In this bucket you have Kevin VanDam, always a safe bet, as well as Brent Chapman, who won on Toledo Bend in 2012. There’s also Brett Hite, who can do all sorts of things but might be particularly dangerous if he can get in that ChatterBait groove. I’d love to see Jeff Kriet win here, too.
Normally, I don’t favor non-locals just because they’ve won in a particular location before, but this time I’m going to go against that tendency and pick Dean Rojas.
Yes, Rojas’ wins here in 2001 and 2011 demonstrate a good track record, but it’s the latter one that really sells me. Both Reehm and Tietje stressed that to win, an angler will have to do multiple things well, including chasing some late spawners that others can’t see. Topwaters may play a role, as could frogging. Reehm said he doesn’t think it will take 100 pounds to win, but 21 pounds a day should do it. Rojas won last time doing a variety of things and he can produce big bags with all of the techniques that will come into play. I’m riding a winning horse here.
As Ronnie Moore pointed out, Marty Robinson has the best average finish in the past two Elite Series events on Toledo Bend. It’s also hard not to pick Mike Kernan here because he’s fished about every major Texas circuit for years and done well all over the state. If he does well, you’ll likely have a commodity that few others own. If he was in Bucket E, he’d be an easy choice.
My pick, though, is Edwin Evers, usually a resident of Bucket A, currently out of his element because of a tough first tournament this year. He’s too much of a bargain to pass up, and he has a great history on the Bend. Throwing out a poor finish in a 2001 Top 150, he was 12th in the 2003 Tour event, third in the 2003 Open Championship, sixth in the 2009 Central Open, 49th in the 2011 Elite and 17th in the 2012 Elite. I often group him in the same caliber as Faircloth because they’re both so rock steady and both do a lot of things well.
No guarantees, but it’s a pretty safe bet that Faircloth will give you some good points.
This is another bucket with some “A” class talent. Tough to bet against Clunn or Grigsby or a Texan like Matt Reed here, but it seems to me that the most upside resides in Tommy Biffle and Ish Monroe. I always have trouble picking both of these guys because they seem to be up-and-down anglers — not afraid to finish 90th if it means shooting for a win.
From what I remember, Toledo Bend doesn’t seem like frog country to me, but both Tietje and Reehm mentioned it. That weighs in favor of Monroe as does the potential for sight fishing. Neither Monroe nor Biffle had particularly strong showings in 2012, but Monroe made the 12 cut in 2011. That pushes me to pick him. That hurts because I have a sneaking suspicion that Biffle will go up in the dirty water and have acres of beautiful cover to pick apart all to himself.
Chris Zaldain made the 12 cut here in 2012, had a great season last year and has been spending a lot of time in Texas, but he’s had trouble gaining any momentum yet this year, so even though he seems like a bargain, I’m a little gun shy.
Same with Yusuke Miyazaki, who seems overall to have found his groove and finished 10th here last time around.
If either of those guys gets his bearings at Toledo Bend, I may regret not picking them. Boyd Duckett likewise looks like a bargain in Bucket E, but he’s struggling.
It may show my cautious financial nature, but I’m going with Tietje. Yes, he’s slumping like Zaldain, Miyazaki and Duckett, but I feel like he’s not going to disappointment me. He missed the 2011 Elite event due to a medical hardship, and he was 41st in 2012. But he was also seventh in the 2009 Open and 18th in the 2002 Open.
Tietje admitted to me that he may be hindered by the fact that he has too much history on the lake, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take for likely points. He showed last year at the Sabine that he can manage hometown expectations; he made the Top 12 despite essentially losing the whole first day to mechanical problems.
After a shaky start to my Fantasy Fishing season, I know I should take some chances on anglers less likely to be picked by large numbers of other players, but right now I’m feeling risk averse.
Besides, maybe if I pick him, Tietje will FedEx me a cooler of those great Louisiana crawfish with his big winnings.