Safe Bet: Brent Chapman (15.1%)
Also Consider: Greg Hackney (4%)
Best Value: David Walker (3.3%)
High Risk/High Reward: Cliff Pirch (0.6%)
Most Popular: Mike McClelland (35.2%)
Chapman (15.1 percent ownership) grew up fishing Ozarks impoundments and his record reflects his experience — fifth here last April; 11th, 11th and 27th on Beaver in early April; and third and 20th on Table Rock in early April 2005 and late April 2012.
With that record and last year’s Angler of the Year title under his belt, it’s surprising Chapman is not the most-picked angler in Bucket B. That honor, however, belongs to Mike McClelland.
Although McClelland finished 35th here last season, he’s fared well in two April Table Rock derbies — second and 25th. But he’s struggled on Beaver in April — 36th and 84th. Hackney’s been hit or miss on White River lakes in April, too —first and 18th, but also 43rd, 46th and 65th.
Walker has the most White River-in-April experience in this bucket, with three Top 20s in 10 major-tour tournaments. His finishes: seventh, 14th, 19th, 35th, 39th, 40th, 59th, 121st and 134th.
From the Classic through the first two tournaments, at least one rookie drastically outperforms expectations. This week, Pirch appears poised to be one of those guys. In three pro-level April tournaments on Beaver Lake between 2005 and 2012, he finished fourth, seventh and 30th. On the other hand, he finished 62nd last April on Table Rock.
Safe Bet: Aaron Martens (14.5%)
Also Consider: Scott Rook (9.1%)
Best Value: Brian Snowden (2.6%)
High Risk/High Reward: Stephen Kennedy (0.8%)
Most Popular: Ott DeFoe (22.8%)
Like he did last season, Martens fell from Bucket A to C after a terrible start. But like I wrote last year, he’s too good to stay long in Bucket C, where he’s a great value. On Table Rock, Martens has finished second twice, once in early April 2005. On Beaver, he’s finished fifth, 11th, 12th, 27th, 39th and 83rd — all in April.
Although Snowden, a Missouri native, also grew up fishing the Ozarks, his best finishes on White River reservoirs have come in the fall. His April record is hit or miss — 28th, 47th and 106th on Table Rock and 21st on Beaver. Last year on Bull Shoals, he finished 40th.
If Rook can return to early-2000’s form, he’ll be a threat. In April 2001 and 2000, he placed third and fourth on Table Rock, respectively. In early April 2005, however, he finished 39th.
If the big-swimbait bite that Kennedy committed to unsuccessfully here last season improves with this year’s clearer water, expect him to be in the mix. That’s according to Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer, interviewed in this week’s “Fantasy Fishing Insider” podcast.
Safe Bet: Tommy Biffle (5.6%)
Also Consider: Matt Herren (8.7%)
Best Value: Also Tommy Biffle
High Risk/High Reward: Andy Montgomery (0.7%)
Most Popular: Michael Iaconelli (41.8%)
With Bucket A cred to spare, Biffle is arguably the most undervalued angler in Bucket D, at 5.6 percent ownership. His record in April is, however, hit or miss — eighth, 22nd, 27th and 33rd on Beaver, and 33rd on Table Rock, are the high points. The lows? Finishes of 61st, 67th, 124th, 125th, 129th on Beaver, and a 281st on Table Rock in a BASS Invitational-format tournament.
Before last year’s Bull Shoals tournament, I wrote “Need a really high-reward pick? Take Matt Herren at 0.3 percent.” I thank him for making me look good by finishing third. He’s a good pick this year as well.
In five April tournaments on Beaver, Herren has never finished outside the Top 30. He previews this week’s tournament with me on the “Fantasy Fishing Insider” podcast.
Safe Bet: Brandon Palaniuk (63.5%)
Also Consider: Casey Scanlon (1.1%)
Good Value: Jared Lintner
High Risk/High Reward: Chad Pipkens (0.2%)
Most Popular: Also Brandon Palaniuk
Palaniuk, last year’s tournament winner is in Bucket E? That’s a no-brainer pick, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Palaniuk won on a spot last year, not a repeatable pattern. That spot will have gotten pounded, having been exposed in media.
On the other hand, Palaniuk loves throwing Rapala DT Series crankbaits and Storm Wiggle Warts, which are both killer in the Ozarks in the spring. Not to mention that Rapala’s new Scatter Rap (which Palaniuk and only a few others have much experience with) seems perfectly suited for prespawn water nearing the 60-degree mark.
Although it will be tough to pick against Palaniuk this week, I’m going to roll the dice on a rookie. With Palaniuk at 63.5% ownership, I can’t bring myself to follow the crowd.
Like Cliff Pirch, Chad Pipkens is rookie who appears poised to have a break-out tournament this week. In four pro-level April tournaments in the last three years, he’s finished first, eighth, 12th and 38th. His two Top 10s were on Beaver and Table Rock.