Don’t go all-in on Seminole sight bite

Although some conditions seem ripe for a sight-fishing slugfest on Seminole this week, don’t go all-in on anglers adept at lookin’ at ’em. You’d be wise to balance out your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing roster.

I don’t have the space here to defend why I think sight fishing won’t be the main deal this week, but I came to that conclusion during an in-depth interview with local Seminole stick Matt Baty. You can hear that conversation in my podcast, Fantasy Fishing Insider.

On the days that sight fishing is tough, the best bags will likely come from anglers targeting fat prespawners in staging areas near spawning flats. That will probably mean ripping lipless crankbaits and shallow-running lipped crankbaits through the top of Seminole’s plentiful hydrilla. Mining creek channel edges with deep-running crankbaits and flipping hyacinths up really shallow could be productive too.

To determine likely Fantasy favorites, I reviewed results of three February tournaments on Seminole, and of several tournaments held in March on similar lowland reservoirs.

Bucket A: Martens or Rojas

Despite two out-of-the-money finishes on Seminole in colder-than-normal February tournaments, Aaron Martens (9.4 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership) is the angler to beat if prespawn patterns trump sight fishing. He placed fifth here in a late February Bassmaster 150 when water temps were in the low 60s and the tournament launched four days after a full moon. The moon will be full this week here.

In March on comparable lowland reservoirs, Martens’ best finishes were second, third, fourth and 10th. And it didn’t matter if sight fishing was hot or not. Considering his momentum coming off winning 2013 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year and a Top 15 in the Classic, Martens will be tough to beat no matter what the weather does or what pattern emerges as best.

If conditions align perfectly for sight fishing, take Dean Rojas (1.6 percent). His ownership percentage is way too low for an angler with a solid history in prespawn/spawn events on lowland reservoirs. And while his February history on Seminole is uneven (11th, 34th and 144th), he’s been impressive in March/early April on comparable fisheries — first, fourth, Toledo Bend; second, Sam Rayburn; sixth, eighth, Santee Cooper; 14th, Falcon.

Honorable mention: Michael Iaconelli.

Bucket B: Jordon or Combs

Kelly Jordon (0.7 percent) placed 14th and 19th on Seminole in February prespawn tournaments. He’s comfortable here, he explained once, because it fishes similarly to reservoirs back home in Texas. And he’s been good in March tournaments on those Texas waters and other comparable lowland reservoirs — third on Falcon; third on Lake Murray; sixth on Sam Rayburn; and ninth on Santee Cooper.

Picking Jordon might also score you 40 bonus points for Big Bass. Jordon is tied with two other Elite Series pros, Greg Hackney and Takahiro Omori, for catching a tournament’s biggest bass the most times (as Ken Duke, Bassmaster Senior Editor, documented in this column).

A safer bet might be Keith Combs (2.6 percent), a young gun who’s made more Sunday cuts in the last couple years than has Jordon. Although he doesn’t have Seminole experience, Combs has been dynamite on comparable lowland reservoirs — first, Falcon; and ninth, 10th, 14th and 19th, Sam Rayburn (includes some lower-tier circuit results). Remember what Jordon said about Seminole fishing similar to Texas reservoirs …

Honorable mention: John Crews.

Bucket C: B. Hite or Reed

Two-tour angler Brett Hite (2.3 percent) is on a tear, having won his first major event of the year on Okeechobee and finishing sixth on Hartwell last week. He placed second on Seminole in an early February 2002 Bassmaster Tour event. Iaconelli won that one, which was not a sight-fishing fest.

Matt Reed (0.3 percent), is an under-the-radar grinder with a decent finish on Seminole in February (21st place) and several decent showings on comparable lowland reservoirs in March — fifth on Santee Cooper; 16th on Sam Rayburn; and 22nd and 23rd on Falcon.

Honorable mention: Kotaro Kiriyama.

Bucket D: Omori or Schultz

Although Takahiro Omori (12.1 percent) struggled on Seminole in three February tournaments a decade ago or longer, he’s fared much better (by bucket D standards) in March tournaments on comparable lowland reservoirs in March — first and eighth on Sam Rayburn; 22nd on Santee Cooper; 25th on Lake Murray. Omori is also one the Big Bass leaders, as per Ken Duke’s data.

Inexplicably, Bernie Schultz (5.8 percent) generally fares better on Northern smallmouth waters than he does in his home state of Florida (which Seminole borders). But March events on the lowland reservoirs of Georgia, Texas and South Carolina have produced some of his better finishes closer to home — sixth on Seminole in a late-February 2000 sight-fishing slugfest; 15th on Falcon in March 2008; 21st, March 2000, Lake Murray; and 25th, March 2006, Santee Cooper (another sight-fishing smackdown). I see him succeeding by sight fishing when it’s productive to do so, and throwing topwaters and crankbaits when conditions frustrate the sight bite.

Bucket E: Prince or Powroznik

Most Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing owners are picking Floridian Cliff Prince (31.7 percent), likely because Seminole sits on the Florida-Georgia border and because he placed fourth here in a 2010 Southern Open. But that was in October, so it might not mean much as a predictor for a March event. Then again, he lives on Florida’s St. Johns River, so he’s likely no stranger to sight fishing holes in grass near current.

Although Jacob Powroznik (11.4 percent) hails from the East Coast and has only fished four Bassmaster events, all of them up North, he was a B-level stick on the FLW tour, with 10 Top 10s and seven trips to that circuit’s championship. So he’s a little undervalued in Bucket E. My research yielded no Seminole experience for him, but he does have a Top 20 in a mid-April event on Santee Cooper.

Honorable mentions: Texans Trevor Romans (0.7 percent) and Mike Kernan (0.5 percent).

I’ve researched almost every angler in the field’s history on Seminole and on comparable fisheries in March, so if you’d like stats for my “honorable mentions,” or anyone I didn’t mention above, post a request in the comments section below and I will reply. You can also hit me up on my Facebook page, or listen to my podcast, Fantasy Fishing Insider, below.

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