Fantasy Fishing: Pick offshore specialists for BASSfest

As a former Elite Series angler I thought I’d have no problem assembling strong Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing rosters this year because I feel I know most of the Elite Series anglers' strengths and weaknesses better than most. I’d almost consider it inside information. Well, I was wrong. I’ve only had one strong roster (Bull Shoals) so far this year. Every other event has been a disaster. I’m not giving up though, especially as we get ready for BASSfest on Lake Texoma.

Lake Texoma is a massive man-made reservoir on the Texas/Oklahoma border, and most of the Elite Series field will be idling and graphing offshore in search of postspawn bass. While there’ll be anglers who find shallow-water patterns, like flipping vegetation (if the water level is up) and boat docks, the winner and most of the Top 12 will be focused out deep.

The entire Elite field has experience fishing offshore, but there are certain anglers who are better at it than others. I’m picking anglers who I feel specialize in offshore fishing — the ones who will gladly idle and graph from daylight to dark for three practice days in a row knowing that’s what it will take to find the winning school(s).

BUCKET A: COMBS

I don’t know of any angler in the field, except for maybe KVD, who has as much confidence in their deep-cranking skills as Keith Combs does. He’s coming off a fourth-place finish on Toledo Bend where he used a Strike King 6XD and 10XD to catch postspawn largemouth. He’ll be fishing the same pattern on Texoma in June.

I also like that Combs pre-fishes most of the events prior to off-limits. He made a trip to Toledo Bend prior to the cut-off to look for areas that should be holding fish during the tournament and I’m sure he did the same at Texoma.

Seriously considered: Takahiro Omori

Omori is an accomplished deep-water angler who already has a win this year fishing for offshore postspawn bass. I expect him to be hunting hard bottom areas and schools of postspawn bass on Texoma, just like he did at Wheeler.

BUCKET B: K. VANDAM

Kevin VanDam has won back-to-back Elite events before, and I could easily see him doing it again. He has both confidence and momentum coming into Texoma after his win on Toledo Bend last week, and he’ll be catching them the way he likes best — deep cranking.

I realize KVD might be the obvious pick in Bucket B, but he may be so obvious that Fantasy Fishing players intentionally leave him off their roster. Not me.

Seriously considered: Brent Chapman

After two Top-5 tournaments to open the year Chapman has struggled the last three events. I however, see a lot of similarities between Lake Texoma and Toledo Bend, where Chapman won in 2012, and had a good finish in 2014. I know he didn’t fish well on the Bend last week, but I still feel he has the offshore skills required to make the Top 12 on Texoma.

BUCKET C: FRAZIER

Micah Frazier is an angler that’s not going to be on many Fantasy Fishing rosters at this event, but he should be. Even though he doesn’t carry the name recognition of Skeet Reese or Dean Rojas, Frazier is a talented and experienced angler who fished the FLW Tour for several years before qualifying for the Elites.

Frazier has a strong offshore fishing skillset with experience on big water. He’s spent many days fishing the Tennessee River chain, and while Texoma sets up differently than the lakes on the TVA chain, he’s acquired the offshore dedication it will take to be successful here.

Seriously considered: Josh Bertrand

Bertrand started fishing the Elite Series in 2013 and he has proven he belongs by qualifying for two Classics — not to mention finishing in the Top 50 in half of the events he’s entered. Coming from Arizona, Bertrand has spent a lot of time fishing offshore and is well-rounded with the techniques that I think will be effective on Texoma, like throwing weighted swimbaits, deep-diving crankbaits, and dragging football jigs.

BUCKET D: HORTON

Like Combs and KVD, Timmy Horton is another deep-cranking specialist who loves to fish offshore. I know he hasn’t fished very well this year, but his strengths give him an advantage on Lake Texoma in early June. If he’s able to find the quality school(s) of fish needed to compete, he can certainly catch them.

Seriously considered: Brandon Card

Card is an offshore specialist who loves to fish deep. He’s spent considerable time fishing places like Douglas and Kentucky Lakes during the summer months. Not only does he know how and where to search for offshore bass, but he has the ability to catch them as well.

BUCKET E: MORGENTHALER

There’s no rule against picking an angler twice in a row, so I’m picking Chad Morgenthaler again. I know he’s best known for his shallow grass fishing skills, but he has the ability to find and catch them out deep as well. I feel he’ll use the same approach as he did on Toledo Bend — sticking to one area of the lake for the entire practice and figure out how best to catch those fish. By staying committed to one area of the lake he won’t be running all over Texoma’s massive 89,000 surface acres, which means he’ll have more time to find the fish it will take to compete.

Seriously considered: Paul Elias

I know Elias is currently in last place in the AOY race, but he’s proven his offshore prowess when he cranked and Carolina rigged his way to the podium on Lake Falcon in 2008. With more tournament experience than any angler in Bucket E, Elias might surprise some Fantasy Fishing players with a Top 12 performance.