BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Lake Guntersville, the hottest bass lake in the world, is set to host the biggest B.A.S.S. tournament of the year. The 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro starts Feb. 21, and by Feb. 23, one angler from the 55-man field will be $300,000 richer and claim the Classic championship.
Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing allows fantasy players to win the Bassmaster Classic as well. The player who has the highest score at the Classic will win a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card. The idea is to pick the highest-finishing angler from each of the five buckets to win. Hopefully, this article will give you some insight on strong fantasy choices.
Bucket A: Skeet Reese
Skeet Reese finished first and second the last two times the Bassmaster Elite series visited Lake Guntersville — with more than 100 pounds in each event. Those were four-day events, so do not expect 100 pounds at the Classic to win. Reese is owned by less than 6% of Fantasy Fishing players, so it seems that people forget how strong a fisherman he is.
Kevin VanDam is the favorite for Bucket A and a solid choice. This event on Guntersville sets up perfectly for his fishing style. The lipless crankbait has a chance to be the Classic winning lure, and VanDam has already won a Classic before on one. A 39% Fantasy Fishing ownership is actually low for VanDam, but the drawback is that this is a one-event game. The winner has to take several risks to try and beat everyone this one time.
Chris Lane will always be a good option for Bucket A. Lane lives on Lake Guntersville and opened a tackle shop there last year. He has basically been pre-fishing this event since it was announced the Classic was going to Lake Guntersville. With only a 6% Fantasy Fishing ownership, players can beat almost all other players if they take Chris Lane.
Bucket B: Greg Vinson
More than one-fifth of the Classic competitors are from Alabama, so it is almost impossible to not take an Alabama guy on your Fantasy Fishing team. Greg Vinson is my Alabama angler choice from Bucket B. Vinson has fished two Classics, and he finished second in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River. Vinson missed last year’s Classic. Look for Vinson to come back to Classic competition with a vengeance. Vinson is the fifth-most owned angler in the bucket, but at less than 9% ownership, he can really boost your points total for the event.
Ott DeFoe is the highest-owned angler in this bucket, but I still see him as undervalued. DeFoe should be in the top bucket for every tournament. He can still beat three-quarters of Fantasy Fishing players for you if he is the highest finisher for the bucket.
David Kilgore, another Alabama angler, could be the surprise of the Classic. Someone most people haven’t heard of always finishes strong at the Classic. Kilgore is owned by only 2.5% of Fantasy Fishing players, so if you put him on your team, he could set you up to be the top finisher.
Bucket C: Hank Cherry
Hank Cherry last year lost the Classic-winning fish at the boat. I see this Classic as a redemption event for Cherry. The jerkbait he loves to fish will be another bait that could win the Classic. Less than 8% Fantasy Fishing ownership seems crazy for an angler in this bucket who almost won the Classic last year and did win the All-Star event to cap off the season. Cherry seems like a surprise pick with as low as his ownership is for the bucket, but he is one of the frontrunners.
Jason Christie seemed to win almost all the events he entered last year. Winning the Bassmaster Classic sure would be a great way to start 2014. Only being owned by 11% of players makes Christie a wise choice as well.
Randall Tharp is one of the newest Alabama anglers because he recently moved from Florida, but he is undervalued in Bucket C. Judging by the 8-pound bass Tharp caught in practice, he may have found the true game-changers to win this event. His ownership by 33% of players, though, makes it hard to take Tharp for this one event and still have a shot at the overall win.
Bucket D: Cliff Pirch
This bucket may be the hardest bucket to choose from. The anglers typically less experienced and more long shots to even fish the last day of the tournament. Pirch fished the Elite Series last year, cashing five checks out of the eight events. Perch had two Top 10 finishes at the end of last season. Hopefully the moment will carry over to the start of 2014. Being owned by only 4% of players gives owners who take him a real shot to move up the leaderboard.
Jordan Lee is the favorite in the bucket at 43% ownership and rightfully so. Lee considers Lake Guntersville his home lake and has fished this lake more this time of year than most of the competitors. Do not be surprised to see him fishing Sunday with an outside shot at walking away as the first Bassmaster Classic champion coming through the college ranks. The only reason to stay away from Lee — and it is a big reason —is the high ownership.
Rick Morris is also an angler who has a runner-up position in the Classic to his name. Morris has as much experience in the field as anyone. Out of his four Classic appearances, he has only finished outside the Top 20 once.
Bucket E: Doug Thompson
There are six anglers in the last bucket, and it is a total crapshoot regarding which one has an advantage over the other. Most players are taking Coby Carden, 68% ownership, because he is from Alabama. It would be very hard to win the overall event with an angler owned by that many players.
With only 10% ownership and so few anglers, you can beat the majority of fantasy players with Doug Thompson. Even if he finishes 50th, but the rest are behind him, your team will be looking really good. Thompson is also one of three competitors, along with Stephen Browning and Mark Davis, who are keeping the streak alive for Arkansas of being the only state to have a Classic competitor in every Classic.
Having the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville is a great way to kick off the season. There is a good chance that every Classic record could fall over the three days of competition. Make sure to get your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team locked in before the anglers launch on Feb. 21, and then nervously watch Bassmaster.com for coverage of the event to see how they do.