GREEN BAY, Wis. – With no Northern anglers or obvious smallmouth gurus in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing Challenge Buckets C and D this week, you might be struggling to handicap the Green Bay Challenge.
I know I am.
In a column earlier this week, I strongly endorsed Edwin Evers in Bucket A, Aaron Martens in Bucket B and Kotaro Kiriyama in Bucket E. In the middle buckets, however, I was undecided and promised to get back to you after crunching the numbers further.
A little research into summer, smallmouth tournaments on big, Northern waters, yields a few stand-outs, although don't expect to get Top 12 or Top 20 finishes this week out of Buckets C & D. In many tournaments, truly any angler has a chance to win on any given weekend, but Great Lakes smallmouth fishing is a different animal, not easily tamed.
Bucket C – Takahiro Omori
In Bucket C, I'm going with Takahiro Omori, who placed 26th and 36th on Lake Erie in 2007 and 2008 Elite Series events, respectively. Lake Erie is as similar a fishery to Green Bay that you'll find on the Elite Series' list of past venues. At the time of this writing, 6.7 percent of fantasy fishing players had Tak on their rosters.
– Jason Williamson (0.5 percent ownership): 33rd on Erie in 2007, 44th there in 2008
– Mark Menendez (2.4 percent): 22nd on Erie in 2007, 35th there in 2008
– Gary Klein: 17th on Erie in 2007, 7th there in 2008, 4th in 2001 on Lake St. Clair and 27th in the 2000 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Michigan (launching out of Chicago)
Bucket D – Rick Morris
John Murray (4.3 percent ownership) again has good past-performance numbers, but I've cooled on him after picking him the last two weeks and not getting much productivity. Murray placed third on Erie in 2007, fourth there in 2008 and 14th on Lake St. Clair in 2001.
Another Bucket D angler with good numbers in summer, big-water smallie-tournament numbers is Rick Morris, who leads Murray in the Angler of the Year race (58th and 76th, respectively) entering this week's tournament.
At 4.1 percent ownership, Morris is a good value, having placed 12th on Erie in 2007 and 11th there in 2008. On the other hand, he placed 75th on Lake St. Clair in 2001, so caveat empor.
– Brian Snowden (3.3 percent ownership): 24th on Erie in 2007, 15th there in 2008 and 28th on Lake St. Clair in 2001
– Scott Rook (2.3 percent) -- 23rd, 2007; 63rd, 2008; 20th, 2000 Lake Michigan; 3rd, 2001, St. Clair
– Fletcher Shryock (6.8 percent) -- The Ohio native is comfortable on big water like Erie, where he finished 21st in a 2001 Northern Open (which Bucket B angler Nate Wellman, a Michigan native, won). "I'm not a Lake Erie-fishing guru by no means, but I know how to ride the big water," he told me. "I know how to catch the smallmouth up there, anyway."
Will Lake Michigan's Green Bay fish similar to Erie? Will success on Erie translate to success on Green Bay?
I hope so. My picks are riding on it!
Fantasy Fishing rosters lock one hour before tomorrow's 6:30 a.m. (Central Time) take-off tomorrow. Daily take-offs and 3:15 p.m. weigh-ins will be held at Metro Bay Launch, 102 Bay Beach Road, Green Bay. On Saturday and Sunday, the Green Bay Challenge Family Festival will open at noon. Stay tuned to bassmaster.com for all the developments.