Fantasy Fishing: Ignore your gut, go with science

After Day 1 of the Bull Shoals/Norfork Elite Series tournament, I felt like Indiana Jones running from the giant boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I really felt like finally I was going to have a good event and outrun disaster. Man…Day 2 threw me flat on my face, and that boulder rolled straight over me!

Final results

Bucket A: CHANGED

Initial Pick: Gerald Swindle (30th) 215pts

Second Guess: Britt Myers (93rd) 89pts

Difference: -126 points

Bucket B: KEPT

Initial Pick: Brent Ehrler (76th) 123pts

Second Guess: Mike McClelland (ninth) 264pts

Difference: -141 points

Bucket C: KEPT

Initial Pick: Casey Scanlon (87th) 101pts

Second Guess: Brian Snowden (10th) 260pts

Difference: -159 points

Bucket D: KEPT

Initial Pick: Mark Davis (26th) 223pts

Second Guess: Ott Defoe (32nd) 211pts

Difference: +12 points

Bucket E: CHANGED

Initial Pick: Jeff Kriet (37th) 201pts

Second Guess: Fred Roumbanis (28th) 219pts

Difference: +18 points

Total actual score: 755

Total score possible based on my selections: 1181

Difference: -426 points

After reviewing the results, I realized that I was on the right track. I had the picks nailed that would have done well in this event. The problem was, I either kept the guy who tanked, changed to the guy who tanked, or in the buckets where I improved, the amount gained was inconsequential.

I had the opportunity to jump from the 31st percentile to the 57.5th percentile. However, I dropped to the 19.7th percentile with a difference in position of a WHOPPING 10,696 places. Ouch.

So what is the science? How should I make my picks for Wheeler based on this disaster?

All of my second guesses had great records on Bull Shoals and other White River lakes, with the exception of Britt Myers, and would have done well for me. Four out of five would have even been nice, so for the sake of the science, I’m going to try to base my picks solely on history and strength of techniques to be used.

BUCKET A: LOWEN

Initial Pick: Bill Lowen

When you think of deep water cranking or dragging for postspawn bass, my mind doesn’t go immediately to Lowen. However, his record proves otherwise. In has last three runs at Wheeler, he has posted a 22nd, 25th and 16th. At Pickwick, he has a 31st and a 10th. This one should be a no brainer.

Second Guess: Randy Howell

Randy’s history is pretty awesome with one exception, a 91st at Pickwick in 1998. His abilities have certainly improved since then. At Wheeler, he has — in chronological order: 14th, 16th, 18th, 64th, 38th, 67th, fifth and 79th. On Pickwick: 23rd, 49th, and a second, plus that 91st.

My Pick: I honestly think they’ll both do well in this event. I have to give the edge to Lowen, especially with his momentum and consistency.

BUCKET B: REESE

Initial Pick: Skeet Reese

Reese seems to tear it up everywhere. He grabbed my attention at Bull Shoals/Norfork with his huge limit at Bull Shoals to help push him into second place. Eight wins on a variety of waters gives him an edge anywhere. On Wheeler, in chronological order he has a 33rd, 24th, 14th, 41st, 78th and 135th. On Pickwick he posted a 37th and a fifth. Given his ability to put his head down when he’s behind or drive forward when he’s ahead, I am comfortable banking on his crazy knack for getting it done. 

Second Guess: Mark Menendez

If I had a dollar for every time I thought someone was a done deal and tanked in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, I could buy the dang first-place prize bass boat. However, he has an awesome history after the year 2000 with few exceptions. Menendez on Wheeler: 45th, second, eighth, 12th, seventh and 91st. Pickwick is a little less impressive, but he’s still consistently in the money: 46th, 48th and 16th. Menendez also posted a 48th and a first on Pickwick in the late 90s, as well.

My Pick: I gotta stick with Reese. I’ve had my feelings hurt by Skeet before, but I believe he’ll continue to see solid finishes. My gut is screaming at me for not looking harder at Mark, though.

BUCKET C: K. VANDAM

Initial Pick: Tim Horton

This guy is a hammer when it comes to this part of the country. Not only does he live in Muscle Shoals, Ala., but he typically does well anywhere he can fish offshore with cranks and jigs. This one will be right in his wheelhouse. His finishes include: 11th, eighth, 94th, 39th, 27th, seventh, second, 14th and 11th. With the exception of that one bad finish, he has a pretty impressive history. Pickwick is pretty rough though with 44th, 53rd, 114th and 204th. Ouch.

Second Guess: Kevin VanDam

Just like all of the other pickers, I couldn’t sleep at night without throwing KVD in the mix. Because of his history on this chain of lakes and in this area, whether that’s Guntersville, Pickwick, Wheeler, Wilson, Chickamauga, Kentucky Lake or anywhere power fishing will be a factor, he is always in the mix.

The only problem with KVD will be that his Fantasy ownership percentage will be off the charts by the time the tournament begins. He has almost no momentum following a few rough finishes. KVD’s Wheeler finishes: second, 45th, second, 11th, third, 11th and 37th. Pickwick: 22nd, 57th and 26th. I don’t even need to list his other Top 12s and wins on other Tennessee River lakes.

My Pick: KVD is a hands-down favorite in this event, and that will be reflected by his ownership, but I need to have him on my team.

BUCKET D: CLAUSEN

Initial Pick: Russ Lane

Anywhere Lane he can throw his big crankbait, he’s is a happy guy. He can also stick ‘em with a worm if he has to. His finishes are seventh, 36th, 51st, 10th and 64th. Lane on Pickwick: 31st and 41st. While these do not necessarily guarantee a solid finish, something tells me to stick with him. Ugh. There’s that gut again…

Second Guess: Luke Clausen

The former Bassmaster Classic champion has a back and forth history on Wheeler and Pickwick from previous FLW appearances, including: second (2012) and 180th (2005). Pickwick is very similar.

My Pick: Since Bucket D doesn’t offer many choices with history, I’m rolling with Clausen. I hope not listening to my gut doesn’t come back to bite me.

BUCKET E: M. LEE

Initial Pick: Matt Lee

With a brief history with B.A.S.S., the elder Lee brother is a down-home ‘Bama boy, and he understands these lakes. I remember seeing his name on the college circuit, and I expect him to post a solid finish here.

Second Guess: David Walker

It was Wheeler Lake where Walker posted his first and only B.A.S.S. victory so far. He did it cranking a fish highway in between humps during all four days. I’m skeptical that a similar bite will be found, but he knows this lake.

My Pick: Matt Lee will be right at home on Wheeler, and that gives me confidence.

So this go-round, we’re using straight history as the base of my decisions. I’m intentionally ignoring my gut for the sake of science! We’ll see how it goes!

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