Fantasy Fishing: Embrace the new paradigm, with a few exceptions

Just like many of the anglers who reside in my 50-plus age group, I got rocked last week at Toledo Bend. Of course, for them it happened on the water, and they paid a hefty ransom to play, while mine was just a Fantasy Fishing ego bruise, but it hurt nonetheless.

When will I get it through my head that 2010 results may have some value, but only in context?

Perhaps never, but I’m trying to open my mind a bit to understand both the new actors and the changes that the sport has gone through. Nevertheless, I’m resisting picking exclusively under-30 scopers, partially because of the movement we saw on Sunday – when Texas fish headed to the bank in a big way. As one Elite pro said to me, “Even if 30 of the top 50 are off the bank, several of the top 10 may be looking at them.” That’s logic I can live with – I just hope that I pick the right few.

With that in mind, here are my choices for Lake Fork:


My Pick: If you’re going to win at Fork, you have to be able to throw down hundos, and over the past few Elite events no one has done that better than Kyoya Fujita. The few times he stumbled last year, he stumbled big, but just about every other time he’s been in the running to win – including four Elite Top 10s in a row. He seems to understand the FFS game as well as anyone, but don’t sleep on the fuzzy dice that helped him last year.

Solid Backup: The haters came out in full force against Ben Milliken, but at Toledo Bend he did the 402 proud, and another adopted home state derby plays to his strengths. It’s going to be an incredible Rookie of the Year race and he should be in the thick of it.


My Pick: I met Kyle Patrick three years ago at Lake El Salto and he told me he was going to be an Elite pro. I scoffed, because I’ve heard that a thousand times, but I’ve watched him progress and he never stumbles. You’d expect a young dude from the northeast to get crushed when he steps outside of his lane, but he just keeps getting better. If I was ever a doubter, he proved himself at Toledo and now I’m a complete believer.

Solid Backup: He’s not yet 25, yet Jay Przekurat seems like a veteran compared to this class of rookies. He’s shown he can win and he’s been doing the electronics thing longer than most of them. Fork wasn’t kind to him last time but he’s a low ownership sleeper pick.


My Pick: Lee Livesay. Until he doesn’t win. Or come in the top five. Not a secret.

Solid Backup: If you can’t bring yourself to pick the overwhelming home lake favorite, consider Kenta Kimura, who had a breakout Elite Season last year, excels with big baits, and finished 14th the last time the Elite Series came to Fork.


My Pick: I picked Scott Martin last week and he disappointed me, ending up 83rd. Yes, he’s playing with money in the bank after winning at Okeechobee, but that just frees him up to win again (see, Fujita, Kyoya, Momentum Pick, above). He struggled the last time the Elites were here, but he’s too good to start off the Elite season on two great fisheries with two subpar results.

Solid Backup: Jason Christie also struggled at Toledo – thus the Bucket D placement – but whether it’s chasing them shallow or diddling a little worm in the open, expect him to be on top. He’s never had a great B.A.S.S. finish at Fork, but he’s never missed the check line, either.


My Pick: During his rookie season, Bryant Smith was on fire, including setting a one-day B.A.S.S. smallmouth record. He’s from the big fish country of Northern California and after a debacle at Toledo will get back on track before the Classic.

Solid Backup: Brandon Cobb won here in 2019 and this is his time of year. I toyed with whether to take him but gave a slight edge to Smith.

Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

Brandon Cobb
Wesley Gore
Kenta Kimura
Lee Livesay
Scott Martin
Ben Milliken
Bryant Smith
Patrick Walters