Fantasy win upgrades New Hampshire angler from canoe to bass boat
By Cara Clark
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Jason Hill has never owned a bass boat, but he didn’t let that stop him from pursuing his favorite hobby of bass fishing. Instead, he strapped his canoe to the top of whatever vehicle he owned at the time — from an old sedan to an SUV — and fished the ponds and smaller bodies of water near his home in Holderness, N.H.
Now, the situation has changed. By winning Fantasy Fishing presented by Toyota on Bassmaster.com, Hill now has a fully rigged Triton bass boat, and the canoe, a gift from his grandparents long ago, will be sidelined — at least for bass fishing purposes. His new Triton 18XS boat is equipped with a Mercury 150 Pro XS motor and comes with a Triton single axle trailer, a MotorGuide trolling motor, a Lowrance HDS-5 Gen 2, a Tempest Prop and 8-foot Talon shallow water anchors. His prize also includes a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card and a B.A.S.S. branded jersey, bringing the total prize package to $45,318.
“I’ve been telling myself I would buy a bass boat for years,” Hill said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted. Being a teacher, you don’t make a whole lot of money for extra things, and to win a boat, especially one that is so awesome and more than I ever would have been able to buy myself, is incredible.”
Hill, a middle school English teacher and high school soccer coach, grew up on Squam Lake (No. 76 on Bassmaster’s “100 Best Bass Lakes” list) where his grandparents and parents had pontoon boats he could fish from. Hill still lives near Squam, the place he’ll debut his shiny new boat. Lake Winnipesaukee, a fishery he doesn’t venture onto often with the canoe, probably will be his second stop.
“I really cannot believe this has happened to me,” Hill said. “I’ve never really won anything before. During the last few weeks of Fantasy Fishing, I went with a gut feeling of the guys I thought would do well. The last couple of tournaments were smallmouth events, and I leaned toward anglers who were good on smallmouth.”
Hill first started playing Fantasy Fishing a few years ago when his childhood pal and fishing buddy Joe Vanasse started a group. This year’s game on Bassmaster.com began in early 2013 and lasted until the Bassmaster Elite Series ended with the Aug. 22-25 Plano Championship Chase. To enter before each of the eight regular season tournaments, contestants choose five anglers from five different categories into which the Elite field of 99 anglers was sorted. Each angler was worth a number of points based on his performance during the Elite season.
Hill and his buddy had a friendly rivalry to see who had better picks, but neither excelled with their choices.
“This year was pretty much the same until there were about three tournaments left in the season,” Hill said. “I realized I had gone up in the rankings to the Top 30, so each tournament I focused a little more on my picks and tried to keep in mind the percentages of ownership of each of the anglers. I figured if I made smart picks, I might have a chance to win. I really didn’t think I would until the last tournament when I was in second place. I was fortunate I picked Mark Davis, an angler not many picked, and he finished second in the last tournament. I couldn’t believe it.”
As Hill’s opportunity to win grew, so did the encouragement of Vanesse, who lives in Minneapolis, Minn. After the Plano Championship Chase, Vanesse was confident his buddy was the winner.
“He kept leaving me messages saying that I won,” Hill said. “We were waiting for the points to be updated, and I honestly thought I hadn’t won. One of my anglers (Aaron Martens) missed the weigh-in and dropped from third to 12th place. I still had three anglers in the Top 12. I kept saying no way, but he was so excited for me. He said, ‘Now you’re not going to be able to carry your boat on top of the car.’”
Hill is eager to take his best friend out on a bass fishing outing in the spring, and he has others clamoring to go out on the boat.
“We have several avid fishermen on the soccer team, and the state of New Hampshire recently adopted high school bass fishing as a sport,” Hill said. “(When the soccer team heard), they said, ‘Coach, now that you have a boat, you can be our fishing coach, too.’”
Hill, who had Aaron Martens as one of his top picks, said the Alabama pro is one of his favorite anglers.
“He’s fantastic, and he had a fantastic season,” Hill said. “I’m surprised more people weren’t picking him. Mark Davis is one of my new favorites. I don’t know a lot about him, but I plan to learn more and follow him more closely. His performance in that last tournament is part of the reason I won.”
Another season done
The 2013 Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing season has concluded. We hope you did well! If not, next year can be your season of redemption.
We’ll post a list of this year’s winners soon. Stay tuned!
Smallmouth beatdown, Volume II
By David Bell
DETROIT — After a total smallmouth smashfest on the St. Lawrence River, the Elite Series kicks it up a notch with a visit to the No. 1 bass lake in the world, Lake St. Clair. Just like on the St. Lawrence River, a limit will not be enough. It will take five quality smallmouth a day to have a shot at a Top 12 finish. The Plano Championship Chase will be a great end to the Elite Series. The top anglers in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings are battling for the postseason, while anglers in the middle of the pack are looking to qualify for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic on points and anglers at the bottom are looking for a win to qualify for the Classic.
I am taking a slightly different approach this week for choosing my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing anglers. I’m taking a combination of bucket favorites and low percentage Fantasy Fishing anglers in hopes of getting my highest Fantasy Fishing point events of the season.
Bucket A: Aaron Martens
Aaron Martens took his fourth Top 12 two weeks ago on the St. Lawrence River. Martens is one of only two anglers this year with four Top 12 finishes. Martens is also in second in the AOY standings, needing another Top 12 to have a decent shot at catching Edwin Evers. Anytime smallmouth are in play, Martens will be in contention for a win. Martens is owned by 20 percent of Fantasy Fishing players. If he can beat Kevin VanDam and Edwin Evers, that puts me ahead of 60 percent of Fantasy Fishing players.
It will be very hard to pass on KVD and Evers this week. Other than Kentucky Lake, Lake St. Clair has to set up best for KVD to get record win No. 21. I have to pass on KVD because he is owned by more than half of Fantasy Fishing players. KVD is 39 points behind Evers and will have to be at his best in hopes of coming back to challenge for the AOY trophy.
Evers is having an awesome season and needs a good event to hold off Martens and KVD. Evers has won an event with smallmouth before, so I would not be surprised to see him challenge for a Top 12 or even a win if he can find the right area on St. Clair.
Bucket B: John Murray
John Murray is also a strong pick for a smallmouth event. Murray is coming off a Top 12 finish on the St. Lawrence. Murray is only owned by 3 percent of Fantasy Fishing players, which seems like a complete steal after the Top 12 at the last event. If Murray can beat just Jonathon VanDam and Jason Christie, I will beat 70 percent of Fantasy Fishing players for this bucket.
Jonathon VanDam is the favorite in this bucket and clearly should be after finishing second on the St. Lawrence River. It would be hard to not see another Top 12 coming for JVD this week. JVD will need a win another good finish to stay in the Top 29 to automatically qualify for the 2014 Classic.
Randy Howell is another strong bet for Lake St. Clair. Howell has three Top 12 finishes on the season and is a successful smallmouth angler. Howell is 37th in AOY standings and in range of making the classic on AOY points. This could be the event that Howell makes that final push to be fishing Guntersville in February.
Bucket C: Bernie Schultz
Bernie Schultz is from Gainesville, Fla., but can catch quality smallmouth like anyone on the Elite Series. Schultz is coming off his first Top 12 finish of the season and appears to have a good shot at another Top 12. He is 52nd in AOY points and needs a win to qualify for the Classic.
Josh Bertrand is a strong pick for Bucket C. I am picking Schultz over Bertrand simply because of Fantasy Fishing ownership percentage. Overall, they are both about equally rated in every category.
Michael Iaconelli is the favorite in the group and needs a good finish to end the season on a high. Also, Iaconelli is looking to qualify for the Classic and will need a win for that to happen. With 45 percent ownership, it is hard to take Iaconelli.
Bucket D: Kevin Hawk
Kevin Hawk is my pick for Bucket D. Hawk also got his first Top 12 on the St. Lawrence River and can find the big smallmouth to get another Top 12. Hawk only has a 12.5 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership, so there is a lot of room to gain over other players. Hawk needs a win to have any chance of qualifying for the Classic.
Nate Wellman is another strong pick, but a 28 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership is higher than I would like. Wellman has a win on Lake Erie chasing smallmouth and could easily win on Lake St. Clair.
Kevin Short is another pick to consider for this event. I expect all the time Short spent fishing up North for smallies last year to pay big dividends at this event. A 5 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership means Short can pull away from the majority of Fantasy Fishing owners with a strong finish.
Bucket E: Chad Pipkens
To finish off my anglers who finished in the Top 12 in the last event, I am taking Chad Pipkens for Bucket E. Pipkens is owned by 21 percent of Fantasy Fishing players, but I do expect a big event from him. Pipkens has a fifth place and 16th place finish on Detroit River/Lake St. Clair in the Northern Opens.
Brandon Palaniuk is coming off a win at the St. Lawrence River and locking up his ticket to the Classic. Palaniuk has struggled to finish strong in back-to-back events, but this could be his third event with a big event. Palaniuk stated he is looking for a back-to-back win. With smallmouth being the main target, Palaniuk can pull off a rare feat on the Elite Series. The biggest issue with choosing Palaniuk is he is owned by 63 percent of Fantasy Fishing players. If Pipkens beats Palaniuk, that puts me ahead of two-thirds of Fantasy Fishing players for this bucket.
Jared Lintner is a strong smallmouth angler from California. Lintner finished in the Top 50 on the St. Lawrence River and I think this will happy again on Lake St. Clair.
Do not forget to get your Fantasy Fishing picks locked by launch tomorrow morning, in time for this week’s Elite Series event. Whether you are pushing for the season Fantasy Fishing player standings or it’s your first Fantasy Fishing event, the player with the highest point total still wins a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card and a Gemini jersey.
Balance finesse with power on St. Clair
By Greg Huff
DETROIT — Although this week’s tournament will be won again on smallmouth, Lake St. Clair is much shallower than the St. Lawrence River and features much more vegetation, both submergent and emergent. So don’t load your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing rosters with just drop shotters and tube draggers. Power fishing tactics like crankbaiting and spinnerbaiting will be in play as well, as will topwaters, jerkbaits and big swimbaits.
But Lake St. Clair is not the only fishery in play this week. Also fair game are several connecting waterways: the Detroit River, which hooks up Lake St. Clair southward to Lake Erie, and the St. Clair River, which links Lake Huron to the north of Lake St. Clair.
The Great Lakes are a drop shotter and tube dragger’s dream but will require long, risky runs to get to four days in a row. So be sure to balance your roster with both power fishermen and finesse guys willing to make a long run.
I’ve handicapped the buckets to highlight the best bets, safest picks and dark-horse, high-risk/high-reward picks. My picks are in italics.
Pick and choose from this menu as your strategy needs dictate, based on where you are in the Fantasy Fishing points race. If you’re protecting a lead, for example, make safer picks. If you need a Hail Mary to save your season, make a few high-risk/high reward picks.
Bucket A – VanDam, Martens or Evers?
KVD (53.9% ownership) – Best Bet
Although Kevin VanDam’s recent history in tournaments won on smallmouth does not contain any Top 12 finishes (18th and 16th on Lake Erie in 2007 and 2008; 19th on Green Bay last year; 14th on St. Lawrence River earlier this month), few observers doubt he’ll be fishing on Sunday this week.
Why? This is his last chance this season to make a Top 12, and he’s in third place in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) points. If AOY leader Edwin Evers were to stumble here as Skeet Reese did on the St. Lawrence River (finishing 93rd to fall from the Top 5 in AOY points), VanDam would have to pass only Aaron Martens to win his eighth AOY title.
This tournament plays to VanDam’s strengths better than it does to Martens’. As Bassmaster.com reported earlier, VanDam is in the best position of the three AOY leaders to do well here because he considers Lake St. Clair “home water.” He’s also an expert on the connecting fisheries, and his preferred power-fishing tactics work here on smallies.
I’m not convinced KVD will win this tournament, but I’m very confident he’ll be in the Top 12 – unless the weather is foul. If the weather is fair, the winner will likely be the angler that runs to Erie four days in a row for 25-pound limits of smallies. But only a few anglers can afford to make that gamble. Those below the Classic cut line will have to take some risks, hoping to win. Anglers who have a Classic berth locked up will fish more conservatively.
Aaron Martens (20.2.%) – Safe Bet
Martens is a safe bet in any tournament in which smallmouth and finesse fishing will be a factor. It will be interesting to see if Martens runs to big water to drop shot, or if he power fishes on St. Clair or one of the rivers. Although he’s known as a finesse specialist, he claims he enjoys power fishing better.
Martens’ history in late-summer smallmouth slugfests suggests he’s a safe bet to place in the Top 12 this week. He had a second and ninth on Erie in 2007 and 2008; third on Green Bay last year; and fifth on the St. Lawrence River earlier this month.
Edwin Evers (10.3%) – Dark Horse
If AOY leader Evers needed to win this tournament to qualify for the Classic or to win AOY, I’d give him good odds to do so. He won a late-summer smallie tournament on Lake Erie in 2008 and finished third there in 2007.
But Evers doesn’t need to win this week in order to win AOY – that’s the only reason he’s a “dark horse.” With a 30-point lead on Martens and a 39-point lead on KVD, Evers needs only to avoid disaster. Therefore, he’ll most likely follow a conservative game plan and bring in three consecutive 18-pound-plus stringers to finish close to where he did in the smallmouth derbies last year on Green Bay (31st) and earlier this month on the St. Lawrence River (25th).
But with Martens and KVD on one’s heels, trying to coast to an AOY victory might be riskier than an aggressive game plan aimed at a Top 10.
Evers told me prior to the St. Lawrence River tournament that his goal was to make Top 10s in both final tournaments, so he wouldn’t have to worry about being run down from behind.
Bucket B – Murray or J. VanDam?
John Murray (1.5%) – Best Bet
When I wrote earlier this summer about how to use ownership percentage to your advantage, I explained an opportunity similar to that which makes John Murray the best bet this week in Bucket B, where only 1.5 percent of Fantasy Fishing players have put him on their roster, and 61.3 percent own Jonathon VanDam.
Many Fantasy Fishing players know Jonathon VanDam has made a name for himself in the last two years as a smallmouth specialist, winning last year on Green Bay, placing second earlier this month on the St. Lawrence River, and finishing fifth in the 2012 Northern Open on Lake St. Clair. But only a few seem to be aware of Murray’s impressive history in summer smallmouth slugfests — fourth and third on Lake Erie in 2007 and 2008; 14th in 2001 on Lake St. Clair; and 12th earlier this month on St. Lawrence River (although he went against the grain and fished for largemouth). So at 1.5 percent ownership, Murray offers a much better payoff than JVD at more than 60 percent ownership.
Jonathon VanDam (61.3%) – Safe Bet
If you are protecting a lead in your Fantasy Fishing league, it might make more sense to pick JVD than Murray. You won’t gain much ground on the field if he lives up to expectations, but you won’t lose much if he stumbles.
David Walker (1.1%), Boyd Duckett (0.8%) – Dark Horses
Skeptical that Murray or Jonathon VanDam can notch back-to-back Top 12 finishes? Take a flyer on David Walker or Boyd Duckett.
Bucket C – Gamble on Ike?
Bernie Schultz (4.7%) – Best Bet
Although Bernie Schultz has finished out of the money in three Lake Erie tournaments since 2007, he excels in smallmouth tournaments with an alternate shallow bite.
Greg Hackney (1.9%), Michael Iaconelli (44.3%) – Dark Horses
I’m as surprised to put Hackney on this list as you are to see him here, but his numbers in some similar smallmouth tournaments speak for themselves – 12th and fifth on Lake Erie in 2007 and 2008, and 25th last season on Green Bay. If you took KVD and JVD in the buckets above, take a little risk here and go with Hackney. If he turns in a historically consistent finish, you’ll be one of only a few to reap the reward.
Iaconelli is a “dark horse” this week because he needs to win this tournament in order to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. He told me this week in an interview for “Fantasy Fishing Insider” podcast that he plans to “swing for the fence” and gamble on a high-risk/high-reward game-plan to win. “So I’ll probably do really well or really bad,” he said.
Bucket D – Pick ’em
I’m not super excited about any of the choices in Bucket D. A few anglers have had one or two standout performances in similar tournaments, but those finishes are countered by some bombs.
Kevin Short (4.3%) – Best Bet
Kevin Short does not have multiple Top 12s in summer smallie tournaments, but his overall average in such tournaments is better: 12th in the 2010 Northern Open on Detroit River; Top 40s on Erie in 2007 and 2008; 28th in the 2012 Northern Open on Lake St. Clair.
Derek Remitz (2.2%), Jami Fralick (1.2%) – Dark Horses
Neither Derek Remitz nor Jami Fralick are fishing as well as they did earlier in their careers, but if there’s a place to end this season on a high note, it’s on a Northern, smallmouth fishery, where the native Minnesotan and South Dakotan have had previous success.
Bucket E – Pipkens for the win?
Kotaro Kiriyama (3.4%) – Safe Bet
Kotaro Kiriyama’s impressive résumé in summer smallmouth derbies makes him the safest bet in Bucket E – fourth in the 2000 Classic on Lake Michigan; firstin a 2008 FLW event on Detroit River/Lake St. Clair; 14th and third in 2007 and 2008 on Erie; and ninth on St. Clair in a 2001 Bassmaster Tour event.
Chad Pipkens – (21.9%) Best Bet
Rookie Chad Pipkens has owned the Detroit River/Lake St. Clair in mid-level events, prior to making the Elites, having finished third there twice, plus four Top 20 finishes. In the Elite Series, he can now boast a 10th-place finish on the St. Lawrence River.
Brandon Palaniuk (64.3%) – Dark Horse
Although he won on the St. Lawrence River last week and was second on Green Bay last year, can lightning strike again for Palaniuk? A lot of Fantasy Fishing players think so, as indicated by his 64.3 percent ownership.
Palaniuk has now qualified for the Classic, has a fresh 100 grand in the bank, and has no mortgage to pay and no mouths back home to feed. Why wouldn’t he swing for the fences and try to win again? He’s going to. That means he’ll be a hero or a zero.
Set your lineup for St. Clair!
Our next Elite Series tournament is Aug. 22-25, the Plano Championship Chase on Lake St. Clair/Detroit River in Detroit, Mich. You can now set your lineup for that event. The deadline is Aug. 22 at 8 a.m. ET. The first-place winner gets a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card, and all of the Top 10 finishers in that event will get a B.A.S.S.-branded jersey from Gemini Sports Marketing. Good luck picking your team!
Smallmouth beatdown, Volume I
By David Bell
This week the Elite Series is set to attack the St. Lawrence River from Waddington, N.Y., for the Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown. This is the first time the St. Lawrence is a stop on the Elite Series tour. This will be the first smallmouth beatdown leading to Volume II for the season finale on Lake St. Clair.
For this reason, I have chosen anglers in each Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing bucket who I think are good smallmouth anglers and have a low Fantasy Fishing ownership percentage in hopes of ending my season with a bang and getting back into the top 10 percent of Fantasy Fishing players.
Bucket A: Skeet Reese
Skeet Reese is second in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings and ranks fifth in Fantasy Fishing points, yet is still only owned by 7.3% of Fantasy Fishing players this week. Reese knows how to catch fish anywhere the Elite series goes. If he can find an area he likes, this could be an event he walks away with a win and makes his way closer to Edwin Evers in the AOY standings.
Of course I want to take Kevin VanDam here, but he has too many Fantasy Fishing players already picking him (30.7%). Any time a tournament will be dominated by smallmouth, his name has to be mentioned.
I also like Aaron Martens here. I have seen him posting pictures of giant smallmouth he has caught in practice. I am sure he has saved plenty of big ones to show the TV cameras once the tournament gets started. Martens is an excellent smallmouth angler with his finesse tackle. His 19.5% fantasy ownership scarred me away from him, unfortunately. If ownership numbers were thrown out, Martens would be my pick.
Bucket B: Randy Howell
Once again I am happily surprised by how few Fantasy Fishing players have picked Randy Howell this week (6.9%). Howell is a very strong smallmouth fisherman with many of his Top 10 finishes of his career coming on smallmouth fisheries. Howell already has his Classic spot wrapped up with his Northern Open win on the James River, so he does not have to worry about AOY points. Howell can make the bold moves it will take to finish near the top this for this event.
I also like Brandon Card for this event. Card is having a strong season with three Top 12 finishes. His ownership at only 4.1% makes Card a steal as well.
My other choice would be Takahiro Omori. Omori has made a check at five of the six events so far this season. Look for Omori to excel in the next two events chasing smallmouth.
Bucket C: Brian Snowden
Brian Snowden is my pick for Bucket C and a daring pick to move up in the overall Fantasy Fishing standings. Snowden is a good smallmouth fisherman from the Ozarks. I look for his skills at chasing smallmouth there to carry over to the St. Lawrence River. Only 1.7% of Fantasy Fishing players are picking him, so there is tremendous upside if he can have a strong event here. It is a little scary knowing that if he slips and has a bad tournament that 98% of Fantasy Fishing players could gain on me in this bucket.
Jason Christie and Bill Lowen are my other two anglers to watch in this bucket. Christie took a win on the Detroit River last year in the Northern Open, so we know he is capable of catching big smallmouth. His 19.3% Fantasy Fishing ownership does not leave enough meat on the bone for me to choose him. Lowen is good almost anywhere the Elite Series goes, and his 7.2% Fantasy Fishing ownership leaves him with a lot of upside. Lowen seems like a very safe choice here, but I am wanting to step out and take a little more risk this week.
Bucket D: Kevin Short
Kevin Short is from Arkansas and, like Snowden, has a lot of experience chasing after smallmouth in the Ozarks. Also, Short spent a lot of time last year up North chasing after smallies once the season was over. I am hoping all his time up there has paid off and he can bring home a Top 12. I am a little surprised that only 4.4% of Fantasy Fishing players have picked Short this week.
Nate Wellman is someone I expect to do very well here, but his 17.8% of Fantasy Fishing ownership ruled him out for me in this bucket. Fletcher Shryock with 5.9% Fantasy Fishing ownership is the only other angler who seems to stick out in this bucket.
Bucket E: Kevin Hawk
I have been waiting and waiting for Kevin Hawk to have his breakout event on the Elite Series, and I am hoping this will be the one. With only 2% Fantasy Fishing ownership, I can see the points piling up if this is that first big break for him. Hawk is a strong finesse fisherman, and I think this will give him a boost at this event.
Brandon Palaniuk is always a strong choice at a smallmouth event, especially in a lower bucket like this, but with 55% Fantasy Fishing ownership, there is no real gain here.
Chad Pipkens with 5.5% ownership could be the dark horse to have a breakout event after all his experience smallmouth fishing.
Do not forget to get your Fantasy Fishing picks in for this week. Expect to see a lot of quality smallmouth hit the stage and really show off the fisheries available up North.
Big Bass catchers will earn you bonus Fantasy Fishing points
By Greg Huff
Need big finishes in the next two tournaments to save your Fantasy Fishing season? You’ll earn big bonus points by picking an angler likely to catch a Carhartt Big Bass.
“The bonus points are where you really make up ground,” advises Brett Baker, president and owner of Big Game Software, the company that manages the program that runs Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing. “If someone places 10 points better than someone else in the standings, it may not equate to huge number of points more for that one tournament. But if they’re also getting bonus points for having gotten big fish … that can really make up points faster. And in that scenario, very few other people are getting those points.”
Anglers who catch the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament score 40 bonus points for the Fantasy Fishing players that picked them.
Great, you may be thinking, not only do I have to guess the anglers who will finish highest in their buckets, I also have to guess who will catch the biggest fish? That’s impossible!
Not necessarily. Some anglers consistently catch more big fish and weigh heavier stringers than others. And they may not be the ones you think.
“Not to put these guys down because I love ’em and they’re great sticks, but Ish Monroe and Bobby Lane have bigger reputations for catching big fish than the numbers would support,” said Ken Duke, Senior Editor of B.A.S.S. Publications and chronicler of even the most esoteric Elite Series competition stats. “So, don’t buy into the hype, folks!”
“But wait,” I implored Duke in a recent phone conversation, “isn’t Bobby Lane’s nickname Big Fish Bobby Lane? Doesn’t Bassmaster Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer call Ish Monroe the BBS — Big Bass Specialist?”
“Those guys do catch some big fish,” said Duke, “but as far as catching big fish in Elite Series events goes, those guys are good, but they’re not as good as some of the other guys out there.”
Guys like Todd Faircloth, Kelly Jordon, Greg Hackney, Dean Rojas, Randy Howell and Brent Chapman lead the Elite Series in daily Big Bass catches (as Duke documented in this Bassmaster.com column).
“Those guys are really good at it,” Duke told me, explaining that each excels also at catching big numbers of bass. And from there, the law of averages is a factor. “These are the guys that. Day in, day out, they’ve got a limit in the boat by 10 o’clock, so they’ve got an opportunity to go out and look for that kicker.”
But catching a daily Big Bass doesn’t earn Fantasy Fishing bonus points unless it holds up as Big Bass of the tournament. For that, Jordon, Greg Hackney and Takahiro Omori are tops, each having won a tournament Big Bass award three times, according to Duke’s research. Fourteen others have caught the tournament big bass twice. Faircloth is one of them.
Faircloth has a system to catch big kicker fish, Duke said. “He’s got a plan for how many pounds of fish he thinks it’s going to take to be competitive, and he doesn’t stop fishing in that basic pattern until he gets to that number. And then he immediately starts pulling out all the stops, going for broke. Maybe making a long run, looking for a big fish; working isolated cover, looking for that big bite; things like that.”
So now that we’ve identified the Kings of Lunker Mountain, as Duke would say, how do we spin that info in Fantasy Fishing gold?
You shouldn’t pick Faircloth, Jordon, Hackney and Omori week in and week out (assuming you even could, based on which bucket they are in). You should, however, give the nod to one of those guys if and when he’s among a handful of anglers in one bucket who seem equally capable of finishing highest in that bucket (after comparing standard Fantasy Fishing metrics such as Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year momentum, performance history and skills-vs.-conditions.)
It’s like splitting eights in Blackjack: You don’t always win with the strategy, but a pair of eights does afford you an opportunity to score bonus points. So, attempt to capitalize on the opportunity whenever you can.
Let’s say you’re on the fence between picking Takahiro Omori, Stephen Browning and Kevin Short in a bucket in a river tournament. And let’s say Omori’s ownership is 2.5 percent, Browning’s is 5 percent and Short’s is 2 percent. (If you missed my column explaining how to use ownership percentage to your advantage in Fantasy Fishing, read it here.)
Short and Browning are self-styled river rats. Omori is a statistical river rat because he consistently makes Top 20s on rivers. So we’ll say that in their bucket, these three are the clear favorites but seem pretty equally matched when compared side by side. Seems like a classic “Pick’em” bet right?
Not so fast. This is when you split your eights and pick Omori, playing the odds to win a Big Bass bonus.
“In the case where the angler has [low] ownership,” says Baker, “if that angler does particularly well — especially if the angler qualifies for bonus points — then only [a small] percent of how ever many tens of thousands of entries that exist are going to get [the bonus. That’s why those bonus points are so important.”
An angler who places 12th will earn you 254 Fantasy points. The angler who places 20th earns you 235. That’s a difference of eight places and 19 points. But if Omori places 20th and Short places 12th, but Omori catches the tournament’s Big Bass, Omori would score you 275 to Short’s 254, a difference in your favor of 21 points. And if Short finishes 20th and Omori finishes 12th, also along with Big Bass, you’d outscore by 59 points in one bucket the guy who picked Short (294 to 235). That’s a huge payoff, especially considering Omori and Short initially seemed fairly evenly matched.
You also get 40 bonus points if your angler wins the Berkley Heavyweight Award for weighing in the heaviest five-fish limit of the tournament. You get five bonus points when an angler on your roster ends the day with the tournament lead (including on Day 4).
Spin to win on the St. Lawrence River
By Greg Huff
Fat, deep-dwelling, clear-water smallies will fill the winning bag this week, so repeat this mantra as you set your roster for the St. Lawrence River in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing — spin to win!
Spinning rods spooled with light line will be the winning tools of the trade this week, so set your line-ups accordingly. Sure, there’s some largemouth in the St. Lawrence, but most guys are going to make the long run to the Thousand Islands area, which is one of the best places in the country to catch limits of huge smallmouth. One caveat: If five-day forecasts call for gale-force to blustery winds during the tournament, all bets are off. (Hear Bassmaster TV pundit Mark Zona and I discuss smallmouth fishing weather and handicap the field in my podcast, “Fantasy Fishing Insider.” Additional guests are AOY leader Edwin Evers and Ott DeFoe.)
With only two tournaments remaining in the Fantasy Fishing season, you’ll want to use strategy more than ever to achieve your goal, be it winning a league or just earning bragging rights over your fishing buddies.
If you’re in the 90th percentiile or better in points, it might pay to play defense, making more safe picks than high-risk/high-reward picks. Consider balancing your roster 3-2 or even 4-1, conservative to ambitious. If you’re in the 80th percentile in points, balance your roster 2-3, conservative to risky. If you’re in the 70th percentile or worse, you’ve got nothing to lose, so make one conservative pick and throw four Hail Marys.
I’ve handicapped the buckets to highlight the best bets, safest picks and best dark-horse, high-risk/high-reward picks. I’ll also tell you who I’m picking, and why (I sometimes don’t follow my own advice!). Pick and choose from this menu as your strategy needs dictate, based on where you are in the Fantasy points race.
Kevin VanDam (31.5% ownership): Safest Bet
If you’re protecting a lead, pick KVD. It’s not only possible, but probable, that he will do well this week, as Deb Johnson explained in this article last week on Bassmaster.com.
Aaron Martens (16.3%): Best Bet
Few anglers anywhere are better than Aaron Martens with a spinning gear and light line. Both his reputation and résumé indicate he will place in the Top 12 this week. Consider his career highlights in similar tournaments — two Top 10s and two Top 20s in eight Top 50 finishes in New York tournaments (Lake Erie-Niagara River and Lake Champlain). I would pick him this week, if I didn’t have a gut feeling that Skeet Reese will place just slightly higher than Martens.
Skeet Reese (6.6%): My Pick
With Edwin Evers, VanDam, Martens and Reese at the top of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Race, they will all be extra motivated this week — Evers to protect his lead and the others to make up ground, should Evers falter. Although Evers told me that he’s fishing to make a Top 10, it will be hard for him to not be conservative because all he has to do is avoid disaster and the AOY prize is his.
That’s why I like Reese this week. His personality seems better geared to go for broke and try to win this one. And his career highlights on similar New York waters suggests he’s more than capable: 13th on Erie/Niagara River in mid-July and second, seventh, 14th and 18th on Oneida, all in later summer tournaments. Among all Elite Series anglers, his average finish in New York state tournaments is third-best.
Gary Klein (0.3%): Dark Horse
Gary Klein is fishing better than ever and he’s got eight Top 20s in New York, including two Top 10s in the past 13 years. And he’s made three Top 20s on Lake St. Clair, another smallmouth factory, including a seventh and a fourth, all in late August.
Jonathon VanDam (17.5%): Safest Bet
I don’t like to pick any angler with more than 10 percent ownership, and at 17.5 percent, Jonathon VanDam is a little overvalued. But if you’re protecting a lead, pick him. He showed his deep-water smallie skills last season by winning on Green Bay, drop shotting. That’s standard procedure in his home state of Michigan. And being Kevin VanDam’s nephew, he likely benefits somewhat — pre-cutoff period — from the family information grapevine.
Still, his finishes in New York tournaments have not been stellar: 29th in late September on Oneida; 68th in late August on Oneida; 158th in late July on Champlain; and 143rd in late August on Champlain.
Takahiro Omori (2.9%): Best Bet
I like Takahiro Omori this week for two reasons: One, his career highlights on similar New York fisheries, and two, he’s more likely than other anglers in this bucket to catch a Carhartt Big Bass and earn you 40 bonus Fantasy Fishing points.Omori has done well in New York tournaments in late summer, with three Top 20s on Oneida, three Top 20s on Champlain and two Top 30s on Erie.
John Murray (0.9%): Dark Horse & My Pick
Although John Murray has been uneven on Oneida (he’s got a third place and a 92nd place), he’s been great on Erie, which translates better to the St. Lawrence River — 10th in mid-August, fourth in early August and third in late July.
By picking high-risk/high reward anglers the last couple tournaments, I’ve battled back from the 73rd percentile in Fantasy points to the 93rd percentile, so I’m going to keep riding that lightning and go all in on the strategy.
Tommy Biffle (15.4%): Counterintuitive pick
If forecasts indicate the weather will be terrible, pick Tommy Biffle. Despite being known for flipping largemouth dirt shallow, Biffle has impressive career highlights on New York fisheries known for smallmouth. He won on Oneida once in a late summer tournament, and he’s had four Top 20s there, too. On Champlain, he’s had two Top 5s in July tournaments.
By winning in La Crosse, Biffle has qualified for the Classic, so there’s no pressure for him to chase AOY points, so he can comfortably fish his style, come what may. And he won’t have to share the shallow largemouth he’s on, unless there’s bad weather. Remember, he made a Top 12 last year on Green Bay, fishing for largemouth in the Fox River, rather than for smallies out in open water.
Mike Iaconelli (52.7%): Safest Bet & Best Bet
Hailing from New Jersey, Michael Iaconelli began his career cashing checks with a spinning rod and light line in New York tournaments. When you consider his career highlights on fisheries similar to the St. Lawrence River in late summer, you’ll understand why everybody and his dog are picking him. He’s got two Top 10s on Oneida, a Top 10 each on Erie, Cayuga and St. Lawrence, and three Top 20s on Champlain.
Brian Snowden (0.4%): Dark Horse & My Pick
An Ozarks native, Brian Snowden is no stranger to fishing in deep, clear water. His career highlights in New York led me to take a flyer on him as a dark horse this week: 14th in mid-July on Champlain; 15th in early August on Erie and 24th in late July on Erie.
Nate Wellman (14.5%): Safest Bet
Nate Wellman’s Michigan roots and smallmouth experience make him a safe bet. Although he’s perhaps slightly overvalued at 14.5 percent ownership, his career highlights in similar tournaments explains his popularity this week: seventh in late August on Oneida and 13th, 34th and 34th on Champlain.
Charlie Hartley (5.6%): Best Bet & My Pick
I like Charlie Hartley better than Wellman this week because his ownership percentage offers a better chance to gain ground on the competition and because these Northern, deep/clear-water smallie tournaments are Charlie Hartley’s jam!
A likable guy who’s easy to root for, it’s often more difficult to put him on your Fantasy Fishing roster, as he makes fewer 50 cuts than many of his competitors. By his own admission, he sometimes gets so excited to catch fish — especially smallmouth — he “forgets” he’s in a tournament and does not manage his fish well and/or tosses out tournament strategy.
Still, most of the best finishes in his career have come on the St. Lawrence River and water like it. He’s got three Tops 10s on Champlain, two Tops 20s on the St. Lawrence, an 11th-place finish on Erie, and three Top 30s on Oneida.
No potential Dark Horse stood out to me in Bucket D this week.
Kotaro Kiriyama (2.1%): Safest Bet, Best Bet & My Pick
Pick Kotaro Kiriyama in Bucket E and don’t even think twice about it. I’m not even considering anyone else, especially Brandon Palaniuk at a whopping 62.1 percent ownership percentage. Palaniuk is a great angler and a fun, friendly dude, but his swing-for-the-fences habit makes him a risky Fantasy pick for me. And with such a huge ownership percentage, it’s like gambling $10 to win $5.
Kiriyama rarely makes my roster, either, except when deep, clear-water smallies are more than likely to win the tournament. You’ll understand why when you check out his New York career highs. He’s won on Erie before and has had two Top 20s there in late summer, and he’s got five Top 30s to his credit on Champlain.
Chad Pipkens (3.3%): Dark Horse
Rookie Chad Pipkens owns the Detroit River/Lake St. Clair. Prior to making the Elites, he finished third there twice, and also fifth, ninth, 10th and 14th.
How picking underdogs can help or hurt in Fantasy Fishing
By Greg Huff
Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing player David Beaver is one of several people who e-mailed Bassmaster.com requesting advice on how to analyze anglers’ ownership percentages in order to draft a better Fantasy roster:
“I get that the more people own an angler — and if you need to make up ground — the points aren’t going to help you a lot, so you’re better off picking an angler that, if he does well, can maybe jump you up in the points,” Beaver wrote. “But I’m unsure about these guys that are for example, 2.9 percent. Should that angler do well, is that going to be better for me in points, or just screw me up worse?”
Comparing anglers’ ownership percentages to their past history on the tournament venue (and/or comparable fisheries) is key to determining the best value Fantasy picks. You’ll win neither prizes nor braggin’ rights by playing it safe and picking highly owned anglers — the “favorites,” to borrow a term from horse racing.
To separate yourself from the pack, you must draft to your roster several lesser-owned anglers — and then those guys must finish higher than the heavily owned guys. That, of course, is easier said than done. You won’t win by picking the wrong long-odds horses either.
In my podcast, Fantasy Fishing Insider, I describe anglers as “undervalued” or “overvalued.” Undervalued anglers are those who appear to be in too low a bucket or those whose ownership percentages seem too low, based on several factors:
- Momentum: Have they been making cuts and cashing checks? Have they been consistently finishing higher than their bucket suggests they will?
- History: How have they performed on the tournament venue and/or on fisheries similar to it and the present season/spawn period?
- Gut feeling: Never underestimate your Spidey Sense when it tingles.
Recognizing and selecting undervalued anglers is the best — but most difficult — key to picking successful Fantasy Fishing rosters. Familiarizing yourself with the résumés of anglers who don’t routinely appear on TV and magazine covers will help a lot.
To help explain the finer points of Fantasy Fishing strategy, I spoke with Brett Baker, president and owner of Big Game Software, the company that manages the program that runs Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing. He confirmed that assessing anglers’ ownership percentages is a key to determining value.
“That’s where you get your advantage,” Baker explained. “The person who doesn’t really know thinks, ‘I’m going to go with the one the rest of the crowd is going with.’ The person who’s done a little more research may say, ‘I don’t care that everyone else is going with this guy, I know better. I know this other guy performs particularly well on this kind of river,’ and they go against the grain. That’s really where the ownership percentage would come into play.”
Tens of thousands of people compete in Fantasy Fishing, according to Baker — more at the beginning of the season and fewer toward the end of the season as some players fall out of contention. For the purposes of this analysis, we’ll say 25,000 people are playing. That’s the field you are competing against.
If 6,250 out of 25,000 players picked a given angler, his ownership percentage would be 10 percent. If only 250 people put him on their roster, his ownership percentage would be 1 percent. Those numbers are important to consider when setting your roster, because anglers with greater ownership percentages offer lesser returns.
Let’s say you pick Kevin VanDam in Bucket A at 35 percent ownership and I pick Steven Kennedy at 1 percent ownership. And let’s say VanDam finishes 10th and Kennedy finishes fifth. In that scenario, VanDam would earn 260 Fantasy points for you and Kennedy would earn 280 points for me — 20 points more than you.
But the real value Kennedy would offer in that scenario is the gain he would provide against the field. The player that picked KVD would be one of 8,750 people who scored 260 points, but the player who picked Kennedy would be one of only 250 people who scored 280 points. That’s what we mean when we say an angler offers a chance to “gain ground on the field” or “make a move against the field.”
“If I’m trying to make up ground on the guy ahead of me … and I see that a few anglers have an overwhelming ownership percentage, I’m probably going to go against the grain, hoping that the guy ahead of me is with the masses,” Baker explained. “Because I have to do something different than him to catch up.”
Beware, however, that this strategy is what we call a “high risk, high reward” strategy. Because if Kennedy finishes behind KVD, based on the scenario described earlier, the numbers turn tables on you — now 8,750 people jump in front of you.
So, how do you determine when to pick a 1-percenter over a 35-percenter? Or a 5-percenter over a 10-percenter? How do you determine which anglers are undervalued and which are overvalued?
Do some research, listen to your gut and keep reading the Fantasy Fishing columns here on Bassmaster.com. And listen to the Fantasy Fishing Insider podcast. My cohosts and I are nerds for this stuff and explain in detail which anglers we deem the best values and why. We also do impressions, quote Ron Burgundy and Ron Swanson a lot and sing PG-13 songs about Yum Dingers.
Stay tuned. In my next column and podcast, Baker will share strategies for boosting your Fantasy Fishing score with bonus points.
Set your lineup for St. Lawrence!
Our next Elite Series tournament is Aug. 8-11, the Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown on the St. Lawrence River in Waddington, N.Y. You can now set your lineup for that event. The deadline is Aug. 8 at 8 a.m. ET. The first-place winner gets a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card, and all of the Top 10 finishers in that event will get a B.A.S.S.-branded jersey from Gemini Sports Marketing. Good luck picking your team!
Reese, Pace and Lowen may be good Fantasy Fishing picks
By David Bell
LA CROSSE, Wis. — This week, the Bassmaster Elite Series returns to the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis., for the Diet Mountain Dew Mississippi River Rumble presented by Power-Pole.
Last year, Todd Faircloth took home the trophy and will surely be hoping for a repeat. For Faircloth to do this, he will most likely have to attack the river in a different way. The largemouth bass will still be there, but the river is not as high as it was last season. The grass will not be as thick. The largemouth will be a little more scattered about, putting the smallmouth bass more into play this year. The angler who can find the best mix of largemouth and smallmouth will take home the trophy and the big check that comes along with it.
Keep that in mind when setting your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team!
Bucket A: Skeet Reese
Will this be the one event where Edwin Evers could stumble? If so, I look for the guy currently second in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings to make a strong charge. With as strong a season as Edwin Evers is having, Skeet Reese has almost been overlooked and it shows in the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing ownership numbers. Reese is second in AOY standings and ranks third in Fantasy points, but is only the fifth-highest owned angler in the bucket at 5.2%. I look for Reese to try and make up as much ground this week in the AOY standings to have a legitimate shot in the end.
I look for Aaron Martens and Terry Scroggins to both have strong finishes this week. Both anglers finished in the Top 12 on the Mississippi River last year, and both are excellent at putting limits in the boat. Martins is the type of angler whom I expect to find a good mix of largemouth and smallmouth. Scroggins is the type who will figure out his own deal and make it work for him. With a 10% Fantasy ownership (Martens), and a 1.6% ownership (Scroggins), there is a lot of upside if they beat the rest of the bucket.
Bucket B: Cliff Pace
In this bucket, I am looking to take the favorite. Cliff Pace is your 2013 Bassmaster Classic champion, has three Top 12 finishes this season, 11th overall in Fantasy points, finished second here last year and still managed to fall into the B bucket. I like his changes in this bucket — and so do a quarter of all fantasy players. Even with the river fishing different this year, Pace will still find a few ways to catch fish that fit his style.
Mike McClelland and Greg Hackney are my other picks for this bucket. Both finished in the Top 20 last year and are strong river anglers. With less than 10% Fantasy ownership for each of them there is plenty of potential gain over other Fantasy players with each of these choices.
Bucket C: Bill Lowen
Bill Lowen is a very strong river angler and is in need of a good finish to the season. Currently sitting in 48th in AOY standings, he has some work to do to qualify for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. Lowen pulled out a Top 12 year last year, and I expect him to contend for another one this year. I see Lowen being able to find the smallmouth quickly and getting a solid limit everyday. Lowen understands river fishing better than almost anyone. His one Top 12 this year came on the Sabine River. This is also solid upside in Fantasy Fishing with him being owned by 11% of Fantasy players.
Ott DeFoe and Davy Hite should also finish high in the standings here on the Mississippi River. Both finished in the Top 30 year last year and are strong at river tournaments. I feel both are undervalued to be in this bucket. Both have good ownership numbers, DeFoe at 11% and Hite at 2%, leaving plenty of room to gain on other Fantasy players.
Bucket D: Nate Wellman
I have picked Nate Wellman a few times playing Fantasy Fishing, and it seemed to work in the past. Wellman took home a Top 20 on the Mississippi River last year, and this year could fit his style even more. Wellman is a great smallmouth angler, and if it comes into play like it should, I expect to see him at the top of the leaderboard. Wellman is the second-most owned angler in the group at 13%, but that still beats the majority of Fantasy players.
Andy Montgomery and Russ Lane should also do well this event. They both took home Top 30 finishes last year and find this river to fit their fishing style. Montgomery is only owned by 4% of Fantasy owners, so there is plenty to be gained there with a strong finish. Lane is owned by 12% of Fantasy players.
Bucket E: Kevin Short
This bucket is usually the hardest for me to pick from because you are trying to catch lightning in a bottle and get the surprise angler of the tournament. Looking back over last year’s event, there are several anglers in this bucket who finished in the money. Jamie Horton finished fourth last year on the Mississippi River.
I am going with my gut and changing river conditions this year. I am taking Kevin Short for this event. When I think of river tournaments, Short is always on my list of possible picks. Changing conditions usually leads to tougher events, and that is how Kevin Short prefers it. Short is the second-most owned angler in the group, but at only 11%, there is a lot of potential. I look to see Short in the money again this year.
Timmy Horton, Grant Goldbeck and Matt Greenblatt are also solid picks for this group and owned by less than 10% of Fantasy players. All three finished in the Top 50 last year and appear to be capable again.
Remember to get your Fantasy Fishing picks in for this event. A $2,500 gift card to Bass Pro Shops is up for grabs again, along with a season-ending prize for the overall best Fantasy player.
Past performance doesn’t guarantee future Fantasy Fishing results
By Greg Huff
LA CROSSE, Wis. — Planning to load your Mississippi River Rumble Fantasy Fishing roster this week with the froggers and Floridians who finished high here last year? Forget about it.
As they say in mutual fund commercials, past performance does not guarantee future results. And this year’s tournament could look significantly different than last season’s here, as the river is a different beast this time ‘round.
Last year, shallow grass on flats adjacent to current produced tournament-leading bags of largemouth. But smallmouth were few and far between, thanks to high muddy water from torrential upriver rain just prior to the first day. This season, however, main river bluffs, riprap, wing dams, bridge pilings and cuts could yield big, game-changing smallmouth.
River smallies follow different rules than Southern reservoir and Great Lakes smallmouth. You’ll want to pick at least two anglers who know their way around wing dams and closing dams.
An early spring last year led to early and prodigious weed growth in the Mighty Mississippi’s backwaters. The result was expansive grass mats that made Floridians and froggers right at home. Todd Faircloth, who won in 2012, and most of the other top finishers built their bags largely on a frog bite.
Because of this season’s late spring, however, frogs will likely take a back seat to swim jigs, swimbaits, shallow crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
Bucket A – Martens, VanDam, Crews
Aarons Martens (8.1 percent ownership) almost won here last season doing something no one else was doing. That largemouth tactic — which Martens kept on the down-low last season — could be effective again this season on both green and brown bass. I suspect the winning bags will go 3-2, smallies to largemouth, and I like Martens’ chances at finding a unique way to upgrade from the prevalent cookie-cutter 3-pounders to bigger, tournament-winning fish.
Your safe pick is KVD, who actually has a better track record in summer river tournaments than some conventional-wisdom River Rats. But at 33.6 percent ownership, picking KVD won’t give you much of a surge in the Fantasy Fishing standings, because everybody and his dog is also picking him.
The Bucket A dark-horse is John Crews (0.7 percent). That’s mostly a gut feeling, but I like the way his arsenal of confidence baits and tactics lines up with the conditions forecast for next week and the patterns that will likely result.
Bucket B – Vinson, VanDam, Murray
A perfect storm of conditions and factors could result in Greg Vinson finally getting the W he’s flirted with all year. Vinson knows rivers. Vinson knows spotted bass. And although there’s no spotted bass in the Mississippi, river smallmouth act more like spots than they do reservoir and Great Lakes smallies. If the smallies are acting like spots this week and Vinson can catch ’em with his home-water confidence tactics, he’s a threat to win.
With guys like Brent Chapman, Greg Hackney and Cliff Pace in this bucket, it’s hard not to pick them. But my Spidey sense is telling me that the obvious-choice guys are going to get stuck on a glut of 3- and 3 1/2-pounders, and someone doing something a little different will land the 4- and 5-pounders needed to fish on Sunday.
That’s why I’d consider Jonathon VanDam (13.9 percent) or John Murray (0.4 percent). I like JVD whenever smallies will be a factor. I like Murray on any river. Because Murray’s from the West, people forget or overlook that he makes a lot of Top 20s on rivers throughout the United States.
Bucket C – DeFoe, Hite, Tietje
Having seen first-hand last week in a media event how shallow-dwelling smallmouth in stained water absolutely destroy Rapala’s new Scatter Rap baits, I’m convinced that at least one Rapala pro will be fishing on Sunday this week.
Ott DeFoe (9.3 percent), who has said he’s a river rat at heart, seems the best bet in the Rapala pro lineup, which also includes Brandon Palaniuk (Bucket E, 46.8 percent), Mike Iaconelli (24.2 percent) and Davy Hite (1.2 percent). The latter two are also in this bucket. Between this writing and when rosters lock Thursday morning before takeoff, however, I might just audible to Hite, with visions of swimbaits and Scatter Raps dancing in my head.
Dark horse: Dennis Tietje (0.5 percent). Tietje was a guest media advisor last year. Was he privy to all the other pros’ secret spots? Can he do north of the Mason Dixon line what he did on his home waters in the Sabine River tournament? If the answers are yes, you’ll gain a lot of ground against the field if you pick him.
Bucket D – Omori
I like Takahiro Omori (11.9 percent) this week in Bucket D. Although not a conventional-wisdom river rat, Omori has multiple Top 20 finishes in river tournaments.
Bucket E – Pipkens, Short
I like rookie Chad Pipkens (3.7 percent) of Holt, Mich., this week in Bucket E. A Northern river, the Detroit, has been Pipkens’ best playing field prior to making the Elite Series. He’s finished third there twice, plus fifth, ninth, 10th and 14th. He should feel right at home on the Mississippi.
Kevin Short (9.9 percent) is perhaps a safer bet in Bucket E, however, considering he won an Elite Series event a few pools south on the Mississippi River in 2009. On the other hand, he placed a disappointing 45th last year here.
Set your lineup for La Crosse!
Our next Elite Series tournament is June 20-23, the Diet Mountain Dew Mississippi River Rumble presented by Power-Pole in La Crosse, Wis. You can now set your lineup for that event. The deadline is June 20 at 8 a.m. ET. The first-place winner gets a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card, and all of the Top 10 will get a B.A.S.S.-branded jersey from Gemini Sports Marketing. Good luck picking your team!
The Alabama gang returns home
By David Bell
This week is the first time that the Bassmaster Elite Series has fished the Alabama River in Montgomery, Ala., in the regular season. The postseason event took place on the Alabama River from 2009 to 2011. This makes choosing anglers for Fantasy Fishing a little difficult, but not impossible. Thirteen of the anglers fishing this event call Alabama home, and at least one is in each Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing bucket.
This is the first real river test for these anglers this year. It will be important to load up on anglers who are good at fishing rivers. Also, as part of this season’s theme, anglers who can catch a limit each day is important.
Bucket A: Gerald Swindle
It is hard to not pick the three big names leading the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings here at the midway point: Edwin Evers, Kevin VanDam and Skeet Reese. Even with his recent win, Skeet Reese is only owned by 4 percent of Fantasy Fishing players. There is a little risk and a lot of reward picking Reese here.
I decided to stay way from the Top 3 and go a little different route. Gerald Swindle is having a solid season, sitting 17th in the AOY standings. The ability to bring a limit to the stage each day here at the Alabama River will be important, and I expect Swindle to do this. Only being owned by 9 percent of Fantasy Fishing players gives fans the ability to beat most players in this bucket.
Bucket B: Boyd Duckett
Boyd Duckett is having a solid season so far this year. He will have to do a little bit better the second half of the season to get into position to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic at Lake Guntersville. For this reason, I expect Duckett to have a strong tournament in his home state and stage a second-half surge up the AOY standings. Hopefully, this week Duckett can land his first Top 12 finish. Duckett is the third-most owned angler in the group, but at 11 percent, there is plenty to be gained here.
I also like Mark Davis and Bill Lowen in this group. Both of these anglers are perfect ownership percentages at less than 6 percent. Both are accomplished river fishermen who excel this time of year.
Bucket C: Greg Vinson
Greg Vinson is another angler who needs a solid second half of the season to fish the 2014 Classic in his home state. Sitting 49th in the AOY standings, Vinson still has a shot to move into a Classic position, but it will take some work. The Alabama River offers the perfect opportunity for Vinson to start that move. Vinson is a good river fisherman. He lives close to the Alabama River, and I expect that to be an important factor in this event. Being owned by 33 percent of Fantasy Fishing players is hard to pick, but that still leaves Vinson able to beat two-thirds of Fantasy players if he is best of the bucket in the end.
Other anglers to consider would be Chris Lane and Charlie Hartley. Lane is only owned by 3 percent of Fantasy players and needs to do some work to improve to qualify for the Classic. You know he wants to fish this Classic because he has a tackle shop on the banks of Lake Guntersville. Charlie Hartley is a very good river fisherman and is only owned by 0.1 percent of Fantasy players. Essentially, Hartley would beat all Fantasy players if he finishes toward the top of the standings this week.
Bucket D: Russ Lane
Russ Lane is down in 69th in AOY standings and almost certainly needs a win to fish Lake Guntersville in February. This being a home state event, I see Russ Lane going for broke to make it happen. Russ Lane has fished well at home state events in the past. Although he is the third-most owned angler, fans can still gain a lot of points.
I expect Tommy Biffle and Randy Howell to also have a big event this week. River fishing typically turns the event into a shallow-water, bank-beating event. This style of fishing fits perfectly into Biffle’s hand. Also, Biffle is underrated, still being down in Bucket D. Howell is having a much tougher season this year than last. Howell needs a good turnaround, and fishing his home state could jumpstart a strong second half of the season.
Bucket E: Matt Herren
This time of the season, it always seems there are a couple anglers who are way undervalued. This season, I see Matt Herren as being this angler in Bucket E. Herren will turn his season around this week on the Alabama River. Herren is the second-most owned angler at 27 percent.
Other anglers I like in this group are Kevin Short and Jamie Horton. Kevin Short is an excellent river angler and excels in tough conditions. His first win on the Elite Series came on the northern Mississippi River in high water conditions. This week’s conditions on the Alabama River will be very similar, and for this reason, I see him doing more than just making a check. Only being owned by 7 percent of Fantasy players makes him a perfect choice. Jamie Horton is another angler who lives close to the Alabama River, and 8 percent of Fantasy owners taking Horton leaves lots of upside.
Remember to get your fantasy picks in for this event. A $2,500 gift card to Bass Pro Shops is up for grabs again, along with a season-ending prize for the overall best Fantasy player.
Let history guide your Alabama River roster picks
By Greg Huff
Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese and Edwin Evers battling for Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year? Seems like old times! With the Elite Series headed to Montgomery, Ala., B.A.S.S.’s ancestral home, it seems fitting to re-ignite a hot rivalry from the Elite Series’ recent history.
Bucket A: Skeet vs. KVD vs. E2
In terms of momentum, motivation and merit, few anglers might appear more of a Fantasy Fishing lock than does eternal bridesmaid Edwin Evers this week: Not only is he leading the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, his history on the Alabama River includes four runner-up finishes.
It should be noted, however, that none of those finishes came against a full field, and only one came in the postspawn. Two were in 12-man postseason events (July and September) to determine AOY; one was in a 12-man seeded match-play format in July. The fourth came in a late-May Bassmaster Elite 50 tournament, a pre-Elite Series event featuring a field of 50 anglers. Elite Series fields feature 100 anglers.
Still, Evers excels on most rivers south of the Mason-Dixon Line, no matter how big the field and no matter what the time of year. His resume includes Top 10s on the Red (fifth and eighth in Classics held in February) and Ouachita rivers (fifth and fourth in November and December); and Top 25s on the Arkansas (18th and 25th in June and August), Ohio/Cumberland/Tennessee (13th in June) rivers. And that’s not even counting tidal river systems, like St. Johns and Sabine, on which he’s also fared well.
Most weeks, such impressive stats would make Evers a lock. This isn’t most weeks, however. Evers’ Day Three stumble last week on West Point and Reese’s win there has set up a showdown that will likely overshadow Evers’ redemption shot: “Skeet v. KVD Part 3: This Time It’s Personal.”
Upon winning at West Point last week, Reese said winning Angler of the Year motivates him more than winning the Bassmaster Classic (he’s done both). And it was on the Alabama River that VanDam twice denied Reese an AOY title in 2009 and 2010, besting him in the second of two 12-man derbies in a short-lived postseason format.
Coming off a win last week on West Point and sitting in third place in AOY points behind Evers and VanDam, Reese has momentum and much motivation to make a Top 12 this week. Think it’s unlikely he could follow a win with a Top 12? Recall then 2010, when he fell to VanDam after an epic regular season that included six Top 5 finishes and two victories.
All that will hold back Reese this week is the Alabama River itself. For whatever reason, it’s been where he’s met his Waterloo. When he needed to finish fourth of 12 anglers here to win AOY in 2009, he finished sixth. And when he needed to finish second of 12 here to win the 2010 title, he again finished sixth.
In 2011, Reese shared in a four-way tie for fifth in the match-play postseason event here. In June 2004, he placed 18th against a full field in a Bassmaster Tour event here. On Southern rivers, generally, Reese fares well, year-round, including 10th- and 11th-place finishes on the Arkansas River in June and August; an 11th place on the Red River in a February Classic; and a fifth-place finish in June on the Ohio/Cumberland/Tennessee rivers system.
But what of the 300-pound gorilla in the room? Can we Fantasy Fishing players really pick Reese or Evers when VanDam has positioned himself to challenge for an eighth AOY title?
Entering this tournament second in AOY points, a Top 12 here would give VanDam the kind of lead that could very well set up another AOY title, considering he’s the best closer in the game. In addition to his postseason wins here, VanDam finished 12th and 18th on this river in early June and late May tournaments.
Want to avoid the crowds that pick from this Big 3, hedging that the hype will result in subpar finishes for all? If you’re not in the top 90 percent of Fantasy players, you might consider betting against the favorites, hoping for a big payoff on a long-odds dark horse. Good luck with that.
Only one Bucket A angler has as much experience on the Alabama River as the Big 3 mentioned above, Bassmaster veteran Gary Klein. He has competed in six high-level tournaments here, including the 12-man 2009 and 2010 postseason events, in which he placed seventh and 12th. His other finishes are Top 30s.
Klein’s certainly not lacking in momentum, motivation and merit. He enters this tournament 11th in the Angler of the Year race and no doubt focused on winning his third title (he won AOY in 1989 and 1993).
Gerald Swindle and Aaron Martens also have successful histories on the Alabama River and Southern rivers generally.
Bucket B: Clunn and Davis
With Bassmaster history already a theme heading into this week, my Bucket B watch list this week fits right in — Rick Clunn and Mark Davis.
Popular young gun Ott Defoe will likely enjoy a high ownership percentage this week, owing to his 2011 postseason match-play win here, but I like the cagey veterans in this bucket. While close in AOY standings — Clunn, 29th; Davis, 30th; Defoe, 35th — both Clunn and Davis are fishing much better than they have in the last few years, while Defoe has fallen behind the pace he has set in recent seasons.
Clunn and Davis have much more history here, as well. Clunn finished fourth in the October 1981 Bassmaster Classic here; 18th in the June 2004 Elite 50 event; and 23rd in the October 1982 Bassmaster Classic. Davis, well-known as a postspawn specialist, won the June 2005 Elite 50 here and placed sixth here in a late May 2003 Bassmaster Tour event.
You might also consider Greg Hackney. Widely regarded as a River Rat, Hackney has two Top 10’s here: eighth in the June 2004 Elite 50, and seventh in the July 2010 12-man postseason derby. His history on Southern rivers includes three Top 10s and five Top 20s.
Bucket C: Vinson
Hailing from nearby Wetumpka, Ala., Greg Vinson will be sleeping in his own bed during this tournament. In the last two Elite Series tournaments, he’s made headlines for taking and losing early leads. That suggests he’s fishing well but making a few poor decisions in crunch time. With local knowledge (his own or via the grapevine) and history here, perhaps this is the week he puts it all together to win.
You might consider also Brent Chapman. Although the 2012 Angler of the Year placed only 37th here in the June 2004 Elite 50 event, he was runner-up here in the May 2003 Bassmaster Tour events. His history on other Southern rivers includes 14th- and 18th-place finishes on the Arkansas River in June and August.
This bucket’s dark horse is John Murray. Despite being from the West, which is associated with clear, deep finesse tactics, Murray has a surprisingly good history here and on Southern rivers in general. He placed seventh, 13th and 32nd here in December 2005, May 2003 and June 2004. He’s placed fifth and 29th on the Arkansas River and 19th on the Ohio/Cumberland/Tennessee river system.
Bucket D: Biffle and Lane
With water levels up, Biffle should find plenty of backwater vegetation to pitch and flip. And there’s plenty of room on this river to lock down, get away from the crowd and find fish you don’t have to share.
Hot off a Top 12 last week, Biffle has both momentum and a good record here: second in the September 2009 12-man postseason event; fourth in the July 2010 12-man postseason derby; and third in the early June 2004 Elite 50 tournament here. Elsewhere on Southern rivers, he’s finished first in September, 15th in June and 23rd in August.
Russ Lane hails from Prattville, Ala., located about 25 minutes away from this week’s launch site. He finished 10th here in the 12-man 2010 postseason event.
Bucket E: Short, Herren and Horton
Timmy Horton may hail from Alabama, but this week I like “the other Horton” from Alabama, Jamie. He’s from Centreville, Ala., located only about an hour from Montgomery. That’s likely why the sophomore Horton has more experience on the Alabama River than does Timmy, the longtime Bassmaster pro. In two regional tournaments here in September and one in June, Jamie Horton finished first, seventh and fifth.
No handicapping of a river tournament is complete without mentioning Kevin Short. Although he has never competed in a major-level Alabama River derby, his Southern river history is strong: 16th- and 24th-place finishes in May and June tournaments, and third on the Arkansas River in a June derby.
Trussville, Ala., native Matt Herren has enjoyed some success in tournaments on the Miller’s Ferry pool of the Alabama River. Elsewhere on Southern rivers, he’s been hit or miss — second on the Ouachita River in a March tournament but 92nd on the Arkansas River in a June derby.
Set your lineup for the Alabama River!
Our next Elite Series tournament is May 9-12, the Alabama River Charge presented by Star brite in Montgomery, Ala. You can now set your lineup for that event. The deadline is May 9 at 8 a.m. ET. The first-place winner gets a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card, and all of the Top 10 will get a B.A.S.S.-branded jersey from Gemini Sports Marketing. Good luck picking your team!
Top performers in each Fantasy Fishing bucket for West Point
By David Bell
LA GRANGE, Ga. — The 2013 Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing season is well underway, and it is time to start making a move back toward the top. After a horrible first tournament, my Fantasy Fishing team has slowly but surely been gaining against other players.
This week, the Top 100 anglers take to West Point Lake in La Grange, Ga. The last time the Elite Series stopped at West Point Lake was 2011, and Steve Kennedy walked away with the big trophy. The way the Fantasy Fishing buckets line up this year, it is possible to get an angler who finished in the Top 12 in 2011 in each bucket.
For this tournament’s picks, I used the 2011 results, the current Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings, and Fantasy Fishing percentage ownership numbers.
Bucket A: Edwin Evers
Edwin Evers was the runner-up at West Point in 2011 and is the current AOY points leader. Evers’ fishing style matches up well to catch bass however necessary this time of year on West Point. Evers is the third most-owned angler in Bucket A at 17%, but he offers a great chance to gain points in the overall Fantasy Fishing standings.
I also like Terry Scroggins and Kevin VanDam in this bucket. These two guys are tied for second in AOY standings, and both managed a solid finish at West Point in 2011. Scroggins’ ownership is only 4.7%, which gives him great upside in the bucket if he can beat the top bucket choices. VanDam is the top pick and a strong threat to win in the bucket, like he always is.
Bucket B: Steve Kennedy
Steve Kennedy is the highest-owned angler in Bucket B and for good reason: Kennedy won at West Point in 2011 and has fished this lake all his life. Kennedy was able to take his Kanami Flash and a special swimbait and keep the trophy at home. If the conditions change like they have at each Elite Series event so far this season, Kennedy will know where he needs to be to catch the winning fish. Kennedy’s Fantasy Fishing ownership is 17%, which still leaves a solid opportunity to beat most of the Fantasy Fishing players.
I also like Alton Jones and Dean Rojas. Jones finished in the Top 12 at West Point in 2011 and is sitting in 21st place in AOY standings. A 9% Fantasy Fishing ownership does not hurt either. Rojas finished 20th at West Point and 28th in the AOY standings.
Bucket C: Bill Lowen
Bill Lowen finished 12th here in 2011 and needs a big event to turn his season around. He is currently 46th in AOY standing and needs a couple of strong events to get back to the Classic. Lowen also only had a 4% Fantasy Fishing ownership mark right now, so a big finish will gain me a lot of points over other anglers in this bucket.
I also really like Ott DeFoe and Mark Davis for this bucket. DeFoe finished 11th and Davis finished 14th here in 2011. Both excel at this time of the season. The reason I am not taking DeFoe is his ownership is very high at 27%. This is the time of year that Davis really starts to excel, so I would not be surprised if he has a Top 12 finish. Davis’ Fantasy Fishing ownership is only 3%, so there is a lot of upside to picking him here.
Bucket D: Nate Wellman
Nate Wellman is surprisingly only owned by 2.5% of Fantasy Fishing players. Wellman pulled of a fifth-place finish here in 2011. He is also the third-highest ranked angler in Fantasy Fishing points for this bucket. I hope he can figure out the lake as he did two years ago and come away with another Top 12 finish.
Other anglers to consider in this bucket are Jared Lintner and Greg Vinson. Lintner is another surprise after finishing fourth at West Point in 2011, but he is only owned by 4.5% of Fantasy Fishing players. Vinson finished 16th in 2011 and is only owned by 6%. Most people are sticking with Michael Iaconelli. These three anglers give you a chance to beat almost half the Fantasy Fishing players if they finish better Iaconelli.
Bucket E: Andy Montgomery
Andy Montgomery is my choice for the last bucket because he finished ninth here in 2011 and also is only owned by 9% of Fantasy Fishing players. Montgomery has had a rough start to his season and almost certainly needs a win to qualify for the 2013 Classic. For this reason, I see Montgomery giving it is his all to have his best finish of the season.
Also in the group, I like Davy Hite and Brandon Palaniuk. Both managed to finish in the Top 50 and take home a check in 2011. I like Hite’s 11% Fantasy Fishing ownership more thank Palaniuk’s 38%.
The event starts Thursday, May 2, so do not forget to get your Fantasy Fishing picks in. If you have not set up a team, just go to Bassmaster.com/Fantasy. It is free to play, and the person with the highest points total for each tournament wins a $2,500 gift card to Bass Pro Shops.
Choose anglers who can change with conditions at West Point
By Greg Huff
It’s going to be all about the spawn this week on West Point Lake. More likely the shad spawn than the black bass spawn, however.
Although a late spring has knocked back the bass spawn by a couple weeks, La Grange, Ga., is far enough south that West Point’s largemouth and spotted bass will likely be trending postspawn when the Elite Series pros begin competition May 2.
That should be right about the time that this lowland reservoir’s gizzard shad population begins to spawn. If that happens, expect to see pros slinging topwaters on the gravel points, riprap banks, clay bottoms and other hard structure over which shad drop their eggs.
The topwater spawning shad bite is a low-light, here-today-gone-tomorrow bite, so B and C plans will be equally important. Thanks to a recently full moon, some spawning fish will surely be available to sight fishermen, but beds alone will not likely account for the winning bags.
Other patterns likely to be successful are cranking and football-jigging gravel points; light-line finesse tactics over and around submerged wood, brush and rock; and flipping shallow wood (which is prevalent) and flooded vegetation. The availability of shoreline vegetation to flip will be determined by lake level, always an unknown on reservoirs because of weather and power-generation schedules. West Point does not feature much aquatic vegetation, so there’s only shallow grass if the water rises to flood the lake’s shoreline buffer vegetation. As of Monday morning, the lake was 0.36 feet above full pool.
One thing’s for certain: Anglers will be burning a lot of gas, running multiple patterns as conditions change. Overcast skies will likely keep anglers shallow longer. High bluebird skies will likely pull anglers off the morning topwater bite and out to deeper cover sooner.
So, what does that mean to Fantasy Fishing players? Load your roster with versatile anglers that excel at fishing fast, chasing shad and adapting to changing postspawn conditions. Such anglers will likely have had prior success in late April, early May tournaments on other Chattahoochee River impoundments, so we’ll review angler histories.
With other anglers getting all the headlines lately, the time is ripe for a classic KVD game-changing move. With less than 30 percent of players picking him this week, VanDam’s as close as he can be to flying under the radar. He finished seventh here in 2011, and he fared well also in two other springtime events on Chattahoochee River reservoirs. On Clarks Hill, he placed fourth in early May 2008 and 12th in early March 2005. On Eufaula, he placed 20th in early March 2004.
Considering his 2011 runner-up finish here and a third place on Clarks Hill in 2008, Edwin Evers (16.9 percent) is likely to finish high again. Add in the momentum of leading the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race and you can make a good case to pick him. On the other hand, he finished 95th and 75th on Clarks Hill in May of 2006 and 2004.
Bucket A’s best value is arguably Terry Scroggins (4.8 percent). He enters this week second in AOY points, having placed third and sixth in this season’s first and third Elite Series events (and in the Top 50 in the second). He finished 25th on West Point in early May 2011, third on Clarks Hill in late May 2010 and 19th and 28th there in May 2005 and 2006. On Eufaula, he finished second in May 2006 and 48th in March 2004.
Need a high-risk/high-reward pick to make a move against the frontrunner-picking field? If you’re outside the 90th percentile in Fantasy Fishing points, consider it. Go with Casey Ashley (2.1 percent). He finished 26th here in 2011 and first and fifth on Clarks Hill in May of 2008 and 2006.
A local who won the Elite Series event here in 2011 after skipping much of practice so he wouldn’t give away his spots, Kennedy (17.1 percent) is a favorite again. He grew up fishing here and knows where all the good brushpiles, trees and rocks are. But he’s also a go-big-or-go-home type, so he’s always a risk, Fantasy Fishing-wise. On Eufaula, he placed 11th in April 2005 and 15th in March 2004. On Clarks Hill, he placed 26th in late May 2010, 31st in early May 2006, 76th in early May 2008 and 83rd in late April 2007.
If enough spawners remain, Alton Jones (9 percent) could be a good pick. Still, he placed sixth here in 2011, when the lake was more postspawn than it will be this year, so he’s a great value at less than 10 percent ownership. Additionally, his go-to bait is a Yum Dinger, a soft stickbait similar to the Kinami Flash, Kennedy’s secondary bait in his 2011 win here.
With West Point’s huge population of spotted bass, Aaron Martens (14.2 percent) could be deadly on gravel points with light line and finesse presentations. Currently 39th in AOY points, he’ll be motivated to improve on his 35th-place finish here in 2011. Martens finished fourth in an early April 2011 PAA event on Lake Lanier in which many other Elite Series pros struggled.
My high-risk/high-reward pick this week is Fred Roumbanis. Although he finished 43rd on West Point in 2011, he’s fared well on Clarks Hill in May previously. And I like how his likely arsenal stacks up against a postspawn West Point: topwater frogs, Roumba wake baits and Optimum swimbaits. On Clarks Hill, he placed 10th in late April 2007 and 27th in early May 2006.
I like Ott Defoe (27.4 percent) and Mark Davis (3.1 percent).
Defoe finished 11th on West Point in 2011 and second in mid-February 2006. On Eufaula, he placed sixth in early March 2004, ninth in early April 2009 and 33rd in mid-March 2008.
Davis, “Mr. Post Spawn,” finished 14th here in 2011, and eighth in late March 2004 and late May 2010 events on Clarks Hill.
Although Randy Howell (13.9 percent) finished 46th here in 2011, he’s too good an angler not to consider picking in such a low bucket. And then there’s his postspawn record on Clarks Hill — fifth in early May 2006, 14th in late April 2007 and 27th in early May 2008. He’s my pick.
Jared Lintner placed fourth here in 2011. On Clarks Hill, he placed 22nd in early May 2008 and 48th in late May 2010. On Lake Lanier, another Chattahoochee River impoundment in Georgia, he placed 23rd in early April 2011.
Jason Quinn was 38th here in 2011, but he placed third and 15th on Clarks Hill in early May 2006 and late April 2007.
Britt Myers placed 39th here in 2011, but finished 13th and 15th on Clarks Hill in in early May 2008 and 2006.
Marty Robinson finished 30th on West Point in 2011 and 135th in mid-February 2006. He placed 10th in mid-May 2006 on Eufaula and 36th in mid-March 2006 and 89th in late April 2005. On Clarks Hill, he finished 20th in late May 2010.
Greg Vinson was 16th here in the 2011 Elite Series event and 113th in mid-February 2006. On Clarks Hill? 43rd in early May 2008 and 52nd in late April 2007. On Eufaula? 30th, 52nd, 70th, 98th and 91st.
I’m picking Andy Montgomery (9.1 percent), who placed ninth on West Point in 2011. He’s also placed 10th on Eufaula in March 2010, 16th in April 2009, 19th in March 2007, 24th in April 2005 and 35th in March 2008.
Davy Hite (11.1 percent) placed 31st on West Point in 2011. On Clarks Hill, he won in May 2006, was runner-up in May 2008 and placed 18th in March 2005. On Eufaula, he placed 21st in March 2004.
Set your lineup for West Point Lake Battle!
Our next Elite Series tournament is May 2-5, the West Point Lake Battle in La Grange, Georgia. You can now set your lineup for that event. The deadline is May 2 at 8:00 a.m. The first place winner gets a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card and a B.A.S.S. branded jersey from Gemini Sports Marketing. And the next nine people will get a B.A.S.S. branded jersey from Gemini Sports Marketing. Good luck picking your team!
Pick undervalued veterans and rookies with good Ozarks records
By Greg Huff
Last year, we were asking how far into the postspawn Bull Shoals would be. This season, the spawn will have just begun.
“There’ll be some fish that will are moving up on the beds and we’ll still have some prespawn fish as well,” says Ozarks area guide Mike Webb, who recently caught an 11-pound, 7-ounce largemouth upstream from Bull Shoals on Table Rock. “The water temperature is getting up close to 60 degrees with these warm nights already. We’re right there for them to move up.”
But don’t load your roster with just sight fishermen. There won’t likely be enough spawners to go around. Plus, several top sight fishermen don’t have stellar records on Ozarks impoundments in April.
If you’re in the 90th percentile in Fantasy Fishing points thus far, balance your roster with a combination of the “Most Popular” and “Safe Bet” roster-pick suggestions below, mixing in one or two “Also Consider” picks. If like me, however, you had a bad tournament early and need to make up some ground, gamble on a couple of “High Risk/High Reward” picks along with a combination of “Best Value” and “Safe Bet” picks.
I’m avoiding the “Most Popular” picks, as they will not help me make much of a move against the field. There’s only one grand prize for the season (a Triton-Mercury boat-motor package), so play to win. To make a big move, pick a few veterans who have fallen to lower buckets plus some high-risk/high-reward anglers with good track records on Ozark impoundments in April.
Bull Shoals is one of three White River impoundments on which major bass tournaments are held. Far more, though, have been held on Table Rock and Beaver lakes, so before making my roster picks, I reviewed angler history on those venues, which fish very similarly. My picks are in italics.
Safe Bet: Alton Jones (2.4% Fantasy Fishing ownership)
Also Consider: Ish Monroe (4.5%)
Best Value: Alton Jones
High Risk/High Reward: Takahiro Omori (0.3%)
Most Popular: Kevin VanDam (33.2%)
Although Jones placed 28th on Bull Shoals last year, his sight fishing prowess and record on White River impoundments in mid to late April (when bass traditionally begin spawning in the Ozarks) make him both a safe bet and a great value, at a mere 2.4 percent ownership (as of April 13). In three pro-level mid- to late-April Beaver Lake tournaments, Jones finished third, 14th and 29th. Fourth in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points, Jones has started the season strong.
Despite finishing 45th on Bull Shoals last year, KVD is the most-picked angler in Bucket A (33.2 percent). Intercepting egg-laden prespawn females moving to beds is among KVD’s specialties, and his best White River finishes have come in April — fourth in early April 2005 on Table Rock and 12th in late April 2001 on Beaver. KVD enters the tournament 10th in AOY points.
I always like “Big Bass Specialist” Ish Monroe’s chances to weigh big kicker fish, as it takes a different mentality to stick with big baits, sacrificing numbers. Ish has that mindset. If he gets on a pattern rich with prespawn fatties, he’ll likely improve on his previous best springtime White River finishes — 17th on Table Rock in late April 2012 and 15th on Beaver in mid-March 2010 on another pro circuit. Ish is sitting at seventh in the AOY race.
Omori has good prespawn White River history too, with 10th and 21st-place finishes in mid to late April on another tour. Omori is 19th in AOY points.
Safe Bet: Brent Chapman (15.1%)
Also Consider: Greg Hackney (4%)
Best Value: David Walker (3.3%)
High Risk/High Reward: Cliff Pirch (0.6%)
Most Popular: Mike McClelland (35.2%)
Chapman (15.1 percent ownership) grew up fishing Ozarks impoundments and his record reflects his experience — fifth here last April; 11th, 11th and 27th on Beaver in early April; and third and 20th on Table Rock in early April 2005 and late April 2012.
With that record and last year’s Angler of the Year title under his belt, it’s surprising Chapman is not the most-picked angler in Bucket B. That honor, however, belongs to Mike McClelland.
Although McClelland finished 35th here last season, he’s fared well in two April Table Rock derbies — second and 25th. But he’s struggled on Beaver in April — 36th and 84th. Hackney’s been hit or miss on White River lakes in April, too —first and 18th, but also 43rd, 46th and 65th.
Walker has the most White River-in-April experience in this bucket, with three Top 20s in 10 major-tour tournaments. His finishes: seventh, 14th, 19th, 35th, 39th, 40th, 59th, 121st and 134th.
From the Classic through the first two tournaments, at least one rookie drastically outperforms expectations. This week, Pirch appears poised to be one of those guys. In three pro-level April tournaments on Beaver Lake between 2005 and 2012, he finished fourth, seventh and 30th. On the other hand, he finished 62nd last April on Table Rock.
Safe Bet: Aaron Martens (14.5%)
Also Consider: Scott Rook (9.1%)
Best Value: Brian Snowden (2.6%)
High Risk/High Reward: Stephen Kennedy (0.8%)
Most Popular: Ott DeFoe (22.8%)
Like he did last season, Martens fell from Bucket A to C after a terrible start. But like I wrote last year, he’s too good to stay long in Bucket C, where he’s a great value. On Table Rock, Martens has finished second twice, once in early April 2005. On Beaver, he’s finished fifth, 11th, 12th, 27th, 39th and 83rd — all in April.
Although Snowden, a Missouri native, also grew up fishing the Ozarks, his best finishes on White River reservoirs have come in the fall. His April record is hit or miss — 28th, 47th and 106th on Table Rock and 21st on Beaver. Last year on Bull Shoals, he finished 40th.
If Rook can return to early-2000’s form, he’ll be a threat. In April 2001 and 2000, he placed third and fourth on Table Rock, respectively. In early April 2005, however, he finished 39th.
If the big-swimbait bite that Kennedy committed to unsuccessfully here last season improves with this year’s clearer water, expect him to be in the mix. That’s according to Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer, interviewed in this week’s “Fantasy Fishing Insider” podcast.
Safe Bet: Tommy Biffle (5.6%)
Also Consider: Matt Herren (8.7%)
Best Value: Also Tommy Biffle
High Risk/High Reward: Andy Montgomery (0.7%)
Most Popular: Michael Iaconelli (41.8%)
With Bucket A cred to spare, Biffle is arguably the most undervalued angler in Bucket D, at 5.6 percent ownership. His record in April is, however, hit or miss — eighth, 22nd, 27th and 33rd on Beaver, and 33rd on Table Rock, are the high points. The lows? Finishes of 61st, 67th, 124th, 125th, 129th on Beaver, and a 281st on Table Rock in a BASS Invitational-format tournament.
Before last year’s Bull Shoals tournament, I wrote “Need a really high-reward pick? Take Matt Herren at 0.3 percent.” I thank him for making me look good by finishing third. He’s a good pick this year as well.
In five April tournaments on Beaver, Herren has never finished outside the Top 30. He previews this week’s tournament with me on the “Fantasy Fishing Insider” podcast.
Safe Bet: Brandon Palaniuk (63.5%)
Also Consider: Casey Scanlon (1.1%)
Good Value: Jared Lintner
High Risk/High Reward: Chad Pipkens (0.2%)
Most Popular: Also Brandon Palaniuk
Palaniuk, last year’s tournament winner is in Bucket E? That’s a no-brainer pick, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Palaniuk won on a spot last year, not a repeatable pattern. That spot will have gotten pounded, having been exposed in media.
On the other hand, Palaniuk loves throwing Rapala DT Series crankbaits and Storm Wiggle Warts, which are both killer in the Ozarks in the spring. Not to mention that Rapala’s new Scatter Rap (which Palaniuk and only a few others have much experience with) seems perfectly suited for prespawn water nearing the 60-degree mark.
Although it will be tough to pick against Palaniuk this week, I’m going to roll the dice on a rookie. With Palaniuk at 63.5% ownership, I can’t bring myself to follow the crowd.
Like Cliff Pirch, Chap Pipkens is rookie who appears poised to have a break-out tournament this week. In four pro-level April tournaments in the last three years, he’s finished first, eighth, 12th and 38th. His two Top 10s were on Beaver and Table Rock.
Hear Greg Huff’s interviews with Mike Webb, Dave Mercer and Matt Herren in this week’s “Fantasy Fishing Insider” podcast.
Balance Falcon roster with Texans, West Coasters with offshore skills
By Greg Huff
ZAPATA, Texas — Falcon is not the bird she was in 2008. On that, most agree. But will she fish similarly — with the biggest and best schools found holding on offshore structure — or will a late spawning wave make shallow power fishing productive also?
Depends on who you ask.
A local bait shop assistant manager says locals are catching ’em on spinnerbaits in 3 to 4 feet.
An area fisheries biologist says low water levels (and an accompanying dearth of flooded shoreline cover) could move fish deeper, to spots like the Elites found them on in 2008.
A bassin’ TV pundit advises loading your roster with deep-fishing Western anglers.
An Elite Series pro with more experience than most on Falcon says competitors will be able to find them high, low and in between, with fish in all stages of the spawn. Says that will even the playing field between the deep and shallow guys.
My Fantasy Fishing Insider podcast co-hosts, Rich Lindgren (@HellaBass on Twitter), Jason Holmer (@BassUtopia), and I predict that at least nine of the Top 12 anglers will be fishing deeper offshore structure. With a few exceptions, we’re loading up on Texans and Californians.
So … the outlook remains as clear as Falcon Lake’s turbid water!
One thing seems certain, however, no matter whom you ask: although a one-day Falcon limit could very well outweigh a four-day Sabine River limit, weights and numbers caught this week will be down from the big-bass bonanza of 2008. Some limits will likely include 7- and 8-pounders, but not multiples in that class.
With all that in mind, your ticket to Fantasy Fishing success this week is to diversify your roster. Don’t take all Texas guys, all Western guys, all Top-12-here-last-time guys, or all offshore-specialist guys. Take a little from column A, a little from column B … you get the picture.
Because no one in the rookie bucket has much — if any — tournament history on Falcon, take a Western guy. To win in the West, you must excel at using electronics to find offshore fish.
Jason Christie (68.1% Fantasy Fishing ownership) is a stud stick for sure, but we like him better in shallow-water tournaments. Other anglers with much lower ownership percentages offer better value. Lindgren picked Arizona’s Cliff Pirch (4.6%). Holmer and I both picked Californian Kevin Hawk (6.1%).
Because he had a bad tournament last week, Brandon Palaniuk (37.2%) likely bounces back this week. As he showed with his win on Bull Shoals, he’s got a knack for using his electronics to find and mine offshore spots that he doesn’t have to share.
“He’s really good, as we saw on Bull Shoals, at finding specific things away from the crowds that he can milk,” Holmer says.
Lindgren picked Kurt Dove (11%) of Del Rio, Texas. Because Dove guides on Falcon, he is “probably pretty well suited in Bucket D for having a finger on the pulse of things going on” there, he explains. But not in 2008, however, when Dove placed 103rd on Falcon.
I considered Dove but went with another Texan, Matt Reed (15.5%). Madisonville is not close enough to Falcon to make Reed a local, but he’s clearly confident competing in his home state in the spring: 10th on Amistad (early March 2006); 16th on Sam Rayburn (mid-March 2008); 17th on Amistad (mid-March 2009); and 23rd on Falcon (April 2008).
Consider also Jason Quinn (6.7%), a deep-structure specialist from South Carolina. He finished 25th on Falcon in 2008.
Holmer and I both are taking Jason “Tower of Power” Williamson (6.1%), who placed eighth on Falcon in 2008. Williamson has said Falcon is his favorite lake and that jigging deep structure is his favorite technique.
Lindgren’s going with Takahiro Omori (13.8%), who finished 22nd here in 2008 in the Elite Series tournament and 19th in another pro tournament trail derby.
Lindgren picked Jeff Kriet, whom I was considering also. Kriet has more experience on Falcon than most, having filmed several fishing shows here with Mark Zona and others. He finished 26th here in 2008. Upriver on Amistad, he’s finished 11th, 19th and 21st in March tournaments.
I’m also considering Mark Davis who, following wrist surgery in the offseason, appears to be returning to the form that saw him winning a Classic and Angler of the Year honors in 1995. A postspawn, deep-structure specialist, Davis has won five B.A.S.S. events and last week finished ninth in the tough Sabine event.
Holmer picked Terry Scroggins, who staged an impressive comeback (44.4 pounds on Day 4!) to finish runner-up to Paul Elias here in 2008, falling only ounces short of the win.
Consider also Native Californian and current Weatherford, Texas, resident, Gary Klein (2.2%); Kelly Jordon, Mineola, Texas, resident and Lake Fork Tackle-sponsored angler (9.6%); and Oklahoman Tommy Biffle (1%), who could be one of the few shallow-water guys to make the Top 12.
Kevin VanDam (17.2%) is a threat to win any tournament he’s in, especially one in which cranking deep and spinnerbaiting shallow are likely to be in play. We’ll all be shocked if he isn’t a factor this week.
However, VanDam is not the most-owned angler in Bucket A this week. That honor falls to Alton Jones (20.9%), who finished eighth last week on the Sabine. He’s a pretty safe pick, considering that we have it on good authority that he parks a trailer down at Falcon about once a month and fishes there. On the other hand, he finished 44th here in 2008.
Holmer picked Aaron Martens (8.9%), who famously finished fourth here in 2008, having shared an offshore spot, harsh words and hurt feelings with Byron Velvick, who finished third. A California native, Martens is a master at using his electronics to find fish. If the bass are suspending this week, he might indeed have the best chance to best find and catch them.
Lindgren and I both like Keith Combs (7.3%). Although he was not in the Elites when BASS came here in 2008, he has competed on Falcon a few times, finishing second, 11th and 21st in mid-major tournaments on another pro circuit.
Something is telling me, however, to take 2013 Bassmaster Classic champ Cliff Pace, who at 0.9% ownership is a tremendous value. I found no definitive stats, however, to back up what would, essentially, be a gut pick. And while it’s crazy to see the Classic champ with less than 1% ownership, I’m not surprised. I wrote several times last year about how Pace was consistently undervalued. That, however, was when he was in Buckets D and C.
River rats with Delta success will shine on SabineBy Greg Huff
ORANGE, Texas — Although Toledo Bend is an impoundment of the Sabine River, don’t base your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks on history there. Instead, review results of other spring river tournaments.
Toledo Bend is won mostly on deep, offshore ledges. A notable exception is the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open, held here in March 2002 during the prespawn. Patterns that dominated the Elite Series Toledo Bend tournament in June 2012 will not translate to the Sabine. And that’s according to 2012 Angler of the Year Brent Chapman, who won that tournament.
“It won’t even be in the same ballpark,” Chapman said in an interview for my podcast, Fantasy Fishing Insider. “The Sabine River system is going to be a challenge.”
The Sabine event will most likely be won near shore in 4 feet of water or less, and with a jig, creature bait or shallow crankbait. So load your roster with river rats and other shallow-water specialists.
To determine anglers likely to succeed on the Sabine, I’ll borrow a practice from real estate agents and compile this list of comps — tournaments with comparable factors, including fishery type, water quality, geography and unique challenges:
- Feb. 18-20, 2011, Bassmaster Classic, Louisiana Delta (New Orleans, La.)
- Feb. 24-26, 2012, Bassmaster Classic, Red River (Shreveport, La.)
- March 9-12, 2005, Ouachita River tournament in another pro bass tour (West Monroe, La.)
- March 1-14, 2010, Elite Series, California Delta (Stockton, Calif.)
- March 22-25, 2007, Elite Series, California Delta (Stockton, Calif.)
- March 21-23, 2002, Central Open, Toledo Bend (Many, La.)
Try filling your roster with a combination of the anglers listed below. My picks are italicized.
No-Brainer Pick: Kevin VanDam, 20.8 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership
Value Pick: David Walker, 0.3 percent
Local Pick: Todd Faircloth, 22.8 percent
River Rat Pick: Greg Hackney, 5.3 percent
Counterintuitive Pick: Aaron Martens, 2.5 percent
Wild Card Pick: Keith Combs, 2.5 percent
A Louisiana River Rat at home flipping shallow cover, Hackney has been known to gamble on long runs to find fish he won’t have to share. That could be key. His average finish in comp tournaments is 19th, with a third, 10th, 20th and 22nd.
Faircloth lives close enough to Orange to be considered a “local,” but he does not fish the Sabine system. Still, his chances of knowing a few tidbits more than other pros are better than most.
No Brainer: Dean Rojas,9.3 percent ownership
Value Pick: Greg Vinson, 0.8 percent
Local Pick: Dennis Tietje, 1.3 percent
River Rat Pick: Stephen Browning, 1.2 percent
Counterintuitive Pick: Jeff Kriet, 5.3 percent
Wild Card Pick: Scott Rook, 1.6 percent
Vinson averaged a best-in-bucket 13th place. He showcased his river-fishing prowess finishing runner-up in the Red River Classic.
Browning finished third and sixth in the California Delta which, with its miles of canals, sloughs and dead-end backwaters, looks like what will encounter on the Sabine system.
No Brainer: Ish Monroe, 24.4 percent ownership
Value Pick: John Crews, 7.4 percent
Local Pick: James Niggemeyer, 10.7 percent
River Rat Pick: Bill Lowen, 14 percent
Counterintuitive Pick: Takahiro Omori, 9.1 percent
Wild Card Pick: Derek Remitz, 1.2 percent
Monroe is great when frogs and flipping are in play. And because bonus points are awarded for Big Bass and the heaviest one-day limit, the “Big Bass Specialist” seems a no-brainer.
Crews won a California Delta tournament, flips the same baits Monroe won with on Okeechobee (Missile Baits’ D Bomb, which he designed), and he’s a wizard with a shallow crankbait. His average finish in the comp tournaments is 19th.
No Brainer: Brandon Palaniuk, 60.4 percent ownership
Value Pick: Marty Robinson, 4.7 percent
Local Pick: Clark Reehm, 5.4 percent
River Rat Pick: Cliff Prince, 1.2 percent
Counterintuitive Pick: Kotaro Kiriyama, 0.1 percent
Wild Card Pick: Chris Zaldain, 0.5 percent
With an Elite Series win and a runner-up and fourth-place Classic finishes, Palaniuk is the real deal. Still, he’s in Bucket D for a reason: a ‘hero-or-zero’ pattern of inconsistency. He often follows a great finish with a flop.
Robinson is a gut pick. Ever since his strong showing in last year’s Classic, he seems poised to step up to the next level. His best finish in three of the five comps is 15th (California Delta).
No Brainer Pick: Jason Christie, 49.6 percent ownership
Value Pick: Kurt Dove, 2.2 percent ownership
Local Pick: Not applicable
River Rat Pick: Kevin Hawk, 2.6 percent
Counterintuitive Pick: Hank Cherry, 34.2 percent
Wild Card Pick: Chad Pipkens, 0.7 percent
Christie’s history on rivers includes fifth-, 11th- and 15th-place finishes on the Arkansas, Red and James rivers (on another pro tour). On the other hand, he’s also finished 118th, 125th and 186th on the Potomac (twice) and Detroit rivers.
Hawk’s river bona fides include a 13th-place on the California Delta and two 10ths and a 12th, 19th, 25th and 28th on rivers and deltas (all in mid-level tournament circuits.). But his resume also includes a 70th, 80th, 84th, 111th and 173rd on rivers.
Underdog method for Fantasy Fishing
In less than a week, one angler will walk away with the honor of being the 2013 Bassmaster Classic champion and $500,000 richer. Also the highest-finishing Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing player will win a $2,500 gift card. My goal for Fantasy Fishing this season is to finish in the Top 500 of all players. I have been close every year but have not quite jumped that hurdle yet.
The Bassmaster Classic does not count toward the season points, so I am taking a little more risk with some of my picks to try and get a few more points per bucket than the main angler choices. The last time the Elite Series anglers fished Grand Lake was 2007, so there is a little information to use from then.
Bucket A: Jason Christie
This bucket is by far the hardest bucket to chose from for the Classic. When I first thought of the anglers I would want on my Fantasy Fishing team, Mike McClelland, Kevin VanDam and Jason Christie came to mind. It figures they would all be in the same group. McClelland won the Elite Series event in 2006 by more than 15 pounds on Grand Lake. VanDam won the 2007 event on Grand Lake and always has to be considered as a favorite. Christie may be a fairly new name for some B.A.S.S. fans, but he has won a lot of money in tournaments on Grand Lake. Most believe the event will be won fishing a jerkbait, and all three of these guys can excel with this lure.
I chose Christie because he is a local. Statistically, this tends to spell bad news in Classic competition with only one angler winning the Classic in his home state (Boyd Duckett in 2007). Duckett said the changing weather played a key in his victory. If the weather changes during the tournament, Christie will know where he needs to go to catch them. Also, Christie is only owned by 10% of Fantasy players currently. This leaves a lot of upside in points over other Fantasy players if he has a strong tournament.
Bucket B: David Walker
I would love to pick Ott Defoe, but he is the most owned angler for Bucket B. Defoe will quickly figure out what he needs to do to finish high in this event.
David Walker finished tied for 14th in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings last year. Walker can adapt and find a way to bring a limit to the stage. Walker is also only owned by 5% of Fantasy players in this bucket. Defoe at 32% ownership, Michael Iaconelli at 23% and Alton Jones at 15% make up 70% of the choices by Fantasy players in this bucket. If Walker finishes higher than these three, I am ahead of majority of Fantasy players for the bucket.
Bucket C: Matt Herren
This bucket has several strong choices with Randy Howell, Gerald Swindle and Brandon Palaniuk. What is really surprising to me is that only 2% of Fantasy players are picking Matt Herren. Herren finished sixth in the 2012 AOY standings and is great at fishing lakes all over the country. I expect him to be the biggest surprise of this bucket. For this reason, he is my choice for this bucket. If he does finish highest in the bucket, that puts me ahead of almost all Fantasy players.
Bucket D: Russ Lane
I am breaking from my method of picking the least picked anglers in this bucket. I am going with Russ Lane in Bucket D because he knows what it takes to finish well in a Classic. Russ finished fourth in the 2010 Classic on Lay Lake. Russ also finished in the money in both Elite Series events on Grand Lake. Other names I like in this bucket include Jared Lintner and Jonathon VanDam.
Bucket E: Jonathan Carter
It seems every year someone in the last bucket always has a shot at winning the Classic. Brandon Palaniuk in 2011, Dustin Wilks in 2012, and hopefully Jonathan Carter in 2013. Really this bucket is up for grabs. I do not see any angler really sticking out now above the others. I figure I will take my chances with the first Classic angler in history to represent the state of Maine.
Who are your picks? Let us know by commenting below. Be sure to register and get your team in order by Thursday!
Cold-weather success a good predictor
By Greg Huff
If long-range forecasts and historical weather data are accurate, this year’s Classic will be contested in cold weather on cold water. That would suggest that Grand Lake bass are more likely to be closer to their winter haunts than prespawn locations.
Because winter-pattern bass and prespawn bass require different techniques to find and catch, Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players would be wise to learn which anglers in the Classic field have finished high previously on fisheries similar to Grand in similar weather and water conditions.
Judging from most reports, the favorites in this year’s Classic are Edwin Evers, Tommy Biffle, Jason Christie and Mike McClelland. The first three are Oklahomans. McClelland lives about an hour away, in Bella Vista, Ark. Each has enjoyed success on Grand, but the Classic, more than any other tournament, is cruel to locals. As Bassmaster’s Ken Duke reported here last month, only one angler living in the same state as the Classic waters has ever won – Boyd Duckett in 2007. Call it the Classic Curse.
But the Classic Curse concerns winning, not placing high. And Fantasy Fishing players don’t have to pick the winner to succeed (although it does help). Rather, our challenge is to pick the five highest-scoring anglers from as many handicapped buckets. So don’t concern yourself with the Classic Curse when making your roster picks.
Focus instead on the field’s history on fisheries similar to Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in similar weather and water conditions.
Grand Lake is a rocky upland reservoir with little to no grass. So before making my picks, I reviewed angler histories in tournaments contested in cold, late February/early March weather on fisheries with little grass. Most anglers in the top three buckets competed in most or all of the following four tournaments, which were held in on fisheries that contain little grass in weather similar to conditions forecast for the Tulsa area at the end of this February. For reference, the average low temp in Tulsa in late February is 32 degrees; the average high is 53; the average mean temp is 42.5 degrees.
One last thing – if it rains during the Classic practice period, you’ll likely want to reconsider all your picks!
- Feb. 22-24, 2008, Lake Hartwell Classic: Average low, 35 degrees; average high, 63; mean, 44.
- March 8-11, 2007, Lake Amistad Elite Series: Average low, 30 degrees; average high, 70; mean, 50.
- March 6-9, 2003, Lake Eufaula: Average low, 48 degrees; average high, 60; mean, 52.
- March 4-7 2004, Table Rock Lake Bassmaster Tour: Average low, 51 degrees; average high, 60; mean, 70.
Based on that data, I determined the following picks:
Conservative Pick – Kevin VanDam
Popular Pick – Edwin Evers
Wild Card Pick – Jason Christie
Sentimental Pick – Mike McClelland
My Pick – Tommy Biffle
Christie (10.2 percent fantasy ownership) has certainly enjoyed success on Grand, much of in mid-March and in minor-level tournaments on another pro circuit. Still, he’s likely to know where the bass live and bite in February, when average temps are similar. Christie’s biggest challenge won’t be finding spots; it will be fishing clean under the added pressure of being followed by a flotilla of spectators and the hype generated because he’s a local and is crossing over from another pro circuit.
Evers, another Oklahoman, is the most popular pick at the time of this writing, at 30.7 percent ownership (only .02 percent more popular than KVD). Not only did he finish third and fourth on Grand in the past (in June 2006 and 2007), his average finish on rocky/non-grass lakes in February/early March tournaments – what we’ll call “similar conditions” for the rest of this column – is the best in Bucket A, at 10th place. Evers’ best finish in similar conditions is a win in the 2003 Eufaula tournament. He’s known to be great with a spinnerbait, the bait that BassGold data indicates is likely to win the 2013 Classic.
Not much more can be said about Kevin VanDam’s ridiculous success in recent Classics. Those events he dominated, however, were held on fisheries with grass, of which Grand has little to none. VanDam’s average finish in similar conditions is only fourth-best in Bucket A, at 36th. Still, that average includes a third in the 2008 Lake Hartwell Classic and a fifth in the 2007 Lake Amistad event. He won on Grand in June 2007 and placed 22nd there in June 2006, so he knows the lay of the lake. And although he didn’t win a tournament last season, his seventh-place showing in the 2012 Angler of the Year race proves he remains a force to be reckoned with. If the Classic Curse again rears its head, he’s the angler most likely to benefit.
I’m ignoring the curse, however, and picking Biffle. Another Oklahoman, he fares almost as well as Evers in similar conditions (13th-place average). Plus, he lives on Fort Gibson Lake, a similar fishery on which he won an Elite Series tournament in 2010. He’ll know what mood the bass will be in, making for a more efficient practice period, allowing more time to find the spot-on-the-spot, rather than spots. And, at 3.9 percent fantasy ownership, he offers more bang for the buck than Evers, Christie or VanDam.
Although Biffle finished 30th and 34th on Grand in the June 2006 and 2007 events, fishing it in winter plays better to his strengths (if only because he’s Mountain Man tough and won’t be as bothered by near-freezing temps as some others in the field.)
Although McClleland (5.1 percent ownership) is familiar with Grand, having won there in June 2006 and placing 11th there in June 2007, the renowned jerkbait technician doesn’t have a stellar record in cold-water tournaments on non-grass fisheries. He placed 42nd in the 2008 Classic, 74th in the chilly Amistad tournament and a respectable 18th in the 2004 Table Rock event, for an average finish of 54th.
Brent Chapman’s average finish of 32nd place in similar conditions is third-best in Bucket A, and Chris Lane has not excelled in similar conditions, averaging a 51st-place finish.
Conservative Pick – Alton Jones
Popular Pick – Mike Iaconelli
Wild Card Pick – Cliff Pace
Sentimental Pick – Greg Hackney
My Pick – Ott DeFoe
Alton Jones and Mike Iaconelli have fared best in similar conditions, with average finishes of 17th place. A popular angler picked often whether his strengths match a fishery or not, Iaconelli’s 22.8 percent ownership is more than justified, as he will be in his element on Grand.
Although Jones is more known for his sight fishing prowess, his win in the cold 2008 Classic is only one of four Top 20 or Top 30 finishes in similar conditions. Jones is perhaps the best value pick in the bucket, at 15.2 percent.
At 33.1 percent ownership, DeFoe is the most-picked angler in Bucket B, thanks mostly to his ability to make Top 12s seemingly wherever he goes, no matter where in the country or what the conditions. It’s not inconceivable that the 2011 Rookie of the Year and 2012 Angler of the Year runner-up begins his third season on the Elite Series with a Classic victory.
Although DeFoe did not fish in the same B.A.S.S. tournaments that I’ve talked about, he has finished high in four February tournaments, averaging 12th place.
Pace (2.2 percent ownership) might seem a dark-horse pick for this event, especially considering his 93rd-place bomb on Grand in June 2007. But I’ve got a gut feeling that the stars are aligning for the quiet Mississippian in this year’s Classic, which seems to be setting up to similarly to the cold 2008 Classic in which he finished runner-up to Jones.
After recovering from a rough start in Florida last season, Pace became one of the best Fantasy Fishing values, as he went on to finish way higher than most other anglers in his Fantasy bucket. Not only did he notch runner-up finishes in two events last season, he finished sixth and 15th place in two others, en route to an 18th-place showing in the Angler of the Year race. In the February 2011 and 2012 Classics, he finished 12th and 14th, respectively.
Conservative Pick – Mark Davis
Popular Pick – Brandon Palaniuk
Wild Card Pick – Bobby Lane
Sentimental Pick – Randy Howell
My Pick – Bobby Lane
After finishing 20th in AOY points last season, 1995 Classic champ and 15-time Classic qualifier Davis (11.1 percent ownership) appears to be returning to form. Consider his win in the 2004 Table Rock event and a 24th-place showing on Eufaula in 2003, and he seems like a pretty safe bet to finish high in Bucket C.
Although Howell (8.6 percent) is coming off a great 2012 season in which he finished fifth in the AOY race, he’s not fared well in Classics, having made only one final cut in 10 trips, placing 11th. He has not fared well on Grand in two previous tries (48th and 63rd) or in any of the similar-condition tournaments reviewed above, in which his average finish was 47th. Excepting an 18th on Eufaula in 2003, he’s never finished higher than 48th in any of the similar-condition tournaments.
Palaniuk’s fourth-place finish in the 2011 Classic coming out of the B.A.S.S. Nation and his win last year on Table Rock indicate the greatness of which he’s capable, but his two-year record indicates a hero-or-zero pattern of inconsistency. Accustomed to fishing in cold water in his native Idaho, Palaniuk is capable of winning this Classic, but he is by no means a lock to even make the final cut, based on his history.
I’m picking as my dark horse Bobby Lane, whom I’ve got a gut feeling about. Review his record in similar conditions and you might be surprised that a Florida guy finishes as well as he has in cold tournaments – fourth in the 2008 Classic; ninth in the 2011 Classic; 15th in the 2010 Classic; and 16th in the 2009 Classic.
Conservative Pick – None!
Popular Pick – Russ Lane
Wild Card Pick – Pete Gluszek
Sentimental Pick – Marty Robinson
My Pick – Jared Lintner
The most popular pick in Bucket D, Russ Lane (30 percent ownership) finished 41st and 49th on Grand Lake in June 2006 and 2007, respectively. He doesn’t, however, have much experience fishing in cold weather in fisheries without grass. Tournament records indicate that most of his professional fishing experience in February has been in Classics on rivers and impoundments with grass, or tournaments on grass-laden Florida lakes.
Robinson might not be a good bet on Grand Lake in cold weather. While he did place seventh on Grand in 2007, that was in June. A cold Grand is a different animal; an animal that Robinson does not have much history taming. Outside of a February 2006 event on West Point Lake in which he placed 135th, he has little experience fishing in winter on fisheries without grass.
Lintner has experience on Grand, having placed 23rd and 82nd there in 2007 and 2006, respectively. More importantly, his resume includes two Top 20s in February/early March tournaments that will likely fish similar to Grand this year – 20th in the 2008 Classic and 13th in the 2007 Amistad event.
Want a Wild Card in Bucket D? Go with Gluszek, a former Bassmaster Tour pro (and running buddy/business partner of Iaconelli) who got back into the top competition ranks with an Open win last year.
Because he’s from New Jersey, fishing in the cold won’t likely affect him as much as it might some other anglers. In fact, he won a February 1999 Alabama Eastern Invitational on Alabama’s Lake Martin, which fishes similar to Grand, especially in the winter. Iaconelli finished fifth in that event. On the other hand, Gluszek finished 126th in the early March 2003 Eufaula tournament.
Conservative Pick – Gerry Jooste
Popular Pick – Matt Lee
Wild Card Pick – Matt Lee
Sentimental Pick – Gerry Jooste
My Pick – Gerry Jooste
Zimbabwe native Jooste (7.1 percent ownership) is both the conservative and sentimental pick in Bucket E, for the same reason – the 2013 Classic will be the fifth he’s qualified for out of the B.A.S.S. Nation. If he makes the cut, that makes for a great storyline.
Lee, an Auburn University bass fishing team angler, is the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series representative in this year’s Classic. And judging from his huge ownership percentage (44.9 percent), Fantasy Fishing is popular among college-age anglers, who are picking him as their representative in the Classic. But it would surprise most anglers over 18 if Lee makes the final cut.
Fantasy Fishing begins now!
By Tyler Reed
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The 2013 Bassmaster Classic is upon us. And just because you can’t stand on the big stage yourself doesn’t mean you can’t compete for prizes right alongside the pros!
Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing is now open, and you can set your team for the Classic.
To enter, fill out the free registration form at the top of this page. After registering, click on the “Create Entry” button on the game’s front page to participate in the game. After registering, you are ready for Fantasy Fishing Challenge. A valid username and password will be used as an identifier to log in to game play and to keep track of your team’s score and standing. You will be able to see your team’s score any time you return to the game with your user name and password.
Assembling your Team
To assemble your team, first select an angler slot from the roster area at the left side of the screen. Then, in the table to the right, select an individual angler from the free agent list by clicking the green ADD button icon next to his name. Repeat the process until you have selected five anglers (one from each group) and then complete the transaction by pressing the “Save Roster” button in the top left corner above your roster.
Note: In order to receive points, your roster must contain five anglers.
Creating or Joining a Group (Optional)
You have the option to group yourself with friends, co-workers or random fans by joining or creating a group. Within each group, your entry will be automatically ranked. Most of the groups in the game are public and can be joined at any time. If you want to play with a specific group of people you know, create a private group and make it only accessible to those whom you have given the group password. The creator of a group sets the group’s name, motto, image, message and password (only if private). Your entry can be in up to three different groups at one time. More information is in the Group Directory page. There is no prize awarded for being the top entrant in your group.
Name Your Entry (Optional)
After you have signed in, you will be prompted with a red “Create Entry” button. After you click on the button you will be automatically redirected to the “Entry Settings” page where you will be asked to name your entry and decide whether you would like to receive email reminders.
- Name your entry: Use the text box to determine how your entry will be displayed in the game.
- Email Reminders: Use the radio buttons to select whether or not you’d like to receive email reminders pertaining to game locks and game rules.
Once you have completed your game settings, click on the “Save Settings” button.
The number of points a Fantasy Fishing player earns is based on a scoring system similar to the Bassmaster Elite Series’ Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points, in which an angler is awarded points based on his final standing in the Classic.
If you pick the top anglers in the Classic, you could win! The Top 10 Fantasy Fishing players from the Classic win a B.A.S.S.-branded jersey from Gemini Sports Marketing valued at $50. The person who performs best overall also wins a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card!
Get ready, get set, go set your teams!
Are you ready for 2013?
By Tyler Reed
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series season is about to begin, which means you get to pit your angler-picking prowess against other bass fishing fans, in hopes of winning big!
Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing has a special Bassmaster Classic game, too, which means you can play for bragging rights and prizes during the world’s biggest bass fishing event. You’ll be able to register to play soon for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.
Stay tuned! We’ll release details about this year’s game and prizing in the next few days.