Climbing Clarks Hill

How's your fantasy season going? Are you running away with things like Skeet Reese is doing in the Elite Series, or are you hanging in there, counting on a few strong finishes to make your run? Hopefully, you're not languishing near the bottom of your league, struggling to support your allegations that you know the pro game better than your buddies.

Wherever you stand right now, we've got your smart money picks right here. And while they come with no guarantee, they should hold you in pretty good stead at Clarks Hill.

Clarks Hill has been a regular stop for BASS over the past five years or so. The Elite Series has been here three times before, and a tour stop in 2005 featured most of the same anglers.

Word from the water is that the fishing's tough. Boyd Duckett reported in his blog that keepers are few and far between. Even Skeet Reese is supposed to be struggling. The bass are chasing blueback herring, not holding on ledges or creek channels. There's some schooling activity, but not enough to go around, and getting in the mix for the schoolers is likely to only keep an angler in the middle of the pack, not show the way to the winner's circle.

Someone's going to figure them out and take home a big check.

In a tournament that promises to be so tough, it can make a lot of sense to go with some of the locals. They have more experience on this body of water and likely have more options lined up if things don't go well at first.

There are absolutely no guarantees at Clarks Hill. Even the anglers who have won here have struggled mightily in other tournaments. That said, here are 10 pros who are likely to put up solid numbers on Clarks Hill and a couple who just might stumble.

Group A

Skeet Reese — Duh! I'm not jumping off this bandwagon until the wheels come off. Reese is having one of the greatest seasons in BASS history and finished in the top 10 the last two times we were here.

Kevin VanDam — He's going to come around ... and likely soon. My money's on KVD to post another good finish this week. He was fourth here in May of 2008 and probably learned something then that will help him now.

Mike McClelland — If there's an offshore jig bite, expect Big Mac to do well — maybe even win, which he did in 2007. In four tries at Clarks Hill, he's never been worse than 30th. He's the most consistent performer on the lake.

Michael Iaconelli — Ike's record on Clarks Hill has been spotty. His best finish came in 2005, when he was fifth. Nevertheless, in a tough tournament he usually finds a way to do well. He's definitely a short lister.

Other good choices: If you're not sold on the four "A" listers above, you might want to try Aaron Martens (11th here in 2007), Randy Howell (three straight top 30 finishes at the Hill) or Kevin Wirth (generally solid here except for a slip in 2008). They should all make some cuts this weekend.

Group B

Edwin Evers — After a lackluster 2009, Double E is back where he belongs — challenging for an Angler of the Year title. Clarks Hill should keep him in the hunt. He was 19th here in 2007 and third in 2008.

Casey Ashley — Ashley grew up fishing on Clarks Hill and caught his first bass here. In two Elite appearances on the Hill, he was eighth and fifth. With the fishing being tough, he might be due to pick up his second Elite win.

Davy Hite — The two-time AOY grew up north of Clarks Hill, fishing Lake Murray, but he still has lots of experience here and won in 2006. Leave him off your roster at your peril.

Peter Thliveros — He's not having a very good year so far, but Peter T has always performed well at Clarks Hill. He sandwiched an 18th place finish in 2007 between two eighth place finishes in 2006 and 2008. Expect the success to continue.

Other good choices in Group B: Jared Lintner and Fred "Boom-Boom" Roumbanis are two California guys who have adapted well to Clarks Hill. Expect both to make the first cut ... maybe even the cut to 12. Their western success on the Hill just continues that of former Elite pro Mike Reynolds, who won here in 2005.

Group C

Kenyon Hill — He won here last time, but Hill has been very inconsistent. Along with the win (2008) and second place finish (2006), he was 130th (2005) and 72nd (2007). But the bad performances were in March and April. His good finishes both came in May.

John Crews — After a couple of tournaments on the "Do Not Pick" list, Crews has made me a believer. In the last three events on Clarks Hill, he has two top 10 finishes, plus he's fishing really well this year.

Other good choices in Group C: Greg Vinson continues to impress. He desperately wants to fish the postseason at home and knows he can't have a letdown. Jason Quinn has had two top 15 finishes here in his last three tries.

That's who's you should put on your team. But there are just as many anglers out there that you should avoid ... at least when it comes to Clarks Hill. You may want to resist the urge to pick one of these guys for your fantasy team:

Takahiro Omori — The 2004 Bassmaster Classic champ is on the bubble to qualify for 2011, so he'll be giving it his all. Unfortunately for Tak, he struggles on Clarks Hill. In his last four tries, his best finish is 51st.

John Murray — Clarks Hill has been no friend to the affable Arizonian. His best finish in the last four events was 51st in 2007, and word from the water is that he's struggling in practice.