PALATKA, Fla. — Before you decide on an angler in each Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing bucket for the Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River, take a minute to look at what names are in each bucket. Each bucket offers several anglers who have a strong chance at winning on the St. Johns River this week.
Did you notice that Kevin VanDam is not in Bucket A? Not only did he fall into Bucket B, but he is not even the favorite at only 12.5% Fantasy Fishing ownership. I never thought I would say this, but that makes KVD an underdog going into an Elite Series event.
VanDam is not the only surprise. Terry Scroggins, who lives in Palatka, Fla., the city hosting the tournament, is in Bucket C. Edwin Evers, one of the most consistent anglers on tour — who has an Elite Series trophy from the St. Johns — is in Bucket E, along with the 2014 Bassmaster Classic champion, Randy Howell.
The good news with this mixing of the buckets means that the St. Johns could play host to one of the highest Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing scores ever — that is, if history repeats itself.
Who is still in shock that KVD and Skeet Reese are not in Bucket A? The last couple years, making your choice in Bucket A has been the game of picking between KVD and the rest of the field. That question will have to go down a bucket now for this event.
Alton Jones is my pick for the St. Johns River in Bucket A. The Elite Series has been to the St. Johns twice in the last three years at this same time of year. Alton Jones took home a third-place finish in 2011 and claimed that Elite Series trophy with a win in 2012. Alton has always excelled fishing the spring. If the bass are anywhere around the beds, you can bet that Jones will be near the top of the leaderboard. The biggest surprise to me is that with Jones’ history at the St. Johns and this time of year, he is only owned by 1.9% of Fantasy Fishing players. This makes Alton Jones one of the safest gambles on a low percentage owned angler for an Elite Series event.
Todd Faircloth is another strong contender for a title at the St. Johns, with a fourth-place finish in 2011 and a second-place finish in 2012. Faircloth is also a Fantasy Fishing steal at only 5 percent ownership.
Jared Lintner may seem like a true dark horse for this bucket, but do not overlook his history at the St. Johns. Lintner was 14th in 2011 and 38th in 2012. Very few anglers were able to repeat their results from 2011 to 2012 at the St. Johns, but Lintner was one of the best. With a 2.1 percent ownership, Lintner is a strong choice as well.
Anytime the Elite Series visits a Florida fishery, a local Floridian is a solid choice. Only one other angler (Terry Scroggins) lives as close as Cliff Prince does, and I will talk about him in the next bucket.
Prince is the highest-owned angler of the bucket at 32.9 percent. I am no real fan of taking the favorite for any bucket, but how can you deny an angler who took a 16th-place finish at his home water in 2012? That was one of Prince’s first Elite Series events. Now, Prince understands the routine of an Elite Series event after a few years on tour. The nerves of fishing an event on your home water in front of all your family and friends will always be there, but it should be much easier for Prince to manage those nerves this year than in 2012.
The second-most owned angler at 30.6 percent, Randall Tharp, has to be strongly considered for the St. Johns. Tharp is considered an Elite Series rookie, but he has the experience required for a win and is fishing with the confidence to do more than just make a check.
Did you think I was going to pass on KVD as one of my favorites for this event? KVD has finished in the Top 25 the last two times the Elite Series visited the St. Johns River. To say the scariest man in bass fishing is the fifth-most owned angler in Bucket B at 12.5 percent is crazy to think of. Does this spark KVD to return to typical KVD form? I sure hope it does and that we to see him go on a tear that only KVD can.