UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. — Although largemouth will outnumber smallmouth this week, don’t overload on shallow grass guys on your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team. Docks and deep weedlines will lead to Top 12 finishes, too, and you might need at least one roster pick to target smallmouth.
Because the Elite Series has never visited Cayuga (and only a few in the field competed in the 2012 Open there), we’ll consider angler history on three other New York fisheries — Oneida, Champlain and the St. Lawrence River.
We’re not going to factor in angler history on Lake Erie, however, because to win, place and show in those tournaments, you’ve got to target smallmouth. By all accounts, Cayuga will be won with largemouth — although you will see several mixed bags. Cayuga has smallies, but it does not feature the humps and reefs found in other New York fisheries, so the offshore brown bass here are much harder to find and pattern.
That being said, several smallmouth will be caught on deep weedlines that also hold largemouth. Green bass will come from grass shallower than a foot, from underneath docks and from the deep weedline edge out to 16 to 20 feet.
In each bucket, I’ve made a “Best Bet,” “Safe Bet” and “Bold Bet” pick, based on a combination of Fantasy Fishing ownership, momentum heading into the tournament and past history on Cayuga or other New York fisheries not dominated by smallmouth.
If you’re leading your Fantasy league, err toward the more conservative “Safe Bet” picks. Those anglers, while very likely to finish high, won’t help you as much against the field, because they have high ownership. If you’re in the middle of the pack, consider more of the “Best Bet” picks, which comprise anglers with similar histories in New York but lower ownership percentages.
If you’re in the back of the pack and really need make a move against the field, you’ll want to roll the dice on at least three “Bold Bet” picks, which mostly feature high-risk/high-reward anglers with very low ownership percentages.
Best Bet: Dean Rojas
Safe Bet: Skeet Reese
Bold Bet: Aaron Martens
Dean Rojas (4.3 percent ownership), has a great history in New York in the summer. When the shallow-grass frog bite is on, he’s hard to beat.
In five July/August Elite events on Oneida between 2006 and 2009, Rojas finished in the Top 5 three times (first, third and fourth), and only once out of the money. In five events on Champlain between 2002 and 2006, he notched a runner-up and a 12th-place finish, and only missed making a check once.
Coming off a sixth-place finish on the Delaware River, Skeet Reese (14.1 percent) also has a decent history in New York summer tournaments. In five Elite Series events between 2006 and 2012, he notched one Top 10, two additional Top 20s, and never finished out of the money. Additionally, he finished second on Champlain in a late July 2007 Elite Series event.
Despite his 23.3 percent ownership, Aaron Martens is my “Bold Bet” because he’s more likely than others to target offshore smallmouth with finesse tactics while the rest of the field power fishes for shallow largemouth. That’s a pretty big gamble here — especially when shallow-water specialist Greg Hackney (7.7 percent) is leading the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race over Martens by a mere ounce. But if he finds some giants, he’ll likely have them all to himself.
Note: In my Fantasy Fishing Insider podcast, Bassmaster TV co-host Mark Zona said Martens and Hackney will be factors this week. He said he’d give the nod to Hackney, but Martens will be “the X factor.”