It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
That line sums up my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing teams so far this year. I have picked some Top 10 anglers and a couple in the 80s and 90s. I need to pull it all together on the Delta. Heck, Maggie even knew to pick Mike Iaconelli and Skeet Reese on Guntersville.
In the last event, I hit on Derek Remitz, Brent Ehlrer and Edwin Evers but I missed badly on Aaron Martens and Randall Tharp. That is what makes this so fun and also mildly frustrating at times.
I did not follow my own advice by putting in Keith Combs if the Tharp and Kevin VanDam percetages were high — and they were. Whoops. Trying to tie gut feelings with concrete information and put it all together is tough.
After two events, I am in the 84th percentile and made up ground on 2,300 of you, but I still have a ways to go to get into that Top 1,000. It is time to start making some moves, and that may mean bucking trends and diversifying a little. Just like the stock market.
Check out the diversity of the season’s best anglers so far. If you combined an East Coast angler with an Alabama angler, mixed in some Arizona clear water knowledge and the flipping expertise of a Florida angler, and then topped that off with a dash of the Tennessee River-type angler, you would have the Top 5 in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points: John Crews, Greg Vinson, Dean Rojas, Shaw Grigsby and Brandon Lester.
Stacked with four to five anglers in Bucket A with so much experience in California, it is hard to decide what to do. This is a top-heavy bucket. Martens has won here, Ish Monroe has won here, Crews has won here. Rojas has a wealth of experience. Chris Zaldain and Skeet Reese are West Coast guys.
I’m picking Skeet Reese. He has momentum, local knowledge and past experience/success here. This is a safe pick with him going fifth, second, second and fourth in the last four Elite-level events in California.
I am rolling with the knowledge that it is tough to win back-to-back events, but I am also comfortable rolling with a Top 10 pick from any bucket. Martens and Monroe can win here, but they also have finishes around 50th place.
Gut says: Zaldain. He is quietly one of the most consistent anglers on tour. In 47 events, he has made a check in 30 of them, including 17 Top 20s and 11 Top 10s. He was not on the Elite Series the last time we went through California, but I expect his in-the-money events to increase to 31 for 48 after this event.
Also, don’t sleep on Derek Remitz. He has some momentum and a good track record on the Delta.
Maggie says take Faircloth because he is good, and Sam is taking Iaconelli because he is a good angler and very confident.
Just think of how well the “rookies” are doing this year. The Lee brothers are both Bucket A anglers. Bucket B has Ehrler, Micah Frazier and Brandon Coulter. Bucket B has a lot fewer locals, but it has KVD. It also has some great shallow river anglers in Greg Hackney and Bill Lowen.
I’m picking Hackney. I will chalk up Guntersville as a swing and miss for him, but I fully expect him to bounce back. He went third and 10th the last two times on the Delta, and I expect another Top 10 from the “Hack Attack.”
Gut says: Kriet or Ehrler. Jeff Kriet had two Top 20s last two times here, and Ehrler would be hard to pick against in California.
Maggie is taking KVD because he is her favorite angler and because she has three KVD Fatheads, and Sam is taking KVD because he is good.
These last three buckets are where you may want to start buying your penny stocks.
Kotaro Kiriyama, Brett Hite and Byron Velvick have a ton of experience in California. But this is where I diversify.
I’m picking Alton Jones, who averaged roughly a 25th-place finish in three Delta events. He excels on river-type fisheries and has won in California before. Plus, at just more than 4 percent ownership, a high finish allows me to gain ground on guys going all in on California anglers.
Gut says: Hite or Jocumsen. Brett Hite with a Chatterbait or Carl Jocumsen with his accent are good picks.
Sam and Maggie both say Edwin Evers because he is good.
Bucket D is another with a great opportunity to make up some ground. This bucket has four anglers with 10-plus-percent ownership. It is the next two guys in order of ownership I would focus on, though.
James Niggemeyer at 6 percent and Stephen Browning at 8 percent (as of the writing) both average a Top 10 on the Delta in Elite events.
I am taking Niggemeyer just on momentum, gut feeling and the fact that he goes to my dad’s church. As good a reason as any, right?
Gut says: Chapman. Brent Chapman was fifth last time here and he is at 5 percent ownership.
Sam and Maggie both say Tharp is the way to go.
Bucket E actually has a ton more West Coast experience than buckets B or D did. Jared Lintner, John Murray, Morizo Shimizu, Yusuke Miyazaki and Fred Roumbanis have a wealth of experience in this area, and fan favorite Brandon Palaniuk is closer to home than usual.
I’m picking Lintner. He had a great year last year, and I think this event is where he gets his season back on track. He is a hammer in this part of the world, and I expect the “Milkman” to make a milk run and be a Top 10 finisher and be pushing for the lead on Day 4.
Gut says: Murray. John Murray at 3 percent ownership is where to make up ground. With big bass and big bag bonuses, do not count out “Boom Boom” Roumbanis either.
Maggie and Sam agree on this one, too. Morizo Shimizu is Maggie’s second-favorite angler and that is why Sam picked him, too. They make me rewind any show where Morizo says “Big Momma-HO-HO-HO.” Love that guy. He has the best smile and best laugh in a sport that is supposed to be fun.
Standings at our house: Dad 1,927; Maggie 1,890 and Sam 1,772.
I expect this to be a slugfest and want to see multiple 10-pound fish weighed in. I have a California, Louisiana, Texas, Texas, California team.
I wish I had a little more diversity, but as always, I reserve the right to change my mind. Just wish I would have for Guntersville. Good luck, everyone.