Choose anglers who can change with conditions

Keep in mind for your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team that 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. You can listen to my podcast here:

Bucket A

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.

See picks for Buckets B, C, D and E on the next page.

Bucket B

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.

Bucket C

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.

Bucket D

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.

Bucket E

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.

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