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Casey Kmiecik: Inaugural Drain the Lake champion

In the inaugural season of Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge, Casey Kmiecik (caseyk05) dominated the competition and took home the grand prize. The Wisconsin native will be rewarded with a round trip package to fish with Bassmaster LIVE host Mark Zona in Michigan next spring with an estimated value of $1,550. All of Kmiecik’s airfare and hotel accommodations will be paid for along with an extra $150 spending money. An additional $500 Bass Pro Shops gift card was rewarded because Kmiecik is a B.A.S.S. member.

Over the course of a shortened season for Drain the Lake that started with the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork, Kmiecik tallied a staggering 12,510 points. As an avid bass fisherman himself, Kmiecik loves the Drain the Lake format of Fantasy Fishing because he feels there is more strategy to it. We were able to catch up with the champion and get some insight on his Drain the Lake strategy.

How many years have you played Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing?

I’ve played since it was started. At least 10 years or so I am guessing.

What were your initial thoughts when Drain the Lake was announced?

I thought it was a really cool idea. My initial thought was who am I going to save until the end of the year with the smallmouth tournaments at the end of the season.

Which game do you prefer now that you’ve played both formats? 

I think they’re both a lot of fun. I’ll always play both of them, but I like Drain the Lake better because I feel like there is way more strategy involved.

What was your main strategy when selecting your Drain the Lake rosters?

I obviously knew that the Lake Champlain and St. Lawrence River events were at the end of the season, so I made it a point to save all of my smallmouth fisherman for the last two events. I didn’t put a lot of strategy into the first few tournaments besides picking who I felt was going to do well based on fishing styles.

Did you tend to select anglers based on momentum or history?

I didn’t really do any research as far as going back and looking how an angler did at a specific lake or river. I just kind of went off of my memory of how they did in the past on those lakes or even similar lakes. I may have picked an angler on Lake Guntersville that did well on Lake Chickamauga last fall because they’re both Tennessee River impoundments. If someone is good at finesse fishing then I’d pick them for a specific tournament or if someone is a good grass fisherman, I’d use them in one.

What was your highest finish of the year?

I finished eighth overall at Lake Champlain.

How far in advance do you set your lineups before each event?

I was setting my lineups the Monday morning following each tournament. I would get to work and set my lineup the first day after the event was over. 

How often did you change your lineup? 

Never. In the past when I would change my lineup, it would always come back to bite me. I think we tend to overthink it too much.

Are you looking forward to fishing with Mark Zona?

I’m really looking forward to that. Mercury already reached out to me and we are going to fish Lake St. Clair next April, so that should be a lot of fun.

If you had to give Drain the Lake players one piece of advice to be successful, what would it be? 

If you could map out the 2022 Elite Series season, try to pick the winner for each event and save that angler for that event. With the bonus points, you basically have to pick the winner to be up there. I picked the winner in four of the six tournaments which helped a lot. If there is a smallmouth swing at the end, make sure to save your smallmouth anglers for those tournaments because they’re almost a lock on those northern smallmouth fisheries.