Balance Texans, West Coasters with offshore anglers

Falcon is not the bird she was in 2008. On that, most agree. But will she fish similarly — with the biggest and best schools found holding on offshore structure — or will a late spawning wave make shallow power fishing productive also?

Depends on who you ask.

A local bait shop assistant manager says locals are catching ’em on spinnerbaits in 3 to 4 feet.

An area fisheries biologist says low water levels (and an accompanying dearth of flooded shoreline cover) could move fish deeper, to spots like the Elites found them on in 2008.

A bassin’ TV pundit advises loading your roster with deep-fishing Western anglers.

An Elite Series pro with more experience than most on Falcon says competitors will be able to find them high, low and in between, with fish in all stages of the spawn. Says that will even the playing field between the deep and shallow guys.

My Fantasy Fishing Insider podcast co-hosts, Rich Lindgren (@HellaBass on Twitter), Jason Holmer (@BassUtopia), and I predict that at least nine of the Top 12 anglers will be fishing deeper offshore structure. With a few exceptions, we’re loading up on Texans and Californians.

So … the outlook remains as clear as Falcon Lake’s turbid water!

One thing seems certain, however, no matter whom you ask: although a one-day Falcon limit could very well outweigh a four-day Sabine River limit, weights and numbers caught this week will be down from the big-bass bonanza of 2008. Some limits will likely include 7- and 8-pounders, but not multiples in that class.

With all that in mind, your ticket to Fantasy Fishing success this week is to diversify your roster. Don’t take all Texas guys, all Western guys, all Top-12-here-last-time guys, or all offshore-specialist guys. Take a little from column A, a little from column B … you get the picture.

Listen to the Fantasy Fishing Insider pundit picks in the podcast player below. Elite Series pro Jeff Kriet and Bassmaster TV co-host Mark Zona join in the conversation as well, offering their own Fantasy Fishing roster-pick tips.


Bucket E

Because no one in the rookie bucket has much — if any — tournament history on Falcon, take a Western guy. To win in the West, you must excel at using electronics to find offshore fish.

Jason Christie (68.1% Fantasy Fishing ownership) is a stud stick for sure, but we like him better in shallow-water tournaments. Other anglers with much lower ownership percentages offer better value. Lindgren picked Arizona’s Cliff Pirch (4.6%). Holmer and I both picked Californian Kevin Hawk (6.1%).

Bucket D

Because he had a bad tournament last week, Brandon Palaniuk (37.2%) likely bounces back this week. As he showed with his win on Bull Shoals, he’s got a knack for using his electronics to find and mine offshore spots that he doesn’t have to share.

“He’s really good, as we saw on Bull Shoals, at finding specific things away from the crowds that he can milk,” Holmer says.

Lindgren picked Kurt Dove (11%) of Del Rio, Texas. Because Dove guides on Falcon, he is “probably pretty well suited in Bucket D for having a finger on the pulse of things going on” there, he explains. But not in 2008, however, when Dove placed 103rd on Falcon.

I considered Dove but went with another Texan, Matt Reed (15.5%). Madisonville is not close enough to Falcon to make Reed a local, but he’s clearly confident competing in his home state in the spring: 10th on Amistad (early March 2006); 16th on Sam Rayburn (mid-March 2008); 17th on Amistad (mid-March 2009); and 23rd on Falcon (April 2008).

Consider also Jason Quinn (6.7%), a deep-structure specialist from South Carolina. He finished 25th on Falcon in 2008.

See picks for buckets C, B and A on the next page.

Bucket C

Holmer and I both are taking Jason “Tower of Power” Williamson (6.1%), who placed eighth on Falcon in 2008. Williamson has said Falcon is his favorite lake and that jigging deep structure is his favorite technique.

Lindgren’s going with Takahiro Omori (13.8%), who finished 22nd here in 2008 in the Elite Series tournament and 19th in another pro tournament trail derby.

Bucket B

Lindgren picked Jeff Kriet, whom I was considering also. Kriet has more experience on Falcon than most, having filmed several fishing shows here with Mark Zona and others. He finished 26th here in 2008. Upriver on Amistad, he’s finished 11th, 19th and 21st in March tournaments.

I’m also considering Mark Davis who, following wrist surgery in the offseason, appears to be returning to the form that saw him winning a Classic and Angler of the Year honors in 1995. A postspawn, deep-structure specialist, Davis has won five B.A.S.S. events and last week finished ninth in the tough Sabine event.

Holmer picked Terry Scroggins, who staged an impressive comeback (44.4 pounds on Day 4!) to finish runner-up to Paul Elias here in 2008, falling only ounces short of the win.

Consider also Native Californian and current Weatherford, Texas, resident, Gary Klein (2.2%); Kelly Jordon, Mineola, Texas, resident and Lake Fork Tackle-sponsored angler (9.6%); and Oklahoman Tommy Biffle (1%), who could be one of the few shallow-water guys to make the Top 12.

Bucket A

Kevin VanDam (17.2%) is a threat to win any tournament he’s in, especially one in which cranking deep and spinnerbaiting shallow are likely to be in play. We’ll all be shocked if he isn’t a factor this week.

However, VanDam is not the most-owned angler in Bucket A this week. That honor falls to Alton Jones (20.9%), who finished eighth last week on the Sabine. He’s a pretty safe pick, considering that we have it on good authority that he parks a trailer down at Falcon about once a month and fishes there. On the other hand, he finished 44th here in 2008.

Holmer picked Aaron Martens (8.9%), who famously finished fourth here in 2008, having shared an offshore spot, harsh words and hurt feelings with Byron Velvick, who finished third. A California native, Martens is a master at using his electronics to find fish. If the bass are suspending this week, he might indeed have the best chance to best find and catch them.

Lindgren and I both like Keith Combs (7.3%). Although he was not in the Elites when BASS came here in 2008, he has competed on Falcon a few times, finishing second, 11th and 21st in mid-major tournaments on another pro circuit.

Something is telling me, however, to take 2013 Bassmaster Classic champ Cliff Pace, who at 0.9% ownership is a tremendous value. I found no definitive stats, however, to back up what would, essentially, be a gut pick. And while it’s crazy to see the Classic champ with less than 1% ownership, I’m not surprised. I wrote several times last year about how Pace was consistently undervalued. That, however, was when he was in Buckets D and C.

Who are you picking? Debate our roster picks and yours in the comments section below.