Last event at Toledo Bend played out well for my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks, and for that, I was rewarded with almost 1,200 points to show for it. Chris Zaldain came through in the clutch, and all five of my anglers made the 50 cut and “cut” themselves a check in the process.
Lake Dardanelle is the next stop and it has me scratching my head (kind of).
Who I’m taking: Scott Rook
The tempting choice: Mark Davis
So many heavy hitters are in this all-important bucket and for good reason. I chose Rook here because of his consistency this season. As quiet as he may be, he is sitting in 10th in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. With his lone slip up being a 54th-place finish at Lake Seminole, I’ll take it. Not to mention, he is from Little Rock, so he is a local in my mind and a good enough postspawn fisherman to bank on his consistent skill set.
Hard not to pick the AOY leader Mark Davis when he has reeled off such a fantastic season thus far, but he stumbled in his last event (SARCASM) and is coming off his worst finish of the season — fourth place at Toledo Bend. He is a great fisherman wherever the Elites go, but his going rate of 44 percent is too high for me. I’ll stick with the underdogs.
Who I’m taking: John Crews
The tempting choice: Morizo Shimizu
With 57.6 percent of people in Bucket B choosing Jason Christie, Brandon Palaniuk or Randy Howell, I would steer clear if you want to leapfrog some Fantasy Fishing participants in the standings.
John Crews is due for a Top 12 and, when it comes down to it, I think he can do it here on Dardanelle. He has missed two cuts this season (52nd place at Toledo Bend, 58th at Seminole) and has been on the edge of making every cut. He has been a great pick for a mid-30 finish. I think he gets it done this time around.
Another angler to consider when picking from this bucket is Morizo Shimizu. He has made the cut in three of the four regular season Elite Series events, and with a 0.3 percent going rate, snagging him comes with low-risk, high-reward potential. Shimizu has proven he can compete during the season before they hit the Northern smallmouth fisheries.
Who I’m taking: Davy Hite
The tempting choice: Brandon Lester
Davy Hite has had an up and down season thus far and with two early checks to start the year, I think Hite will bounce back for a good finish on Dardanelle. If a 5.1 percent rate doesn’t have you smiling already, a win in May 2005 on Dardanelle will stretch your smile ear to ear. Hite obviously has history on this lake during this time of the year.
Under the radar and off the beaten path, rookie Brandon Lester has done well in his freshman campaign. He has cashed two checks (one at Seminole and this past event at Toledo Bend) and with an “unknown” vibe, many people will overlook him. Even with a ninth-place standing in a stacked rookie class, Lester has shown he can hang so far this season.
Who I’m taking: Mike Iaconelli
The tempting choice: Kevin Short
This season has been one of a train wreck for Iaconelli. Actually, the train is still at the station waiting to take off. And this is the exact reason I’m buying stock in Ike as I type this. Usually at a solid 30 percent ownership, Ike is owned by just 11 percent of Fantasy Fishing players and this (in my opinion) will be the biggest payoff for those risking it by choosing him. Dardanelle will be a confidence booster for Ike, who started the season with finishes of 75, 64, 33 and 100 respectively.
My heart goes out to Kevin Short and his family for the situation they are faced with after the devastating tornadoes that ravaged Mayflower, Ark. I could see this tournament lining up to be a great storybook finish with Short rising above the adversity and clinching his berth to the Classic with a win. Then again, he has more pressing issues ahead of him and his head might not be in the game.
Who I’m taking: Yusuke Miyazaki
The tempting choice: Dennis Tietje
Miyazaki has stepped his game up in the recent years and has been successful. With big (and recognizable names) such as Ish Monroe, Boyd Duckett and Greg Vinson, I could see many Fantasy Fishing players choosing them over anglers they aren’t that familiar with. Maybe that’s just me. But the 7 percent of you who have picked Miyazaki, he could be a points-earner.
I truly could see Tietje doing well here. He was the local favorite last event at Toledo Bend, but that isn’t always a good thing for an angler’s mindset. Same deal with Cliff Prince. He was a favorite on the St. Johns and didn’t do well, and then he got a Top 12 on Table Rock — a completely different fishery. We will see.