DAYTON, Tenn. — The last Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Dardanelle was a mix of emotions as I successfully picked John Crews and Mike Iaconelli to do well, and they both notched Top 12 finishes for my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team.
The bad thing is that local pro Scott Rook didn’t do so well, and neither did Yusuke Miyazaki. Davy Hite successfully placed in the mid-20s.
The really bad part? I never actually set my Fantasy Fishing lineup. (I know…way to drop the ball). So as a result, my week could have been successful, but I will take my “good lineup” and just reassure myself that I am not bad at picking teams (as long as I actually select them).
That said, check out my team for Chickamauga and the sleepers that you should keep your eye on.
Bucket A: Powroznik
My choice: Jacob Powroznik
Sleeper pick: Casey Ashley
Many don’t realize this, but the current Rookie of the Year leader won on Lake Chickamauga this year. Jacob Powroznik and his partner won the Fishers of Men National Championship on the Chick one week before Powroznik took home the Toledo Bend title.
J-Proz didn’t cash a check for the first time this season at Dardanelle, and he probably didn’t like the way his 77th-place finish tasted. Expect him to come back strong.
Casey Ashley has been underrated this season and with a 12th-place standing in the Angler of the Year race. Ashley has proved that he is on the same level as many of the top pros. Since an 89th-place finish to start the season, the South Carolina pro has reeled in finishes of 24, 27, five and 22. Ashley also notched a victory on Lake Hartwell in March on the FLW circuit.
Bucket B: T. Horton
My choice: Timmy Horton
Sleeper pick: Mike McClelland
Timmy Horton is a great postspawn fisherman. Lake Chickamauga is one of those monsters in a sense that the winning school of fish is lurking anywhere and everywhere on this lake. As Casey Martin showed on last season’s FLW Tour, more than 100 pounds in four days of competition is possible, and for crankers and draggers, it’s there for the taking. Horton lives near Pickwick Lake, the last lake on the Tennessee River, so he undoubtedly knows how to fish these bodies of water.
Mike McClelland is one of those draggers who can dissect a school of fish and milk everything he can out of them. McClelland already has a win this season and his ticket to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic is punched. He can freely go big or go home and gamble to make Top 50 and even Top 12 cuts. That’s what I expect him to do.
Bucket C: Mullins
My choice: David Mullins
Sleeper pick: Chris Zaldain
David Mullins is an east Tennessee fisherman, and Lake Chickamauga isn’t far from him at all. You have to expect that one of the local fishermen (Ott Defoe, Brandon Card, David Walker and Mullins) will do well at this event, but the others have a huge following and their ownership percentage shows that. With only 5 percent owning Mullins, there is no way I can’t take him here.
Why not Chris Zaldain? He started the season flat and was in the cellar of the AOY standings, but with back-to-back Top 12s and a renewed confidence, I expect the California kid to keep the train rolling. Only 7 percent have him on their team, and the risk is worth the value when it comes to choosing him.
Bucket D: J. VanDam
My choice: Jonathon VanDam
Sleeper pick: Bradley Roy
Jonathon VanDam has shown strength over his career during the later parts of the Elite Series season. After already making a Top 12 early this year, I expect JVD to keep up some of his success and find the postspawn schools that will put him in contention this week.
Bradley Roy is from Kentucky, and Chickamauga, in many ways, fishes like a Kentucky Lake. Roy has a chance to turn around his season and I can see it happening in his neck of the woods. With the shad spawn starting on many of the east Tennessee lakes, it’s anyone’s game. But I have no doubt that the winner should come by fishing the deep parts of Lake Chickamauga.
Bucket E: Starks
My choice: Jeremy Starks
Sleeper pick: Kevin Hawk
Jeremy Starks registered both of his Elite Series wins on and in the vicinity of the Tennessee River (Wheeler Lake and Douglas Lake), and if you can fish one TVA lake, you should be able to fish others well, too. Only 7.5 percent of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players own him, and I will be a part of that group for sure.
Kevin Hawk has had somewhat of a disappointing season to date, and while his only Top 12 this season came on Table Rock Lake, I can see Hawk fishing a big school of fish well. Hawk is good with a football jig and a drop shot. Casey Martin won the Chickamauga FLW event last season mixing in a drop shot with a power fishing approach. This should be right up Hawk’s alley.
Be sure to set your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team by launch on Wednesday, June 11, to have a chance at winning a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card for winning the tournament or a Triton/Mercury package valued at $38,450 for winning the whole season.