BRANSON, Mo. — The Bassmaster Elite Series rolls into the third event of the season in Branson for the A.R.E. Truck Caps Elite at Table Rock Lake, and it’s time to make your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks!
This will be the second time the Elite Series has visited Table Rock Lake and the first time since 2006. With all the snow and cold in the area, it has kept the fish from spawning like they want to this time of year. Table Rock Lake is comparable to the other two big White River lakes: Beaver Lake and Bull Shoals Lake, which the Elite Series has been to the last two years. I used those results, along with the 2011 and 2012 Central Opens on Table Rock Lake, to decide on my Fantasy Fishing team.
Remember that all percentages in this article can change from the time it was written to the time the event starts, based on changes Fantasy Fishing players make.
Here are my choices.
Bucket A: Mark Davis
Mark Davis is off to a great start to the 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series season. Davis has a six-point lead in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings over Todd Faircloth. Look for Davis to continue his early season tear of the Elite Series. This event is almost a home event for Davis who lives in Mount Ida, Ark. Davis is the third-most-owned angler in Bucket A at 15.7 percent, but if he is the best in the bucket, that still beats 85 percent of Fantasy Fishing players.
Gerald Swindle is also a strong choice for Bucket A. Swindle made a check at the first two events this year and is sitting in 13th in the AOY standings. This will be a prespawn event which typically sets up for a junk fishing angler, which is what Swindle tends to succeed at. Watch for the Toyota pro to throw the entire tacklebox each day to bring a big limit to the weigh-in stage. Swindle is only owned by 1.5 percent of Fantasy Fishing players, so he can beat almost all the other players for you if you take him in Bucket A.
Matt Herren is the lowest-owned angler in the bucket at 0.1 percent, but he took a third-place finish in 2012 on Bull Shoals Lake. Matt Herren is 18th in the AOY standings. If you want a high risk/high reward angler, Herren is the one to take here. If Herren is the highest finisher in the bucket, he will beat all Fantasy Fishing players for you in Bucket A.
Bucket B: Kevin Short
Kevin Short may be a river expert, but he has excelled at Table Rock Lake and the White River chain in the past. Short was third at the Elite Series event on Table Rock Lake in 2006 and won the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open. Short is owned by 6.1 percent of Fantasy Fishing players so he can really help Fantasy Fishing players excel over the rest at this event.
Picking the favorite in Fantasy Fishing buckets is not always the best choice, but Jason Christie could be considered an exception at this event. Christie is excellent at fishing the White River chain, with wins at Beaver Lake and Bull Shoals Lake in the early spring of 2013. A 37.4 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership is high, but he can still beat more than half of Fantasy Fishing players with a strong finish.
Mike McClelland is another strong White River chain angler in this bucket. No one would be surprised to see McClelland fishing on Sunday at Table Rock Lake. McClelland was the first name I thought of for this tournament. I decided on Short for my team simply because of Fantasy Fishing percentages. McClelland’s Fantasy Fishing ownership is 9.5 percent, which is not too bad, but it is the third-highest for the bucket.
Bucket C: Casey Scanlon
Casey Scanlon took home a win at the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on Table Rock Lake, which helped him qualify for the Elite Series. Scanlon is a bit underrated at 4.9 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership, considering his history at Table Rock. There are bigger names in this bucket, but Scanlon could be the underdog in the bucket to help you compete for the highest Fantasy Fishing score of the event.
Brian Snowden is the third-most-owned angler at 14.1 percent in Bucket C, but this will be considered his home lake event. Snowden is another White River chain expert. Expect Snowden to compete for a win here.
Kevin VanDam is considered a treat anytime his boat is in the water. KVD is the highest-owned angler in the bucket, but 32.6 percent ownership is not too bad considering he has fallen to Bucket C. KVD missed his first check in an Elite Series event since 2010 last week at the St. Johns River. Do not expect KVD to miss a check two events in a row.
Bucket D: Matt Reed
Bucket D is where I look to make a big leap over other Fantasy Fishing players with Matt Reed. Reed made a check in the last two Elite Series events on Bull Shoals, but he only has a 0.4 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership. Reed appears to be the real hidden gem of the bucket.
Brandon Palaniuk is the highest-owned angler in the bucket with 37.7 percent ownership, but he has a win on the White River chain (Bull Shoals, 2012). Bull Shoals and Table Rock are similar to lakes Palaniuk is used to back in Idaho. Palaniuk tends to be an up-and-down angler from tournament to tournament. Palaniuk had two down tournaments to start the season, so expect him to bounce back on Table Rock.
Ish Monroe took home a check at the two Elite Series events on Bull Shoals, and he claimed a Top 12 finish at the 2006 Table Rock Lake event. Ish is the fourth-most-owned angler in Bucket D at 9.7 percent. He could easily be the most consistent angler in the bucket. If you’re looking for a safe choice in Bucket D, Ish should be your pick.
Bucket E: Boyd Duckett
Boyd Duckett took home two checks at the two Elite Series stops at Bull Shoals Lake. Look for Duckett to get a check at this event as well. A 2.1 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership seems very low for him. Duckett has a real chance to be the highest-finishing angler of the bucket.
As long as Edwin Evers is Bucket E, he will always be an angler to strongly consider. At nearly 70 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership, there is no real upside with Evers. If you need a safe pick in Bucket E, Edwin Evers should be the angler you choose. Evers took home two checks at the two events on Bull Shoals Lake. He was also the runner-up at the 2006 Elite Series event on Table Rock Lake.
Jonathon VanDam is the second-most-owned angler in Bucket E at 10.8 percent ownership. VanDam took home two checks in the two Bull Shoals events, including a Top 12 at the 2013 event. VanDam is a strong finesse angler when smallmouth are in play, and they will be at Table Rock Lake.
Hopefully this will provide you with some food for thought when you choosing your Fantasy Fishing anglers. Remember to get your Fantasy Fishing team locked in before the event starts April 3. The player with the highest score for this event wins $2,500 in Bass Pro Shops gift cards and gets a leg up in the hopes of winning that new Triton boat for the most Fantasy Fishing points throughout the entire season.