With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Chapman's value might seem obvious: He won on Toledo Bend and he's leading the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race with three consecutive Top 5 finishes to supplement his victory.
Yet despite a Central Open win prior to the 2012 Elite Series season opener and solid career numbers – seven previous Top 5 Elite finishes, 11 Classic appearances, six Top 25 finishes in AOY points – Chapman began the season in Bucket C, where he was greatly undervalued.
But Chapman promptly proved his worth to Fantasy players, scoring 280 and 285 points, respectively, in his first two tournaments. Bucket C anglers are expected to score only between about 155 and 215 points. After those finishes, Chapman jumped to Bucket A, where he remains.
So, should you pick him in Bucket A?
It's a pretty safe play. Sure, KVD, Skeet and Alton Jones have won more titles and have made more magazine covers, but Chapman is this season's standout, hands down. His average finish so far this season of 17th is a little deceiving; it's low because of a 68th-place stumble on Bull Shoals. Outside of that, he's placed fourth, fifth, fifth and first in Elite Series events. And in Central Opens, he's finished first and 20th. That's a heckuva hot streak.
Martens' early-season slump (he finished out-of-the-money in the first three tournaments), made him a better mid-season Fantasy pick. A Bucket A-caliber angler based on career numbers, A-Mart fell to Bucket C for the Bull Shoals and Douglas Lake tournaments.
And although Martens placed only 58th at Bull Shoals, that finish was enough of an improvement on his 74th- and 84th-place finishes in Florida to convince some Fantasy Fishing players he remained undervalued for the Douglas Lake tournament. They were rewarded when he placed third there, earning them 290 points.
In Bucket B this week, Martens is less valuable than he was in C, but still worth a look. After placing third on Douglas Lake and 25th on Toledo Bend, he appears to be off the schnide.
In 2011, Cliff Pace finished 50th in the AOY race. Perhaps that's why he began this season in Bucket E and has jumped only to Bucket C after several great finishes – and why he remains the best value in Fantasy Fishing.
In 2007, Pace finished 16th in the AOY race. He was eighth in 2009 and sixth in 2010. Furthermore, he won Bassmaster Opens in 2003 and 2004 and finished second to Alton Jones in the 2008 Classic. That's a pretty stout resume for a Bucket C angler, let alone Bucket D and E. But there's more.
Ken Duke reminded Bassmaster.com readers in his Toledo Bend live-blog reporting that Pace had fished in the Elite Series finals seven times before making it to Sunday on the Bend. He ended up finishing second there. His best finish before that was another runner-up, that one at Pickwick in 2010. Duke noted that Pace "tends to fly under the radar," and unearthed this "statistical shocker" about Pace's career:
"Out of all the Elite pros, he ranks fourth in Top 50 finishes. Only Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese and Todd Faircloth cash checks a higher percentage of the time. Pace has a 73.47 percent success rate when it comes to finishing in the money, and he made checks in 11 straight events between 2010 and 2011."
And he was in Bucket E?
From Bucket E, Pace scored 285 points with his sixth-place showing on Bull Shoals. From Bucket D, he scored 245 fantasy points with his 15th-place finish on Douglas Lake. In Bucket C, his runner-up finish on Toledo Bend was worth 295 points. Bucket E anglers are expected to score between 75 and about 110 points; Bucket D about 110 to 155; Bucket C, about 155 to 215.
Unless he gets bumped up to Bucket B, keep picking Pace the rest of the year.
Early this season, Elite Series sophomore Keith Combs was undervalued and overachieving in Bucket D, scoring 290 points with his third-place finish on the St. Johns River and 237 points with his 19th-place showing on Lake Okeechobee. Fantasy players who bet on Combs early were rewarded.
But after Combs was promoted to Bucket A for the Bull Shoals tournament, his productivity waned. In that tournament, he placed 38th, followed by 64th-place and 78th-place finishes on Douglas Lake and Toledo Bend, respectively. Unless Combs falls to Bucket C, steer clear in favor of Bucket A anglers with better finishes.