PHILADELPHIA — Results build confidence, and confidence builds results.
So says Bassmaster Classic champion Randy Howell.
“Momentum is a big factor in how well we do in tournaments,” said Howell, “and I think more people should think about that in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing. Everybody feeds off confidence. If you put two or three bad tournaments behind somebody, they’re probably not going to go and win the next one.”
Howell helps his wife, Robin, set her Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team each event. “She’s ranked 5,099. That’s my fault.” He pauses, then laughs and says, “No, it’s the guys’ faults for not doing so well after I pick them!”
The Howells may be ranked lower than they’d like, but they’re in the 80th percentile, and they have the added advantage of being Bassmaster Elite Series insiders. Here are Randy Howell’s top picks for a Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team leading into the Delaware River, Aug. 7-10.
Bucket A: Howell
“All of us need to pick ourselves,” said Howell. “If we don’t, it means we don’t have confidence in ourselves. So my first pick is me.
“Bucket A is the hardest group because all of these guys are doing well and have momentum. That momentum is a big player in my picks, and it should be on any Fantasy Fishing player’s mind.
“My next pick for this bucket would be Greg Hackney. I’d almost rather pick him than me,” Howell said with a laugh. “He’s had a phenomenal year, with a win on FLW and other Top 5s and Top 10s.
“Also, he’s a great river fisherman. He won the FLW Championship in Pittsburgh in 2009 [on Three Rivers]. So I think he would be a great pick.”
We asked Howell for a dark horse pick in every bucket.
“It’s hard to even find a dark horse in A. I would say Jason Christie, but he might even end up being a white horse!
“If I have to come up with a dark horse, I’d say Randall Tharp. He’s not really a dark horse, but he’s considered a rookie on the Bassmaster Elite Series, even though he’s not a rookie to fishing.
“He’s a good river fisherman, and he did well in FLW up there. So I would go with him.”
Bucket B: Lowen
Without a moment’s hesitation, Howell picked Bill Lowen for Bucket B.
“He is a very good, experienced river fisherman, especially in fluctuating tidal fisheries,” said Howell. “The Ohio River is really tough, but he’s done well on it all his life. It’s similar to the Delaware.
“I’ve got confidence in Bill.”
Howell also recommends Ott DeFoe as a Bucket B pick.
“Ott is a really good shallow fisherman and river fisherman,” said Howell, “and he’s got good momentum.”
For a dark horse, Howell suggests Kevin VanDam.
“That’s pretty bad to say Kevin VanDam is a dark horse, but let’s do it,” said Howell. “Get him as a bargain while he’s in the B group. Plus, of course, he won the Classic in Pittsburgh,” said Howell, referring to the 2005 Bassmaster Classic held on the Three Rivers.
See Howell's Bucket C, D and E picks on the next page.
Bucket C: Browning
“I’d go with Stephen Browning in Bucket C,” said Howell.
“He’s got a lot of good history on rivers, and he’s already going to the Classic because of his Red River win in the Opens. He’s proved himself, and because of that Classic qualification, there’s not a lot of pressure on him.
“Next, I’d go with my buddy Brent Chapman. He’s typically in a higher group than C. But he’s a good river fisherman, and we fish a lot alike, so I know. He’s on his way to scout and prepare for the Delaware River now. He’s got to do well to get into the Classic.
“For my dark horse, Andy Montgomery stands out to me,” said Howell. “He’s a good shallow river fisherman. He’s come out strong in the first part of every tournament so far, but then he doesn’t have a good second or third day. He hasn’t had the finishes he’s had the starts for. He’s due for a better finish this time. He’s hungry. And he’s got a little pressure on him with a baby coming along soon.”
Bucket D: Iaconelli
“It’s a shocker to me that Mike Iaconelli is in the D group,” said Howell.
“His momentum is really strong, and his state of mind is positive. And we’re going to his back door, right near to where he lives. He’s fished club and B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments there, and his good friend and Bassmaster University partner Pete Gluszek is a guide there.
“Iaconelli will be hard to beat in this tournament,” said Howell. “He’s got advantages in every direction.”
Tommy Biffle would be another good pick in D, according to the Classic champ.
“He’s a seasoned angler. He’s great at flipping in rivers and in tidal events. He should be a strong finisher.
“My dark horse would be Kevin Short. He’s good on the Arkansas River. And he can all of a sudden come in with a big stringer from time to time.”
Bucket E: Adams
“I’m going to start right at the top alphabetically here for this one,” said Howell. “Tracy Adams is not as well-known as some of the others. Like Tharp, he’s a Bassmaster Elite Series rookie, but he’s not a real rookie. He’s made it to the Classic through the Opens.
“He’s a North Carolina boy, good at shallow and river fishing. He’s doing pretty good recently. He’s got that momentum.”
Howell also recommends Billy McCaghren.
“He might not stand out to some people, but he’s a good Arkansas River guy. He’s good at those square-bill-type fisheries. He’s a good one to look at.”
And for a dark horse?
“Greg Vinson. He’s an Alabama boy, but he’s good at that shallow fishing. He doesn’t have great momentum right now, which is not characteristic of him. It happens to every fisherman some time. He’s due to break out of his bad luck spell and do better this time.”
The fantasy effect
We’ve got one last question for Howell: “Does it affect you when you see that lots of players have chosen you for their Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team — or when almost none have?”
“I’m happy when people are picking me,” said Howell. “I feel a responsibility to do well, and I want the ones who have chosen me to do well in Fantasy.
“You can’t take it personally when no one chooses you, though. I only think about it when I’m looking at the screen. Once I get up from the computer, it’s out of my head. Back in the day when no one ever picked me, I didn’t let it bother me. They’ve got to play it smart, just like in any fantasy sport. They’ve got to base it on the numbers.”
Your turn! Who will you be picking for your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team for the Delaware River? Tell us in the comments below or discuss them in the new Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing group on Facebook. Be sure to set your team before launch on Aug. 7.