Regardless of your feelings on smallmouth fishing and the use of front facing sonar in these northern events, there are so many storylines to follow in this event. We have the tightest AOY race in recent memory going into this final event with legitimate 5-6 anglers with realistic chances to bring home their first Bassmaster Elite Series AOY.
On top of that, Fujita and Cifuentes will battle it out for ROY while clinging to long shot aspirations of AOY. Further down the AOY list around the 40th position, there will be several anglers battling to stay in or move up into 2024 Bassmaster Classic qualification.
While we don’t have requalification lines in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, and Pete Robbins and Kyle Jessie are thankful for that, in the real world of the Bassmaster Elite Series we have nine hungry Bassmater Open Pros ready to move up to the Elite Series which means there are several anglers fighting to re qualify for 2024.
Lastly, many of you reading this are battling for bragging rights in your local fantasy fishing groups and some even still are within striking distance of winning some great prizes from Rapala, so make sure you stack your team with smallmouth experts.
If Mother Nature allows the anglers to get out and do their work on Lake Ontario we are going to see a whole lot more dominance from front facing sonar. If the wind blows a bit, we may see more traditional drifting and fishing in the river be more of a factor. Best to balance your team with anglers that can do both and have experience out of Clayton so they can pivot based on what conditions call for.
BUCKET A: WALTERS
Patrick Walters used to be a dicey pick on the northern swing, but Patrick has put in the hours staying after events the last few seasons to up his up north smallie game. I feel confident he will be in the hunt for this tournament and the AOY at week’s end. My only concern is if the weather is not warm enough for him to wear shorts all week.
Back to Back?
If Kyoya Fujita would have not won on Champlain, I would be more likely to pick him for this event. Being August and out of Clayton, as long as wind doesn’t blow too bad, things should set up well for Fujita. Also, we have no stats or history for Fujita here.
BUCKET B: JOHNSTON
I am kind of surprised that 30% of fantasy players are not picking a Johnston brother in Bucket B. I am going Chris Johnston, not sure why, just felt right. I won’t bore you with any statistics on why they are both great options.
I guess you could make a case for Palaniuk but it’s hard for me to recommend anyone pick anyone without the last name Johnston for this event and you should have both on your Drain the Lake team. So if not Chris, then pick Cory!
BUCKET C: ITO
Since making my picks, I have heard that Taku Ito may have an injured arm and might be fishing off handed with spinning rods for these giant brown behemoths, but smallmouth bass love Taku, so I am not too worried. Bring on the shrimp scent and smallmouth fireworks!
If you are looking to be sneaky and still take a guy that has a lot of upside and is definitely a threat to win out on Lake Ontario, Paul Mueller might be your guy. He has two Top 5’s in his last three visits to the venue and one year he had nearly an 8lb big bass. Those are the kind of bonus points that can vault a fantasy roster.
BUCKET D: FOUTZ
On Sunday Jacob Foutz came in saying he felt terrible and felt like he was getting sick on Champlain, but then Monday he brought in the heaviest bag of the final day, so I am not going to let that deter me from riding his hot smallie hand this week. If you are worried he has the flu, then see my backup pick below.
Sophomore Smallie Snatcher
It was really a coin flip for me in this bucket between Alex Redwine and Foutz. They both have been on a roll in the last two events and Redwine went three for three in checks in the 2022 northern swing plus he fished out of Clayton in a Bassmaster Open to qualify for the Elites.
BUCKET E: PIPKENS
Chad Pipkens has been a cut making / check cashing machine on the St. Lawrence with very few exceptions and actually prefers this style of fishing more than St Clair and other smallmouth fisheries. Pipkens seems like the safest play in Bucket E.
Micah Frazier has won on Thousand Islands before, but that event was out of Waddington. He has had good smallie events but has struggled some since events have been moved to Clayton, but he is worth a shot in Bucket E.
Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge
One event remains for the Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge. This additional Fantasy Fishing game not only offers a fresh way to play the game, but a completely separate prize pool. Drain the Lake is an elimination or survivor style game where you can only use an angler once all season.
Did you have enough good anglers left on your roster to hold on?
- Chris Johnston
- Cory Johnston
- Joey Cifuentes
- Paul Mueller
- Brandon Palaniuk
- Cooper Gallant
- Bob Downey
- Justin Atkins