Don't fret too much when picking your Bucket A angler in week four of the B.A.S.S. Fantasy Fishing Challenge. The stats indicate it won't make much difference.
The key to success in the first three weeks of Fantasy Fishing play has not been picking a tournament winner from Bucket A. Rather, it's been the "Moneyball" route – picking undervalued competitors from the lower buckets. Consider this:
- Six of the top 10 Fantasy Fishing Challenge points leaders picked Keith Poche in Bucket C for their Classic roster.
- Five of the top 10 took Brent Chapman and Keith Combs in Buckets C and D respectively for their St. Johns River roster.
- Four of the 10 took Chapman and Combs in Buckets C and D in both Florida events.
- Nine of the 10 picked Alton Jones in Bucket B the week he won on the St. Johns River.
- Eight of 10 took Chapman and Combs in C and D for Okeechobee.
- Six of 10 took Combs in Bucket D in the Classic.
- Five took Jones in the Classic in Bucket B.
- Five took Todd Faircloth in Bucket B for Okeechobee.
Only one Fantasy Fishing Challenge player has picked two winners: Lane from Bucket C in the Classic, and Jones from Bucket B on the St. Johns River.
Even Bucket E has been more of a factor in Fantasy Fishing success. The key there? Pick a local. Consider this:
All 10 points leaders picked Kyle Fox in Bucket E for their Okeechobee roster. Fox, a Lakeland, Fla. native, lives about 100 miles from Okeechobee.
Seven of the 10 took Cliff Prince in Bucket E for their St. Johns River roster. Prince lives in Palatka, the town that hosted the St. Johns event. His tournament career began by cashing checks on the river.
Five took Jamie Horton in the Classic in Bucket E. Horton wasn't a local, but was one of two anglers in the bucket who had fished in a Classic previously. And he qualified for that Classic by winning an event on the Red River.
Looking Ahead: Now What?
Bucket A picks have not yet figured prominently in the success of the top 10 fantasy competitors. Although that bucket comprises anglers that are supposedly the tournament's top seeds, it has not yet produced a tournament winner.
Buckets B and C have produced the first three winners of the season: Chris Lane (B, Classic), Ish Monroe (C, Okeechobee) and Jones (B, St. Johns River). Only one team in the top 10 has picked two winners.
So now that we've identified Jones, Chapman and Combs as the keys to fantasy success, should you lock them into your rosters for the rest of the season?
In fact, you can't.
As a result of new rules this year, you can't pick both Chapman and Combs this week or next. B.A.S.S. this season is adjusting the buckets after every other tournament. This week's adjustments put Chapman and Combs in the same bucket: A.
So who should you pick in Bucket A? It might not make much difference, so pick your favorite guy. Or pick the guy with the best boat wrap or the best jersey. Or throw throw a dart.
Bucket B: The key to success in Bucket B in the next two weeks will be reviewing past performances and making a gut pick from the three or four anglers. Alton Jones, Greg Hackney, Mike McClelland and Matt Herren intrigue me.
Buckets C and D: The key to success in the next two tournaments will be finding the most under-valued anglers in the readjusted Buckets C and D. In Bucket C, I'll be taking close looks at Aaron Martens, Keith Poche, Casey Ashley and Greg Vinson. Bucket D will be more difficult to handicap, but at first blush, Matt Reed, Kevin Short and Brian Snowden look good.
Bucket E has a clear leader in Cliff Pace. Although he slumped through 2011 and into the beginning of this season, Pace has the best career numbers in the bucket. If he could return to 2010 form, he'd bring great value to the bottom of your roster.
In 2010, Pace finished 6th in the Angler of the Year race after placing 14th in the Lay Lake Classic, then racking up five top-10 finishes, including a runner-up on Pickwick and a seventh and fifth in that year's post-season events.
Unless Pace's Ozarks and TVA tournament finishes include numerous missed cuts, I'll lock him in at Bucket E for two weeks.
Gut It Out
In future posts I'll review past performances for Ozarks and TVA impoundments, but gut feeling will factor too. Heading into Week 3, for example, it was clear to me that Chapman and Combs were on a roll, so I picked them, despite past performance that indicated they weren't the best Okeechobee picks.
Coming up: I'll handicap all five buckets and release the 3 best-value picks in each.