 rule for cold weather tournaments used to be “always bet on the fat guy.” You see, fat guys have that extra layer that prevents them from feeling the cold when it gets nasty outside. Additionally, the biscuits-and-gravy crew tend to move slowly and be particularly good with a jig, two qualities that are often useful when the water temps are frigid.
With the introduction of all sorts of high-tech clothing, anglers no longer feel the effects of wintry weather as much as they once did. Furthermore, it seems that about half the guys on tour are regularly pumping iron and downing protein shakes. There are simply fewer fat dudes out there than there used to be, and the skinny ones are so physically fit that the cold doesn’t bother them like it did back in the day.
In the spirit of this new age, my five picks are going to all run afoul of my previous “iron-clad” Fantasy Fishing rules:
Rule to Be Broken: Don’t Hit on the Bridesmaid
My Pick: Aaron Martens
There are guys who are always in the hunt, and then there are true closers, anglers who shut the door when opportunity presents itself. Both Martens and Faircloth have shown that they can dominate in Bassmaster competition with six and four wins, respectively. They’ve also fished 15 and 12 Classics, without a win to show for it. Faircloth finished 25th at the last Hartwell Classic. Martens finished ninth — not one of his quartet of runner-ups. That might lead you to say that he can’t close, but if he keeps his head screwed on straight and doesn’t forget a box of needed crankbaits or some other unforced error, this is his type of tournament to win. Expect something from his oddball list of discontinued garage baits to make a showing — and an impact.
Rule to Be Broken: Don’t Pick the Hometown Guy
My Pick: Casey Ashley
Almost Picked: Randall Tharp
Much has been made of the fact that Boyd Duckett and Randy Howell are the only anglers to have won Classics in the state where they reside. Indeed, the added pressure to win at home can be tough. Not only do you typically have an increased number of interviews and appearances during the wind-up to the tournament, but as you fish you know that you’re handing over every little secret spot you’ve ever found to the locals. If you win, it’s worth it. If you don’t, you’ve just spilled all of your candy in the movie theater lobby.
Ashley is going to be surrounded by spectators like never before, but he’s shown that he can win near home, emerging victorious during the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Murray, and then again on Hartwell during the March 2014 FLW Tour event there. He is going to do well; the only question is how well.
Despite the fact that lots of players will pick him, there are lots of fan favorites in this bucket like Jason Christie, Chris Lane, Brandon Palaniuk and Gerald Swindle, so it won’t be quite the bandwagon pick as it would be in a larger field. This tournament may not seem to be directly in Tharp’s wheelhouse because it’s unlikely to be a flipping derby and there’s no grass. But he’s a certified winner, with an FLW Championship to his name as well as a runner-up finish. Watching him closely at the Classic last year, I saw that no amount of pressure or misfortune is going to get to him, and he finished 13th in last year’s FLW Tour event on Hartwell.
Rule to Be Broken: Don’t Pick the Skinny Water Expert
My Pick: Bill Lowen
Almost Picked: Cliff Crochet
It’s tough to win a late winter/early spring tournament up shallow. Even if there’s a pile of bass in the skinny water, one little cold snap and the little green boogers go scurrying back to deeper areas. Additionally, the heavy boat traffic tends to muddy up shallow areas. You may not have a single spectator, but when the leader’s followers go by, they mess up your water. When Denny Brauer won in 1998, he combated this by finding an area behind a shallow bar, where other boats could not go without idling, but there’s no guarantee anyone else will be able to do the same.
If anyone can, it’ll be Lowen, who’s made a career out of fishing ankle-deep when everyone else is jigging spoons or videogaming drop shots in 60 feet of water. The rapidly maturing Crochet can do many things beyond the frogging technique for which he’s best known, and he’s unlikely to have a big following on Day 1. Besides, he’d likely deliver the greatest champion’s speech in Classic history; you’ve got to root for that. Also, he’s likely to be picked by a much lower percentage of players than favorites like Mike Iaconelli, Mike McClelland or Edwin Evers, so if he does well, you’ll gain some valuable distance from the rest of the field.
Rule to Be Broken: Don’t Pick the Sentimental Favorite
My Pick: Kevin Short
Almost Picked: Paul Mueller
Normally it’s not a good idea to pick someone for sentimental reasons, but both Short and Mueller have shown that they’re closers. After a tornado demolished his home last year, Short missed a tournament and then fished like a man possessed the rest of the season to make it here. I’m sure he would’ve liked even more tournaments on the schedule to keep that momentum going. He’s a closer, with five Bassmaster wins to his credit, and while he pulled off a middling (22nd place) finish at the 2008 Hartwell Classic, this pond lends itself to many things he’s good at, including throwing a jig and jerkbait, as well as cranking shallow up the river.
Mueller, who came within a pound of being the second angler to win the Classic by qualifying through the B.A.S.S. Nation, seems low-key, but now that he’s on the radar, the Classic experience may be a little busier for him. Had I not been set on breaking rules, I likely would’ve picked Ott DeFoe or Brian Snowden, and I wouldn’t be surprised if either won, but at this point a Short victory would make for a better story.
Rule to Be Broken: Don’t Pick a Classic Rookie
My Pick: Shin Fukae
Almost Picked: David Kilgore
As every veteran pro will tell you, the Classic’s demands are unlike those at any other tournament. You’re shuffled around from event to event, forced to dress up in a coat and tie, and scheduled down to the last minute, when all you want to be doing is working on tackle and thinking about the next day. Accordingly, even if a rookie has his game together, there’s an ankle weight pulling him down a bit.
The last rookie to win the Classic was Boyd Duckett in 2007, and before that it was David Fritts in 1993. Normally, we don’t know much about the Classic first-timers, but this year this bucket is stacked, with the likes of Jacob Wheeler — winner of the BFL All-American and the Forrest Wood Cup — filling out its ranks. Even B.A.S.S. Nation anglers like Coby Carden and Jeff Lugar have been to the big dance before.
Kilgore has proven himself to be a consistent winner, a latter-day Jeff Coble, able to win at the Tour level but choosing not to go there full-time. He performed admirably at last year’s home state Classic, finishing eighth.
Still, my pick has to be Fukae, who has substantial experience with winning, and also at Hartwell, where he’s finished 45th, 21st and 58th in FLW competition. Not lights out, but that’s a lot of time on the water. More importantly, he’s a proven winner. While you may think of him as a finesse-only angler, unable to bring in the big weights necessary to be competitive in slugfests, remember that his Bassmaster Open win came on Champlain, and while his first FLW win was on Beaver Lake, the next two were on Okeechobee and Champlain. Because of his perceived English language deficit, he may not have many followers on tournament day (except, almost certainly, a Japanese camera crew or two), and that will work to his advantage.
Bucket A: Powroznik, Pace
Conservative pick: Jacob Powroznik
Powroznik had a fantastic “rookie” season and showed that he can compete wherever the Elites travel to. He won on Toledo Bend bed fishing and fishing shallow areas for largemouth and then they traveled to Escanaba, Mich., where he smashed on some smallmouth and notched the two-day victory there. Bottom line, Powroznik puts in the time and knows how to fish any way he needs to.
Dark horse: Cliff Pace
Not many people will even remember that Pace is in the Classic because the last time they heard his name was after he won the trophy at the 2013 Classic. Hartwell will have low water temps and if it plays out like it did in 2008 when Alton Jones won, then Pace is certainly the angler it sets up for. Slow, methodical jig fishing is his game.
Bucket B: Ashley, Crews
Conservative pick: Casey Ashley
Casey Ashley had a fantastic 2014 on both pro circuits, and while many anglers struggle to close the deal on a body of water close to home, Ashley didn’t. Last season he won the FLW event on Lake Hartwell convincingly, so no doubt he will be highly owned when it comes to picks for the Classic. But you can’t go wrong with a South Carolina stud on a body of water he is comfortable with.
Dark horse: John Crews
Crews has been a consistent force on the Elite Series for the last few seasons, and the versatility of Crews should help when it comes to the Classic. Not to mention that Crews finished 16th in the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, which was on Lake Hartwell as well.
Bucket C: Evers, McClelland
Conservative pick: Edwin Evers
Evers has been at the top of his game for quite some time and on some of the biggest stages, he shows up. Since 2005, Evers has six Top 12 finishes in the Bassmaster Classic, including an 11th-place finish on Hartwell previously. Evers has never won a Classic trophy, but his third-place finish last season definitely has him wanting more, and you can’t go much farther up from third.
Dark horse: Mike McClelland
Mike McClelland is one of the best jerkbait fishermen on the face of the planet, if not the best. His cold-water fishing ability is noted, and I expect McClelland to bring his A-game when it comes time to launch for Day 1 of the Bassmaster Classic. He notched a win on Table Rock Lake early last season and after struggling at Hartwell in 2008, I think redemption is on his mind. This should be in his wheelhouse.
Bucket D: Montgomery, Mueller
Conservative pick: Andy Montgomery
Andy Montgomery finished his season with a good performance in Michigan in the weather-shortened Top 50 event and then a victory on Lake Norman in the final Southern Open of the 2014 season. He punched his ticket to the big dance, and he is one of the closest anglers geographically to Lake Hartwell. Being from South Carolina can give him some sort of advantage, but I think it will be more based off of renewed confidence and a strong end to last season.
Dark horse: Paul Mueller
Last season, Paul Mueller found himself on the map after catching the biggest five-fish single-day weight of any Bassmaster Classic ever. That big day pushed him way up the leaderboard, and if not for Randy Howell’s excellent final day, he very well could have cashed in on a Classic victory. Mueller won the 2014 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship in November, and after accepting an invite to fish the 2015 Elite Series, Mueller seems ready for another big moment. Coming from the Northeast, Mueller should do well in mid-February on Lake Hartwell.
Bucket E: Fukae, Kilgore
Conservative pick: Shin Fukae
Shin Fukae is one of the best anglers in the world and he has proven it against anglers on the FLW Tour. Fukae qualified for the Classic via the Bassmaster Opens series after winning the Northern Open on Lake Champlain. It’s his first Bassmaster Classic, but he is not a newbie to the big stage. Fukae should be a good option, and he also knows the lake well because the FLW Tour has regularly fished Hartwell in the past.
Dark horse: David Kilgore
The tallest angler to ever compete in the Bassmaster Classic is at it again and back in the big dance for back-to-back years. Kilgore notched a win on Smith Lake in Alabama for the second event of the Southern Opens. The one thing that Smith Lake and Lake Hartwell both have in common is the presence of blueback herring. Blueback herring have completely changed fisheries and how the bass population may relate to cover. If Kilgore has a handle on that, it could help him tremendously this year on Hartwell.
I also research my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks. So this is my opportunity to try and drop some knowledge on you and hopefully help you out. I didn’t win anything last year, but I did finish in 16th place overall, so I might be blessed with a little skill — or a lot of luck.
I am attacking the Classic as an individual event. The points do not carry, so there is no need to gamble to try and make up ground. The scoring is the same as last year: The daily leader gets a five-point bonus, and big bass and big bag of the tournament each get 40 bonus points, which can lead to a huge points edge. J.J. Patton, last year’s Classic winner in Fantasy Fishing, had three daily leader bonuses and the big bag bonus for 55 bonus points. Picking four of the Top 5 guys did not hurt, either.
The two main things I like to consider are past lake history/results and momentum. Greg Hackney showed last year how far momentum can carry you. Trust your gut, too; that uneasy feeling when you go to select a competitor may not just be the jalapeño poppers talking.
Lastly, I do my picks with my 8-year-old daughter, Maggie, pictured here. She has the bass fishing bug bad, too, and she keeps my head loose for these life-altering decisions.So after multiple hours — no, make that multiple days — of painstaking research, here is how I see it.
I love this bucket. All of these guys could or should be picked for various reasons. My heart says pick the “Silent Assassin” Todd Faircloth, who has a tendency to catch big bass. Fun fact: Faircloth is the only angler to be in the Top 10 in each of the last five Classics. Look it up. He is my guy to win it all.
Gut check: Aaron Martens or a Greg Hackney. We know of all the seconds Martens has. A Hackney pick would be based on pure momentum, and he was fifth here last time and the jig bite won it.
Maggie: “Just pick Mark Davis, duh.”
Clearly, Casey Ashley is the pick here. He won on Hartwell last year by 15 pounds, and he has tons of history on Hartwell and down the river on Clarks Hill. He knows what to do in a blueback herring lake and should be at or near the top when the dust settles.
Gut check: Randall Tharp.
Maggie: “Yes, Dad, pick Randall Tharp.”
Brett Hite is taking this bucket for me. In three Tour-level events on Hartwell from 2011, 2012 and 2014, Hite went 23rd, 10th and sixth in those events, respectively. I see a trend here. These were early spring events as well.
Gut check: Watch Mike Iaconelli as he excels in a pattern event where he can run similar water all over this nook-and-cranny-filled lake.
Maggie: “Pick Edwin Evers, obviously.”
I clearly see “Big Fish” Bobby Lane winning this bucket. He was fourth at the last Hartwell Classic, and he had a 12th-place finish down the river on Clarks Hill in 2010. Plus, big fish gets bonus points and that’s what they call him, so …
Gut check: Paul Mueller. Does 32 pounds, 3 ounces mean anything? Plus, I picked Paul Mueller last year and he delivered.
Maggie: “Just pick Cliff Prince.”
Not sure why he is in this bucket, but Jacob Wheeler is taking it. He is young, but his upside is unlimited as we saw at BASSfest last year. He also finished 20th on Hartwell in a Tour-level event last spring.
Gut check: Shin Fukae.
Maggie: “Jacob Wheeler.”
Now that we have the Classic picks figured out I have one last quick note looking ahead. 2015 has so many amazing storylines to follow. Another huge influx of “rookie” anglers with tons of credibility, like Brent Ehrler (is he really going to be considered a rookie?), Brandon Coulter, Koby Kreiger and others; the arrival of the Lee brothers on tour; and more international flavor with Japanese angler Ken Iyobe. Plus, the female viewership will go up 50 percent just to listen to Carl Jocumsen talk on stage in his Australian accent. Just ask my wife, Tricia.
And, last but not least, the return of Mark Menendez, which is a great thing for our sport. Welcome back, Mark!
Some seasoned pros will be fishing deeper, around docks and brushpiles, where there is less pressure and clearer water. They’ll tie on jigs, Texas rigged worms, shaky heads, suspending jerkbaits and square bills.
Anglers new to the lake will be shallow trying to get that prespawn game going. Even though it may be a little early for that shallow bite, it will play a factor somehow.
No matter what, this tournament is one for the record books. Hartwell is such a big lake and fish can be caught so many ways this time of year.
Here are my picks for Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing for the 2015 Classic.
Bucket A: Howell
Randy Howell is so good this time of year, and he is still running on momentum from last year’s Classic. I bet the champ will have a good showing again this year. He’s an Alabama boy, so he is versatile. He can go fish a pocket or go throw a jerkbait around a brushpile.
Bucket B: Ashley
Casey Ashley is my pick to win the Classic. This local is awesome on Hartwell. He has so much knowledge on this lake, it’s crazy. I think he will do what he did last year, when he won an FLW Tour event on Hartwell. He stayed deeper and fished a jig around docks and brushpiles, targeting staging bass. I have a feeling he will be going home with the big trophy.
Bucket C: Crochet
Cliff Crochet is a shallow expert. I think he is going to go back into a pocket and target some big prespawn largemouth. It is a little risky, but I think choosing him is worth it.
Bucket D: Montgomery
South Carolina native Andy Montgomery knows Hartwell. He likes fishing for those big spotted bass. He’ll dig out the shaky head and jig, go deep around docks and target schooling fish. He will definitely make a showing on the big stage.
Bucket E: Fukae
Shin Fukae is a seasoned FLW guy, who in my opinion is one of the best anglers in the world. He can catch them any way known to man. He has a solid track record on Hartwell, and the Japanese angler will show you he is truly a veteran of this sport. He is so good that there’s no telling what he might do during this event. He is comfortable fishing deep, schooling bass or he could go in the back of a creek and target largemouth. Who knows? Just watch him.
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