Pick heavy hitters on Sturgeon Bay
By Ronnie Moore
My Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks this season have been calculated, and I have never strayed from my picks or plan even after talking to anglers before each event. I like to be true to my stories and the anglers I pick beforehand.
Yet, I come into the last event of the season shaking my head. Like some Elite Series anglers this season, I never got a break. My great picks weren’t as plentiful, and my bad picks choked out my success. With the final event of the season drawing near, I look to finish the season strong at Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship. I’m pulling out all the stops and going with some heavy hitters in the season finale.
Bucket A: Powroznik
Conservative pick: Jacob Powroznik
Jacob Powroznik knows how smallmouth operate. He has proven that so far in his short Elite Series career. In this very tournament last year on Bays de Noc, Powroznik dominated and took home the win in the weather-shortened event. With only 10 percent ownership, Powroznik is a no-brainer for Bucket A.
Dark horse pick: Chris Zaldain
The California Kid has performed almost flawlessly this season, and that is why he is in Bucket A and 10th in the Angler of the Year standings. This season, Chris Zaldain has finished 22nd and 17th in the two smallmouth-dominated venues of the Elite Series. Whether he is drop shotting for smallmouth or throwing a swimbait or jerkbait, Zaldain is dangerous in this tournament.
But my gut is telling me Powroznik on this one.
Bucket B: Combs
Conservative pick: Jason Christie
Jason Christie is dangerous in almost every tournament he enters, and coming off a seventh-place finish at Lake St. Clair, the Oklahoma native could carry that momentum into Sturgeon Bay. I’ve never used one of the Garmin Panoptix units, but after seeing how important they were for Christie at St. Clair, they could pay dividends here as well.
Dark horse pick: Keith Combs
Anytime heavy weights are expected for a tournament, Keith Combs could be a factor. Even when smallmouth are involved, Combs will find a way to figure them out. The Texas pro has cashed a check in 77 percent of B.A.S.S. events he has competed in; that’s stout. I could see a swimbait playing a role, but even if it came down to spinning tackle, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Combs near the top.
I’ll take Combs for Bucket B.
Bucket C: VanDam
Conservative pick: Kevin VanDam
I tend to shy away from anglers who have a high ownership percentage, but I will negate those feelings for Bucket C because I think this could be one that caters to Kevin VanDam. His smallmouth knowledge is extensive and I think after a less-than-stellar St. Clair event, he looks to lock up his Classic spot with a great finish here.
Dark horse pick: Micah Frazier
Two Top 12s this season and five checks have Micah Frazier on the verge of his first Bassmaster Classic appearance. Frazier is 27th in the Angler of the Year standings and has a 28-point buffer over the final Classic spot as of now. Frazier now needs a decent finish to seal the deal.
But I’m taking VanDam for Sturgeon Bay.
Bucket D: Robinson
Conservative pick: Josh Bertrand
The Arizona pro is a fantastic smallmouth angler and I expect nothing different at Sturgeon Bay. Josh Bertrand is in the Classic for now, and the power to clinch his spot is in his own hands. Of the four Elite Series tournaments on smallmouth fisheries that Bertrand has competed in, he has three Top 30 finishes. The most recent Lake St. Clair event was the first smallmouth tournament where he didn’t cash a check. I expect a bounce-back event here.
Dark horse pick: Marty Robinson
Marty “the Party” Robinson saved his season on Day 2 of the Lake St. Clair event. After a rough Day 1, Robinson dropped out of the Classic cut line and even out of the Top 50 AOY cut. After 18 pounds, 13 ounces resurrected him in the AOY standings; he is now back in the Classic cut, even if it is only by three points. The South Carolina pro is looking to get back to Grand Lake for the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic where he had a 20th-place finish in 2013.
Marty Robinson is on the verge of the Classic and, with a jerkbait in his hand at Sturgeon Bay, he could quite possibly clinch his spot.
Bucket E: Kennedy
Conservative pick: Jonathon VanDam
There aren’t any home field advantages on Sturgeon Bay because no anglers competing are from there, but if you had to bet money on the closest anglers, then the VanDams would be at the top. A Top 12 at Lake St. Clair bolstered Jonathon VanDam into the Top 50, and now another smallmouth fishery awaits him at Sturgeon.
Dark horse pick: Steve Kennedy
Six straight paychecks have helped Kennedy rise in the standings every week. He started the year with two finishes sub-90, but he has since rebounded. Kennedy is one of the most underrated pros on the Elite Series, but that is the reason I like him in this situation. Kennedy is one of the best swimbait anglers I know. Most of all, I like how much fun he has while fishing. He is always carefree and full of joy, and that is what I like the most about this pick.
I’ll take Steve Kennedy on Sturgeon Bay and, as he would say, “War Eagle!”
Toyota wrap-up: Palaniuk was the best pick on St. Clair
By Tyler Wade
DETROIT, Mich. — Todd Faircloth may have won the tournament on Lake St. Clair, but runner-up Brandon Palaniuk did the most damage in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing.
Palaniuk was the best overall pick for Fantasy Fishing players, with a 69-plus-point lead over everyone in his bucket.
Here’s the perfect team:
Bucket A: Brandon Palaniuk, 345 points
B: Chris Lane, 330
C: Todd Faircloth, 345
D: Keith Poche, 257
E: Dave Smith, 248
No one achieved a score that high.
Bucket A: Palaniuk
Brandon Palaniuk’s second-place finish and bonus points put him at the top of the leaderboard in Bucket A.
He ended with 345 points — 295 for finishing as runner-up, 10 for leading for two days, and 40 for tying for biggest bass of the tournament with winner Todd Faircloth.
Believe it or not, only 5.1 percent of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players picked him. Those who did ended up with a 69-point gain over all the Aaron Martens pickers, and much more than that over everyone else.
Martens was the favorite of the bucket, and he delivered a stout 276 points to his 31.1 percent of owners. Too bad he doesn’t get a bonus for winning Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year, an honor he earned at St. Clair, even with one tournament left to go.
The other favorite of bucket at 22.9 percent was Kevin VanDam. But VanDam didn’t make the first cut and ended with only 149 points — 200 points behind Palaniuk.
The worst pick of the bucket was Clifford Pirch. He earned only 73 points for his 1 percent of owners.
Bucket B: Lane
If you chose Chris Lane, you did good work. He was the favorite of the bucket at 24.5 percent, and his big bag on Day 3 earned him a hefty bonus and pushed him up to 330 points.
The next-best pick was Greg Vinson at only 0.2 percent with 280 points.
The second-favorite of the bucket was Ott DeFoe, who did not make the cut and ended with 91 points for his 15.7 percent of players.
The worst pick of the bucket was Tim Horton, who delivered only 65 points to his 2.3 percent of owners.
Bucket C: Faircloth
Todd Faircloth has had a group of people who has stuck with him in Fantasy Fishing throughout the season, even though his points have hurt them time and time again.
But this week was a different story. Faircloth paid good dividends to his faithful with 345 points. He won, got 5 points for leading on the last day and also got the 40-point bonus for biggest bass (tied with Palaniuk).
For the 4.8 percent of people who picked him, Faircloth’s owners got a 60-point boost over his next-closest competitor, Chad Pipkens.
Pipkens ended in fourth place with 285 points for his 24.1 percent of players. Right behind him was Jonathon VanDam, 16.7 percent, 268 points.
Mike Iaconelli was the favorite of the bucket, but a tiebreaker in the 50 spot left him on the shore on Day 3. His 29.9 percent of players got only 173 points, a huge drop from the other favorties, Pipkens and VanDam.
The worst pick of the bucket was Ken Iyobe with 67 points for his 0.6 percent of owners.
Bucket D: Poche
Although almost no one owned him — at 0.7 percent — Keith Poche busted out 257 points for his players.
Right behind him was Fletcher Shryock at 4.9 percent and 254 points. And then right behind him was Casey Ashley, 12.3 percent, 251 points.
Takahiro Omori and Nate Wellman were the favorites of the bucket, at 16.8 and 16.7 percent respectively. Omori’s owners earned a 207-point finish, and Wellman’s got 243 points.
The worst pick of the bucket was Paul Mueller, who only got 61 points for his 13.8 percent of fans.
Bucket E: Smith
Dave Smith has a faithful few followers — usually 0.1 percent — who pick him every time. And almost every time, that gamble is a loss.
But this time, those Fantasy Fishing players reaped their reward.
Smith earned 248 points, the best performance in Bucket E.
Just behind him, with 229 points, was Charlie Hartley, who owned 5.8 percent of the vote.
The favorites didn’t do anything for their owners. Cliff Pace, who was owned by 26.9 percent of players, only turned in 105 points, and Kotaro Kiriyama, with 19.6 percent, delivered a meager 99.
The worst pick of the bucket was Cliff Crochet, with 63 points. He was owned by 3.2 percent. But, hey, the guy wanted to see his first baby born, so don’t be too hard on him.
Get ready to set your teams for the AOY Championship! Be sure to set a solid tiebreaker because, with only 10 anglers in each bucket, the likelihood for a tie is higher than usual.