Big Bass catchers will earn you bonus points

Need big finishes in the next two tournaments to save your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing season? You’ll earn big bonus points by picking an angler likely to catch a Carhartt Big Bass.

"The bonus points are where you really make up ground,” advises Brett Baker, president and owner of Big Game Software, the company that manages the program that runs Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing. “If someone places 10 points better than someone else in the standings, it may not equate to huge number of points more for that one tournament. But if they're also getting bonus points for having gotten big fish … that can really make up points faster. And in that scenario, very few other people are getting those points."

Anglers who catch the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament score 40 bonus points for the Fantasy Fishing players that picked them.

Great, you may be thinking, not only do I have to guess the anglers who will finish highest in their buckets, I also have to guess who will catch the biggest fish? That’s impossible!

Not necessarily. Some anglers consistently catch more big fish and weigh heavier stringers than others. And they may not be the ones you think.

“Not to put these guys down because I love ’em and they’re great sticks, but Ish Monroe and Bobby Lane have bigger reputations for catching big fish than the numbers would support,” said Ken Duke, Senior Editor of B.A.S.S. Publications and chronicler of even the most esoteric Elite Series competition stats. “So, don’t buy into the hype, folks!”

“But wait,” I implored Duke in a recent phone conversation, “isn’t Bobby Lane’s nickname Big Fish Bobby Lane? Doesn’t Bassmaster Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer call Ish Monroe the BBS — Big Bass Specialist?”

“Those guys do catch some big fish,” said Duke, “but as far as catching big fish in Elite Series events goes, those guys are good, but they’re not as good as some of the other guys out there.”

Guys like Todd Faircloth, Kelly Jordon, Greg Hackney, Dean Rojas, Randy Howell and Brent Chapman lead the Elite Series in daily Big Bass catches (as Duke documented in this column).

“Those guys are really good at it,” Duke told me, explaining that each excels also at catching big numbers of bass. And from there, the law of averages is a factor. “These are the guys that. Day in, day out, they’ve got a limit in the boat by 10 o’clock, so they’ve got an opportunity to go out and look for that kicker.”

But catching a daily Big Bass doesn’t earn Fantasy Fishing bonus points unless it holds up as Big Bass of the tournament. For that, Jordon, Greg Hackney and Takahiro Omori are tops, each having won a tournament Big Bass award three times, according to Duke’s research. Fourteen others have caught the tournament big bass twice. Faircloth is one of them.

Faircloth has a system to catch big kicker fish, Duke said. “He’s got a plan for how many pounds of fish he thinks it’s going to take to be competitive, and he doesn’t stop fishing in that basic pattern until he gets to that number. And then he immediately starts pulling out all the stops, going for broke. Maybe making a long run, looking for a big fish; working isolated cover, looking for that big bite; things like that.”

So now that we’ve identified the Kings of Lunker Mountain, as Duke would say, how do we spin that info in Fantasy Fishing gold?

Value adds.

You shouldn’t pick Faircloth, Jordon, Hackney and Omori week in and week out (assuming you even could, based on which bucket they are in). You should, however, give the nod to one of those guys if and when he’s among a handful of anglers in one bucket who seem equally capable of finishing highest in that bucket (after comparing standard Fantasy Fishing metrics such as Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year momentum, performance history and skills-vs.-conditions.)

It’s like splitting eights in Blackjack: You don’t always win with the strategy, but a pair of eights does afford you an opportunity to score bonus points. So, attempt to capitalize on the opportunity whenever you can.

Let’s say you’re on the fence between picking Takahiro Omori, Stephen Browning and Kevin Short in a bucket in a river tournament. And let’s say Omori’s ownership is 2.5 percent, Browning’s is 5 percent and Short’s is 2 percent. (If you missed my column explaining how to use ownership percentage to your advantage in Fantasy Fishing, read it here.)

Short and Browning are self-styled river rats. Omori is a statistical river rat because he consistently makes Top 20s on rivers. So we’ll say that in their bucket, these three are the clear favorites but seem pretty equally matched when compared side by side. Seems like a classic “Pick’em” bet right?

Not so fast. This is when you split your eights and pick Omori, playing the odds to win a Big Bass bonus.

"In the case where the angler has [low] ownership,” says Baker, “if that angler does particularly well — especially if the angler qualifies for bonus points — then only [a small] percent of how ever many tens of thousands of entries that exist are going to get [the bonus. That’s why those bonus points are so important.”

An angler who places 12th will earn you 254 Fantasy points. The angler who places 20th earns you 235. That’s a difference of eight places and 19 points. But if Omori places 20th and Short places 12th, but Omori catches the tournament’s Big Bass, Omori would score you 275 to Short’s 254, a difference in your favor of 21 points. And if Short finishes 20th and Omori finishes 12th, also along with Big Bass, you’d outscore by 59 points in one bucket the guy who picked Short (294 to 235). That’s a huge payoff, especially considering Omori and Short initially seemed fairly evenly matched.

You also get 40 bonus points if your angler wins the Berkley Heavyweight Award for weighing in the heaviest five-fish limit of the tournament. You get five bonus points when an angler on your roster ends the day with the tournament lead (including on Day 4).

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