Last year, we were asking how far into the postspawn Bull Shoals would be. This season, the spawn will have just begun.
“There’ll be some fish that will are moving up on the beds and we’ll still have some prespawn fish as well,” says Ozarks area guide Mike Webb, who recently caught an 11-pound, 7-ounce largemouth upstream from Bull Shoals on Table Rock. “The water temperature is getting up close to 60 degrees with these warm nights already. We’re right there for them to move up.”
But don’t load your roster with just sight fishermen. There won’t likely be enough spawners to go around. Plus, several top sight fishermen don’t have stellar records on Ozarks impoundments in April.
If you’re in the 90th percentile in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing points thus far, balance your roster with a combination of the “Most Popular” and “Safe Bet” roster-pick suggestions below, mixing in one or two “Also Consider” picks. If like me, however, you had a bad tournament early and need to make up some ground, gamble on a couple of “High Risk/High Reward” picks along with a combination of “Best Value” and “Safe Bet” picks.
I’m avoiding the “Most Popular” picks, as they will not help me make much of a move against the field. There’s only one grand prize for the season (a Triton-Mercury boat-motor package), so play to win. To make a big move, pick a few veterans who have fallen to lower buckets plus some high-risk/high-reward anglers with good track records on Ozark impoundments in April.
Bull Shoals is one of three White River impoundments on which major bass tournaments are held. Far more, though, have been held on Table Rock and Beaver lakes, so before making my roster picks, I reviewed angler history on those venues, which fish very similarly. My picks are in italics. You can also listen to the podcast below:
Safe Bet: Alton Jones (2.4% Fantasy Fishing ownership)
Also Consider: Ish Monroe (4.5%)
Best Value: Alton Jones
High Risk/High Reward: Takahiro Omori (0.3%)
Most Popular: Kevin VanDam (33.2%)
Although Jones placed 28th on Bull Shoals last year, his sight fishing prowess and record on White River impoundments in mid to late April (when bass traditionally begin spawning in the Ozarks) make him both a safe bet and a great value, at a mere 2.4 percent ownership (as of April 13). In three pro-level mid- to late-April Beaver Lake tournaments, Jones finished third, 14th and 29th. Fourth in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points, Jones has started the season strong.
Despite finishing 45th on Bull Shoals last year, KVD is the most-picked angler in Bucket A (33.2 percent). Intercepting egg-laden prespawn females moving to beds is among KVD’s specialties, and his best White River finishes have come in April — fourth in early April 2005 on Table Rock and 12th in late April 2001 on Beaver. KVD enters the tournament 10th in AOY points.
I always like “Big Bass Specialist” Ish Monroe’s chances to weigh big kicker fish, as it takes a different mentality to stick with big baits, sacrificing numbers. Ish has that mindset. If he gets on a pattern rich with prespawn fatties, he’ll likely improve on his previous best springtime White River finishes — 17th on Table Rock in late April 2012 and 15th on Beaver in mid-March 2010 on another pro circuit. Ish is sitting at seventh in the AOY race.
Omori has good prespawn White River history too, with 10th and 21st-place finishes in mid to late April on another tour. Omori is 19th in AOY points.
See picks for buckets B, C, D and E on the next page.