2013 Elite Series Plano Championship Chase Lake St. Clair/Detroit River - Detroit, MI, Aug 22 - 25, 2013

Balance finesse with power on St. Clair

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 my 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.