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Pundit picks: Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River

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Depend on river specialists

By Pete Robbins

ORANGE, Texas — The Sabine River should be a Fantasy Fishing competitor’s worst nightmare — long runs, wads of little fish, and long distances between them with nothing but prop-chewing obstacles to get in the way. You might choose the best team on paper, but a lost lower unit can easily undo the efforts of your best angler. Another one might get bumped out of the Top 12 or Top 50 by someone else’s last-minute 4-pounder.

It’s not likely to be a Kentucky Lake or Guntersville slugfest where someone can milk a school for four days. Instead, it’ll take multiple spots, a variety of baits and — dare I say it — a little luck, to get the job done.

Read the full article here or below.

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Faircloth and Lowen are the obvious choices

By Jesse Heinecke

ORANGE, Texas — The new season of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing presented by Toyota is here!

My strategy is to get as many points as possible — great strategy, right? Because I am tied for first place (and last place) with everyone as the season begins, I am looking for the obvious picks to start. I plan to get a little craftier as the season progresses and try to make up ground if needed.

Read the rest of the article here or below.

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Dark horses rule, and choose wisely in Bucket D

By Ronnie Moore

ORANGE, Texas — Have fun with your picks in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing presented by Toyota this season on the Elite Series, because this is the most stacked field that anyone has seen. There are so many options to choose from, and with only five spots available, each pick is crucial to success. The multitude of choices should keep the scores between players tight and the standings just as interesting.

Don’t make your picks for the Sabine River any harder than they need to be. Second-guessing can be fatal.

Read the rest of the article here or below.

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Toyota wrap-up: 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro

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Rojas was best overall pick

By Tyler Wade

GREENVILLE, S.C. — With the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro behind us, now we can look back with 20/20 hindsight at Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing teams we created.

Here is the perfect team:

Bucket A: Dean Rojas, 330 points

B: Casey Ashley, 305

C: Michael Iaconelli, 276

D: Bobby Lane/Takahiro Omori, 295

E: Jacob Wheeler, 248

Read the rest of the article here or below.

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Full articles

Pundit picks: Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River

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Depend on river specialists

By Pete Robbins

ORANGE, Texas — The Sabine River should be a Fantasy Fishing competitor’s worst nightmare — long runs, wads of little fish, and long distances between them with nothing but prop-chewing obstacles to get in the way. You might choose the best team on paper, but a lost lower unit can easily undo the efforts of your best angler. Another one might get bumped out of the Top 12 or Top 50 by someone else’s last-minute 4-pounder.

It’s not likely to be a Kentucky Lake or Guntersville slugfest where someone can milk a school for four days. Instead, it’ll take multiple spots, a variety of baits and — dare I say it — a little luck, to get the job done.

With that said, look at the Top 6 from the 2013 Sabine River Challenge and it’s clear that cream most often rises to the top. In first, with 49-6, was semi-local Todd Faircloth, a threat to win anywhere. In second was Dean Rojas, one of the greatest shallow-water anglers of the past 15 years, with two wins in nearby Louisiana on his résumé. In third and sixth were Terry Scroggins and Bobby Lane, two superlative Florida flippers. Ish Monroe, who honed his skills on the equally vast California Delta, was fourth, and Bill Lowen, the hull-scrapingest Ohio River rat who ever lived, was fifth. Surprises? Hardly.

Even though their presence at and near the top shouldn’t shock anyone, even the top dogs struggled. Only two pros had a limit all four days. Faircloth, the winner, did not. Three members of the Top 12 had a day where they only weighed in one fish. Each additional bite is going to be precious. With that in mind, pick anglers who tend to catch fish everywhere in addition to being river specialists. You want to pick pros who won’t falter when another 2-pounder will make a huge difference.

Bucket A

Probably Should Have Picked: Todd Faircloth

He’s a local, he’s a winner, he’s won here before. Unless he can’t get rid of the multiple illnesses that plagued him during the Classic, he should be near the top.

Almost Picked: Dean Rojas

Rojas was the runner-up to Faircloth in 2013, he’s coming off a great Classic, and he’s won twice in nearby Louisiana. He might not even have to share space with Alton Jones this time, a disagreement that produced one of the most riveting televised exchanges in B.A.S.S. history.

My Pick: Randall Tharp

Not sure if he’s ever been there, but the dude is an absolute hammer, especially in shallow grassy water. With a year of Elite Series competition under his belt, this could be the first volley in an Angler of the Year campaign.

Bucket B

Probably Should Have Picked: Kevin Short

The Arkansas River rat showed his moving water chops last year in Philly and he’s good at getting revenge — which he’ll need after a 77th-place finish on the Sabine in 2013.

Almost Picked: Mike Iaconelli

I don’t think he’ll put his boat on the bank this time, and I don’t think he’ll go the other way and become tentative, either. Nevertheless, the past two years he’s gotten off to slow starts in Elite competition, finishing 75th in 2014 and 83rd the year before at the Sabine. Maybe he likes the challenge of waiting until the last minute to qualify for the Classic.

My Pick: Bill Lowen

Finished fifth here last time, always seems to do well on ankle-deep water. Watch him ride a square bill or a Chatterbait to the Top 12.

Bucket C

Probably Should Have Picked: Ish Monroe

Finished fourth last time, and he’s probably anxious to start Elite Series competition because that’ll be his sole possible route to the Classic this year.

Almost Picked: Steve Kennedy

I shouldn’t admit this, but I root for him all the time. So entertaining to watch, so gifted, but up and down performance makes him a tough pick this early in the season.

My Pick: Stephen Browning

When in Rome … he’s an Arkansas River expert and didn’t have a great tournament here last time (49th) but he’s been on his game with two Red River Open wins since then.

Bucket D

Probably Should Have Picked: Tommy Biffle

The O.G. flipper just wins and while he finished a dismal 84th here last time, it looks like a jig fisherman’s paradise, which should suit him just fine.

Almost Picked: Billy McCaghren

Another Arkansas River machine, he finished 25th here last time but has only done that well in Elite Series competition once since then, 10th at the subsequent tournament on Falcon.

My Pick: Dennis Tietje

Except for mechanical problems on Day 1 last time, he might’ve been in the Top 5. He still made the Top 12. The closest thing to a local in the field, and after almost not requalifying for the Elite Series, he needs to get the job done where he has something of an advantage.

Bucket E

Probably Should Have Picked: Jordan Lee

Dating back to Derek Remitz’s win at Amistad, some rookie always seems to start off the season with a bang. Why not pick a Lee? And Jordan’s name comes first in the alphabet. Seriously, though, in 11 Bassmaster events he’s been in the Top 12 on five occasions, including a fourth in last year’s Central Open on the Arkansas River.

Almost Picked: Paul Mueller

Another Elite Series rookie who won’t be fazed by anything you throw at him. He doesn’t know that a Connecticut Yankee isn’t supposed to do well in Orange, Texas, but while he’s been exceptional in Classics and in B.A.S.S. Nation events, his limited record in the Opens is lackluster, so he’s still an enigma.

My Pick: Brent Ehrler

Getting Ehrler in the “E” bucket is like finding a $400 swimbait in the dollar lure bargain bin under a wad of “tourist style” pre-rigged worms. Even if you only fish the Sabine, where the lure will sink into foot-deep silt and mud, you can’t pass it up.

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Faircloth and Lowen are the obvious choices

By Jesse Heinecke

ORANGE, Texas — The new season of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing presented by Toyota is here!

My strategy is to get as many points as possible — great strategy, right? Because I am tied for first place (and last place) with everyone as the season begins, I am looking for the obvious picks to start. I plan to get a little craftier as the season progresses and try to make up ground if needed.

I did well in the Classic for Fantasy Fishing, ending up a respectable 533rd place, or 97.7 percentile. (Congratulations to Casey Ashley on the “real” win!) As you may remember, my daughter, Maggie, gave her picks for the Classic, too, but if you followed her lead, you ended in the 20th percentile. Hey, what did you expect? She’s 8. My son, Sam, wants in on the action, so he is also contributing his picks for the first Elite Series event of the season.

So, here are our Fantasy Fishing choices for the Sabine River. I may change mine if, say, my hand-picked guy gets double pinkeye and a head cold. I will try to not hash over the what-ifs in my brain.

Bucket A: Faircloth

Todd Faircloth finished seventh, 10th, second, first, ninth, 11th, second and ninth in eight of the last nine early-season events, which includes his win when we went to the Sabine in 2013. His victory margin on the Sabine was about 7 pounds; roughly 40 Elite Series anglers failed to even weigh 7 pounds total in the two days they fished.

If you are thinking momentum this early and maybe going for a Casey Ashley pick, just consider that only one Classic winner in the last five years has placed higher than 28th in the next event — and his initials are KVD.

Gut check: Dean Rojas. If Rojas did not “have to/get to” share his spot on the Sabine in 2013, he may have won last time. He did well in the Classic and he performs well in Texas.

Maggie says Randall Tharp will find some cobras, and Sam says Skeet Reese will be a player.

Bucket B: Lowen

My head is spinning. There are too many anglers to pick from.

Can you name the only two anglers to catch a limit all four days last time on the Sabine? Faircloth? Nope. Rojas? Nope. Scroggins? Nope.

Bill Lowen and Ish Monroe were the only two.

When pounds and ounces matter, you cannot come back without a limit. Lowen is a river master and will find subtle spots to grind out a limit each day again.

Gut check: Takahiro Omori. Omori weighed in limits of 11-13 and 11-14 on Days 2 and 3 here last time. He figured something out. He also comes in with some momentum off the Classic.

Maggie says to pick Morizo “Big Momma” Shimizu, and Sam is going Ike.

Bucket C: Card

OK, I lied. I am thinking strategy already. Kevin VanDam is garnering more than 50 percent of the picks in this bucket, and in most cases I would be right there with them. But consider this: Last time on the Sabine, he failed to register a limit each of the three days he fished. He finished a respectable 15th, and from Bucket C, that is great. VanDam is still a bass fishing god, but after last year, I don’t trust him yet and this would not be where I go all in with him again.

I am going with Brandon Card. He is a solid river angler, and he finished 10th the last time on the Sabine. If he wins the bucket, his owners will beat at least 95 percent of the others in C.

Gut check: Ish Monroe. Monroe fishes to win, and he could pose a threat. Plus, last time we were on the Sabine, he had 5x3x4 — five fish by 3 o’clock all four days.

Maggie and Sam both said I am losing it and picked VanDam. Some kids never listen.

Bucket D: Elam

This was by far the toughest bucket to pick. I could make some arguments for a few of these guys, but in the end I want a young angler, ready to turn the corner and be consistent. James Elam placed well during the events before and after the last Sabine River event, and he cashed checks in the last two events of 2014.

Gut check: Dennis Tietje. Tietje had a great event here last time, but it was his highest finishing Elite Series event ever, and the consistency factor is not there for me.

Maggie is having it her way and picking Kurt Dove, and Sam has Cliff Pace.

Bucket E: Ehrler

This is a no-brainer in my opinion. Brent Ehrler can catch them deep, shallow, and on rivers, lakes, ponds, puddles or anywhere else he wants.

I predict that half of Bucket E moves up at least one bucket and some two or more after buckets reset post-Sabine. I am excited to watch some of the anglers in this bucket this year. Ehrler will be the Rookie of the Year.

Gut check: Lee brothers. Take your pick. Matt Lee and Jordan Lee catch them everywhere they go, and two heads are better than one.

Maggie is taking Randy Allen, and Sam says GoPro and pick Ehrler.

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Dark horses rule, and choose wisely in Bucket D

By Ronnie Moore

ORANGE, Texas — Have fun with your picks in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing presented by Toyota this season on the Elite Series, because this is the most stacked field that anyone has seen. There are so many options to choose from, and with only five spots available, each pick is crucial to success. The multitude of choices should keep the scores between players tight and the standings just as interesting.

Don’t make your picks for the Sabine River any harder than they need to be. Second-guessing can be fatal.

Here are my bounce-back picks after my poor showing at the Bassmaster Classic. Listen if you choose, don’t if you dare.

Bucket A

Conservative: Todd Faircloth

Dark Horse: Greg Hackney

Fishing for smallmouth up north, flipping heavy grass in Florida or any fishery in between, you can’t go wrong with Todd Faircloth. Faircloth has proven his consistency over the years, and he even did well at the Bassmaster Classic, considering he had double pinkeye all week. Oh yeah, and he won the 2013 event on the Sabine River. You can’t go wrong with this Texas hammer.

It’s hard to imagine that the 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year can be considered a dark horse in any event, but the Sabine is one I think Greg Hackney could sneak through the cracks. Revenge factor is something that could play a role for Hackney as well. He was a completely different angler in 2013 when he finished 45th in Angler of the Year and missed the Classic on Lake Guntersville. The momentum from his dominant 2014 season should contribute to his mentality early this season.

I’m taking Hackney.

Bucket B

Conservative: Alton Jones

Dark Horse: Bobby Lane

Texas native Alton Jones did well in this event two years ago, and he was disappointed to be on the sidelines for the 2015 Classic. He has had more opportunities to scout the Sabine and probably eliminate a lot of water. Look for Jones to make a statement and start his season strong in his home state.

Momentum is a thing, and I believe in it greatly. Bobby Lane isn’t happy with finishing second place in the Classic, but it is certainly a good thing that Big Fish Bobby Lane started his 2015 season with back-to-back runner-up finishes (Southern Open on Lake Toho and the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell).

Give me Alton, for now.

Bucket C

Conservative: Ish Monroe

Dark Horse: Russ Lane

Ish Monroe finished the event on the Sabine with a Top 5, and the shallow nature of the Sabine played into Monroe’s comfort zone. Monroe did well to start the season with a 15th-place finish at Lake Toho, despite the circumstances. I think Monroe is mentally ready to bounce back and have a better season than 2014. Running and gunning can hurt anglers on the Sabine, but if he can settle into an area and break it down, then he can most likely be successful again.

Russ Lane is someone I expect to have a good season this year. Last year, he finished 60th in Angler of the Year and missed the Classic, but I expect the Alabama angler to start the season off strong on the shallow confines of the Sabine River.

Sign Russ Lane up on my team.

Bucket D

Conservative: Cliff Pace

Dark Horse: Mark Menendez

You can’t get much more conservative than Cliff Pace, who seems to catch them decent everywhere the Elites travel. Bucket D might be the hardest bucket to choose from because finding a diamond in the rough can be a tough task. The Fantasy Fishing winner for this event won’t win because of his or her A, B, C or E buckets, but rather the choice of anglers in Bucket D.

It’s been quite a long time since Mark Menendez graced the Elite Series with his presence, but he certainly thinks his timing to return couldn’t be any better. I spoke with him at the College Championship at Lake Chatuge last summer and everyone asked him questions pertaining to fishing. My question was simply, “What have you learned since taking a break from the Elites?” He responded with, “I learned that fishing doesn’t matter in the big scheme of life.” That response tells me that he won’t obsess over missed fish and fishing stress-free will be key for his first season back.

I’ll take Menendez.

Bucket E

Conservative: Brent Ehrler

Dark Horse: Koby Kreiger

I don’t think you can go wrong with Brent Ehrler on any body of water, but if there is one venue that is unique on this schedule, it is the Sabine River. I can’t imagine a bad finish for him here, but it’ll be interesting to see how he kicks off his Elite Series season.

With this group of Elite Series rookies, Koby Kreiger stands out to me. Just like Ehrler, he is seasoned and has seen it all. When it comes to diverse fisheries, he manages to figure something out. Hailing from Florida, Kreiger knows how to pick apart shallow targets.

I’m putting my faith in Kreiger.

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Toyota wrap-up: 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro

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Rojas was best overall pick

By Tyler Wade

GREENVILLE, S.C. — With the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro behind us, now we can look back with 20/20 hindsight at Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing teams we created.

Here is the perfect team:

Bucket A: Dean Rojas, 330 points

B: Casey Ashley, 305

C: Michael Iaconelli, 276

D: Bobby Lane/Takahiro Omori, 295

E: Jacob Wheeler, 248

The highest score any Fantasy Fishing player could have achieved was 1,454. Two players earned that score, so the new tiebreaker feature in Fantasy Fishing came in handy! (Be sure to make your best guess each tournament!)

A: Rojas

Bucket A is notoriously the toughest bucket to choose from. It’s filled with high-talent anglers with a low failure rate. Most of the pundit picks articles before a tournament focus most heavily on this all-star bucket.

In this case, the best competitor by far in A was Dean Rojas with 330 points, thanks to his fourth-place finish added to a 5-point bonus for leading on Day 1 and a 40-point bonus for catching the biggest bag of the tournament.

Jacob Powroznik finished the tournament only one place behind Rojas, but his lack of bonuses put his Fantasy Fishing owners a solid 50 points behind Rojas owners, with 280 points.

Rojas was the second-least popular pick in A, with only 1.3 percent of players having faith in the longtime big-bag record holder. Aaron Martens swept the bucket by being the highest-owned at 28.6 percent. He didn’t even make the Day 3 cut, but his 40-point big-bass bonus made up for it. He ended with 255 points.

Cliff Pace and Greg Hackney were the second-most popular picks behind Martens, but they were the worst performers. If you’re among the 31 percent of players who chose either Pace or Hackney, you were beaten by more than 100 points by the Rojas owners.

B: Ashley

This one was easy. Casey Ashley was the heavy favorite going into the tournament, and 48.4 percent of players chose him. He earned 305 points for his owners. And if you were one of the 51.6 percent of people who didn’t jump on the bandwagon, you lost this bucket by a minimum of 41 points to all the Ashley pickers.

Justin Lucas was the second-best scorer in this bucket with 264 points, but only 1.6 percent chose him.

Brandon Palaniuk was the second-most-popular pick at 16.3 percent, but he was the worst performer. His owners earned only 169 points, a painful 136-point difference between them and the hordes of Ashley fans.

C: Iaconelli

Mike Iaconelli was the most popular pick in Bucket C with 32.8 percent of the vote, and he delivered with 276 points. But if you are among the 25 percent of players who chose Mike McClelland or Brett Hite, you didn’t do too bad. Hite was only 4 points behind Iaconelli, and McClelland was only 8 points behind.

Edwin Evers was the second-most popular pick with 29.6 percent, and he earned a middle-of-the-road 211 points.

The worst performers were also among the least chosen: Morizo Shimizu, Paul Elias and Cliff Crochet.

D: Lane/Omori

It was a tie in Bucket D. Bobby Lane finished in second place in the Classic and Takahiro Omori finished third, but Omori led on Day 2, earning the 5-point daily leader bonus that made him even in Fantasy Fishing points with Lane.

Omori and Lane delivered 295 points to the 14.4 percent of players who picked them.

The favorite in the bucket was Ott DeFoe, who was owned by 41.1 percent of players and earned 257 points for them.

Andy Montgomery was owned by a hefty 23.6 percent of players, but he only put up 189 points.

E: Wheeler

Jacob Wheeler made a sign on his dash that said “E??!!” because he felt he didn’t belong in this bucket, and he used it as inspiration to perform well during the Classic.

He made good on that, earning 248 points and winning Bucket E for his 56.7 percent of owners.

But the 3.8 percent of players who chose Coby Carden did almost as well with 245 points.

The real pain in this bucket goes to the players who chose Troy Diede and Van Soles. Because they weighed in zero fish, they earned zero points. Which means that their collective 1.7 percent of owners were 248 points behind the Wheeler owners.

This season

In the Fantasy Fishing game for the Classic, you have to score a perfect bucket for it to count toward anything because the only prize is for the overall winner. Your points for this tournament do not carry forward into the upcoming Bassmaster Elite Series season, so whether you did well or poorly, your slate will be wiped clean for 2015.

Good luck this season!

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Want to discuss your picks? Join the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing group on Facebook!

6 Responses to Front Page

  1. Also would like to thank April Phillips , I received Fantasy Fishing hat and tee shirt. Just in time for Toledo Bend …Buck This is a fun game to play and does not coast , just little time , Thanks to all B.A.S.S. Bass master Owners and Staff Great Job . Buck

  2. when do 2013 season start?

  3. Myer Yanofsky says:

    I live in Canada, Utopia, New Brunswick and I find this is the greatest way to pass the winter fishing….. and can make some money if you pick the right pros…… keep up the good work……

  4. would but can’t find out when it starts.

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