ESCANABA, Mich. — Are you considering a roster of lesser-owned dark horses to make a move against the field in the final week of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing competition? Before you do, be sure to factor in momentum, intangibles and angler history in summer and fall tournaments dominated by smallmouth catches. Several heavily owned favorites are likely to live up to expectations.
Base your analysis of angler history on finishes in tournaments on Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and the St. Lawrence River. My review of that tournament data helped me identify a “safe bet” and dark horse “bold bet” in each bucket.
Safe Bet — Aaron Martens (31.8 percent ownership)
Bold Bet — Jacob Powroznik (4.1 percent)
In 10 summer/fall tournaments on smallmouth waters between 2000 and 2014, Aaron Martens (31.8 percent ownership) finished outside the Top 20 only once. Of those finishes, six were Top 12s. And of those finishes, three were Top 5s — including a runner-up on Erie in August 2008. Seven of the nine tournaments he scored a Top 20 in were top-level events (one Classic, one FLW Tour event and four Elite Series events). The other two were Opens.
His last three finishes were 20th, St. Clair (Bassmaster Open); 15th, Cayuga (Elite Series); 28th, Delaware River (Elite).
Intangibles: Only 15 points behind Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year leader Greg Hackney, Martens’ history suggests he has a legitimate shot to repeat as Angler of the Year. To win AOY, Hackney must finish higher than his historical average in summer/fall smallmouth tournaments, and Martens must finish below his average.
If you need Martens to stumble in order to make a move against the huge portion of the field that picked him, consider Jacob Powroznik (4.1 percent). In nine summer/fall smallie-dominated derbies between 2004 and 2013, he finished outside the Top 50 only twice. Of those finishes, four were Top 12’s, including a third-place on the St. Lawrence River in an August 2012 FLW Everstart.
Intangibles: A strong showing assures Powroznik a Rookie of the Year title.
Last three finishes: sixth, Cayuga; 24th, Delaware River; 31st, Chickamauga (BASSfest).
Safe Bet – Edwin Evers (38.1 percent)
Bold Bet – Chad Morgenthaler (3.9 percent)
In seven comparable tournaments, Edwin Evers (38.1 percent) missed the Top 50 only twice. In addition to three finishes in the 20s or 30s, he won in July 2007 (Erie, Elites) and placed third in August 2008 (Erie, Elites).
Intangibles: Pride. Evers’ competitive fire burns hot. Last season, a great shot at AOY slipped away. This season, his name hasn’t been mentioned in the same sentence as AOY since spring. A Top 12 this week could vault him up from 16th in the AOY race to the top floor, where he’s expected to reside.
Last three finishes: fourth, Cayuga; 13th, Delaware River; 38th, Chickamauga.
Your best chance to make a significant move against the field in Bucket A is for Chad Morgenthaler (3.9 percent) to overachieve and the favorites to stumble. In four summer/fall smallmouth tournaments, he has been decent or dismal — 17th, 24th, 88th and 163rd.
Intangibles: He’s due (see his last three finishes, below). A Top 12 here and a stumble by Powroznik could make the final lap of Rookie of the Year race a little more compelling.
Last three finishes: 56th, Cayuga; 75th, Delaware River; 55th, Chickamauga.
Safe Bet — Mike Iaconelli (23.6 percent)
Bold Bet — Bill Lowen (4.4. percent)
In 11 summer/fall smallmouth-dominated tournaments, Mike Iaconelli (23.6 percent) can boast a win and four additional Top 10 finishes. In those 11 events, he finished outside the Top 50 only twice.
Last three tournaments: 19th, Cayuga (Elites); winner, Delaware River (Elites); third, Champlain (Open).
Intangibles: Few anglers are on a better roll right now than Ike. A confident Ike on Northern smallmouth waters? Watch out!
In nine summer/fall smallmouth-centric tournaments dating back to 2013, Bill Lowen finished in the Top 50 every time but one. His best finish is 13th on Erie in a 2007 Elite event. Other highlights: four finishes in the Top 20 — three on Erie, one on Lake Michigan.
Last three finishes: 43rd, Cayuga; seventh, Delaware River; 27th, Chickamauga.
Intangibles: Lowen is as consistent as they come, often weighing a very similar weight each day of the tournament. I like that quality in a tournament where you’ll likely see anglers fall from the penthouse or jump up from the cellar from day to day. At 27th in AOY points, he hasn’t been mathematically guaranteed a Classic spot yet, but Ken Duke says it will be extremely difficult to unseat anyone in the Top 32.
Safe Bet — Kevin Short (11 percent)
Bold Bet — Bernie Schultz (2 percent)
In 11 smallmouth-dominated tournaments dating back to 2007, Kevin Short (11.3 percent) has notched three Top 15 finishes. In those 11 events, he finished outside of the Top 50 only three times.
Last three finishes: ninth, Cayuga; fourth, Delaware River; 63rd, Chickamauga.
Intangibles: Huge. Read this column by Don Barone.
Despite hailing from Florida, Bernie Schultz (2 percent) often excels in tournaments on Northern smallmouth waters. That history makes him a great value this week.
In nine smallie-centric tournaments between 2000 and 2013, he finished in the Top 10 twice (sixth and ninth) and outside of the Top 50 only three times.
Intangibles: Another Top 12 here and Schultz could be Classic-bound.
Last three finishes: 37th, Cayuga; 29th, Delaware River; 99th, Chickamauga.
Safe Bet — Davy Hite, 6.2 percent
Bold Bet — Brian Snowden, 2.9 percent
In seven tournaments on smallie waters dating back to 2000, Davy Hite (6 percent) won once (St. Clair, 2001), notched two finishes in the 30s, and finished outside of the Top 50 only three times. It’s not great history, but better than most in Bucket E.
Intangibles: It’s go big or go home for all anglers ranked 46th or lower. Hite needs a huge week to earn a Classic berth.
Last four finishes: 24th, Cayuga; 92nd, Delaware River; 16th, Chickamauga; 27th, Dardanelle.
In six tournaments on smallmouth waters dating back to 2007, Brian Snowden (2.9 percent) finished in the Top 30 three times, the best of which was 15th in August 2008. In those events, he finished outside of the Top 50 only twice (52nd and 71st).
Last three finishes: 41st, Cayuga; 32nd, Delaware River; 46th, Chickamauga.
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Be sure to set your lineup by the time the pros launch on Sept. 18.