LA CROSSE, Wis. — This week, the Bassmaster Elite Series returns to the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis., for the Diet Mountain Dew Mississippi River Rumble presented by Power-Pole.
Last year, Todd Faircloth took home the trophy and will surely be hoping for a repeat. For Faircloth to do this, he will most likely have to attack the river in a different way. The largemouth bass will still be there, but the river is not as high as it was last season. The grass will not be as thick. The largemouth will be a little more scattered about, putting the smallmouth bass more into play this year. The angler who can find the best mix of largemouth and smallmouth will take home the trophy and the big check that comes along with it.
Keep that in mind when setting your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team!
Will this be the one event where Edwin Evers could stumble? If so, I look for the guy currently second in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings to make a strong charge. With as strong a season as Edwin Evers is having, Skeet Reese has almost been overlooked and it shows in the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing ownership numbers. Reese is second in AOY standings and ranks third in Fantasy points, but is only the fifth-highest owned angler in the bucket at 5.2%. I look for Reese to try and make up as much ground this week in the AOY standings to have a legitimate shot in the end.
I look for Aaron Martens and Terry Scroggins to both have strong finishes this week. Both anglers finished in the Top 12 on the Mississippi River last year, and both are excellent at putting limits in the boat. Martins is the type of angler whom I expect to find a good mix of largemouth and smallmouth. Scroggins is the type who will figure out his own deal and make it work for him. With a 10% Fantasy ownership (Martens), and a 1.6% ownership (Scroggins), there is a lot of upside if they beat the rest of the bucket.
In this bucket, I am looking to take the favorite. Cliff Pace is your 2013 Bassmaster Classic champion, has three Top 12 finishes this season, 11th overall in Fantasy points, finished second here last year and still managed to fall into the B bucket. I like his changes in this bucket — and so do a quarter of all fantasy players. Even with the river fishing different this year, Pace will still find a few ways to catch fish that fit his style.
Mike McClelland and Greg Hackney are my other picks for this bucket. Both finished in the Top 20 last year and are strong river anglers. With less than 10% Fantasy ownership for each of them there is plenty of potential gain over other Fantasy players with each of these choices.
Bill Lowen is a very strong river angler and is in need of a good finish to the season. Currently sitting in 48th in AOY standings, he has some work to do to qualify for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. Lowen pulled out a Top 12 year last year, and I expect him to contend for another one this year. I see Lowen being able to find the smallmouth quickly and getting a solid limit everyday. Lowen understands river fishing better than almost anyone. His one Top 12 this year came on the Sabine River. This is also solid upside in Fantasy Fishing with him being owned by 11% of Fantasy players.
Ott DeFoe and Davy Hite should also finish high in the standings here on the Mississippi River. Both finished in the Top 30 year last year and are strong at river tournaments. I feel both are undervalued to be in this bucket. Both have good ownership numbers, DeFoe at 11% and Hite at 2%, leaving plenty of room to gain on other Fantasy players.
I have picked Nate Wellman a few times playing Fantasy Fishing, and it seemed to work in the past. Wellman took home a Top 20 on the Mississippi River last year, and this year could fit his style even more. Wellman is a great smallmouth angler, and if it comes into play like it should, I expect to see him at the top of the leaderboard. Wellman is the second-most owned angler in the group at 13%, but that still beats the majority of Fantasy players.
Andy Montgomery and Russ Lane should also do well this event. They both took home Top 30 finishes last year and find this river to fit their fishing style. Montgomery is only owned by 4% of Fantasy owners, so there is plenty to be gained there with a strong finish. Lane is owned by 12% of Fantasy players.
This bucket is usually the hardest for me to pick from because you are trying to catch lightning in a bottle and get the surprise angler of the tournament. Looking back over last year’s event, there are several anglers in this bucket who finished in the money. Jamie Horton finished fourth last year on the Mississippi River.
I am going with my gut and changing river conditions this year. I am taking Kevin Short for this event. When I think of river tournaments, Short is always on my list of possible picks. Changing conditions usually leads to tougher events, and that is how Kevin Short prefers it. Short is the second-most owned angler in the group, but at only 11%, there is a lot of potential. I look to see Short in the money again this year.
Timmy Horton, Grant Goldbeck and Matt Greenblatt are also solid picks for this group and owned by less than 10% of Fantasy players. All three finished in the Top 50 last year and appear to be capable again.
Remember to get your Fantasy Fishing picks in for this event. A $2,500 gift card to Bass Pro Shops is up for grabs again, along with a season-ending prize for the overall best Fantasy player.