Wow! What an amazing season it has been so far! Sam Rayburn did not disappoint.
Here are a few quick stats if you missed it during the event. According to BASSTrakk, on Day 1, there were 57 fish over 4 pounds and 23 fish over 5 pounds or more. Day 2 there were 53 fish over 4 pounds and 21 over 5 pounds. Day 3 there were 35 fish over 4 pounds and 12 fish over 5 pounds.
Remember that there were less than half the anglers fishing on Day 3. That means if there were 109 anglers on Day 3 and they averaged the same number of big fish per angler, that would be over 70 4- to 5-pound bass and 24 over 5 pounds. Day 4 boasted 6 fish over 4 pounds, but the real story was the 7 fish over 5 pounds caught amongst the 12 final-day anglers.
That is stout! Most lakes tend to slow after a 4-day tournament with hundreds of boats, but Big Sam held strong and even improved.
Now we are moving to another lake that has seemingly been trending upward the last several years. Historically, it has taken between 17 to 18 pounds per day to take home the trophy.
In 2014, everyone in the Top 12 finished with 59 pounds or more, and there were several 20-pound bags. Given that it was relatively unstable stable weather during both the 2009 and 2014 tournaments (water temps dropped 15 degrees over the course of a few days in both events), this lake should fish at that level or better.
However, there is a ton of mud coming down the river right now that is really going to shake things up.
The fish were still in all phases of the spawn during that event. If I were to speculate, my guess is that with all the warm weather, there will be more postspawn fish this time around. We may not see more than one or two 20-pound bags, but if an angler can figure out where the fish are, how to get their lure in front of their face and most importantly, how to get them to bite, that angler could find 16 pounds a day to win.
With fluctuating water levels, I’d be surprised if anyone finds fish more than a few feet away from the bank. Luckily, this is a large fishery and should allow the field to spread out.
Let’s get into some smart choices for Dardanelle.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Last time, Mr. Greathouse was accused of potentially misleading his fellow pundits astray, and while that speculation is still under high scrutiny, he has gone forth and leveled some tremendous information this go-around. We at B.A.S.S. thought about running a retraction on the accusation, but decided to let him prove his salt at Dardanelle. The following is some of the most in-depth, statistically driven material ever to grace the pages of Fantasy Fishing pundit insight articles.)
The above is laced with sarcasm, mostly.
BUCKET A: K. VANDAM
My Pick: KVD
It’s not just real often that I get to pick KVD. In almost every event, he is a favorite, and at 9.2-percent ownership — for now — he’s too good to pass up. Jason Christie won the event in 2014 by a 9-ounce margin over Hackney, and he is eating up a huge amount of the ownership for this bucket at 34 percent currently. He is on a tear, but if you look at KVDs record in the last few events, 62nd, 24th, 10th, 29th, second, and 52nd, you can’t argue he has some momentum this year.
Arguably Christie has the more impressive record with a 14th, 42nd, 34th, second, 27th, and seventh, plus he has won here. I’m sticking with KVD because out of the four events the touring pros have had here since 2004, KVD has not finished outside the top 10. This event will be completely different than last time and I think the crankbait and spinnerbait will play a lot bigger role than it did in 2014. Expect KVD to end up in the Top 12 and maybe even give it a run for the win.
Also Consider: Jason Christie or Greg Hackney
If you need more incentive to pick Christie, I don’t know what to tell you. He’s solid and he is on a role. Greg Hackney has spent a lot of time fishing lakes like this. He understands the current and how it affects the fish. He is under valued below 8 percent. I mean, this is where he coined the phrase “Godzilla ain’t got nothin’ on me!” after jacking a huge bass. He’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
BUCKET B: MONROE
My Pick: Ish Monroe
Ish has also been on a tear. His last three events were 18th or better with two Top-12 finishes This one will be right in his wheelhouse, flipping and throwing a squarebill. He is extremely good at both. He has also has very good finishes on Dardanelle with a 21st and a fifth. He also has a 73rd and a 47th. I think his momentum will carry him through this event. I’m sticking to it.
Also Consider: John Crews
He had a stellar event in 2014 posting a ninth-place finish and at 2.8-percent owned, he is practically slipping through unnoticed. He would be a great dark horse to place your bet on if you need to make up some ground.
BUCKET C: HERREN
My Pick: Matt Herren
Herren has built a career on fishing shallow, muddy water. He actually posted a win with the FLW on Dardanelle. This guy knows how to fish tough conditions, and it’s definitely going to take someone who can adjust on the fly. He did not have a good event in 2014, finishing in the 70s. That makes me want to pick him even more. He’s one of the anglers that gets mad at a lake. I guarantee he wants revenge and will come out swinging.
Also Consider: Cliff Crochet
Once again, I’m giving some weight to the Cajun Baby. I have picked him in a few of the last couple of events and it has worked out for me. At Conroe, he got me a 19th-place finish and I had him again for Sam Rayburn where he finished ninth. He doesn’t have many tournaments under his belt for this lake, but he did finish seventh in 2014 flipping riprap along bridges, which will definitely be in play. He has the momentum to earn him another final-day cut.
BUCKET D: REESE
My Pick: Skeet Reese
It seems like I have a lot of veterans in my picks this week. Maybe they heard what I said in the Inside Bassmaster podcast a few weeks ago. The veterans were being put in check by the rookies who dominated the first half of the season.
Call it coincidence, but as soon as I said that, the veterans started showing up big time. (I occasionally like to believe I’m more important than I am). Skeet has been up and down this year. He has a few awesome finishes and a few dismal finishes, which is why he finds himself in Bucket D. He has some solid history though with nothing worse than 29th, with a 12th and a fifth in the mix. He loves these postspawn tournaments. He could have a tough Day 1, but if you pick him, don’t worry. He’ll catch 23lbs on Day 2 and be right back in the mix. He is one of the best at adjusting.
Also Consider: Jeff Kriet
Ronnie Moore showed us all that we should have put some stock in him at Sam Rayburn. I’ve learned my lesson. I may not pick him, but I am certainly going to throw him in the mix. He can easily be considered a river-rat type fisherman, so he’ll be right at home fishing in the mud. He caught some giants at Sam Rayburn. Maybe he can find a few more of those at Dardanelle and make a run.
BUCKET E: MORGENTHALER
My pick: Chad Morgenthaler
There are still some studs in Bucket E, and I have a theory that those anglers probably won’t like. Typically, this bucket is full of rookies and the guys who might be struggling. This year, I think the competition is so strong, that there are basically no anglers who fit the second category, and the rookies are killing it and are in higher buckets.
I think the veterans who find themselves in Bucket E are in some kind of funk. I have banked on a few of them expecting them to turn it around, and they tanked. I’m not going to make that mistake again. Sometimes you just have to struggle through a tough season and start fresh next year.
So I’m going with a guy who is neither a rookie nor an Elite Series veteran. Morgenthaler has a 13th-place finish in an Elite Top 50 back in 2005, but that was a long time ago. He rejoined the Elites in 2014. He didn’t do very well at Dardanelle that year, but he cashed a check, finishing 40th. He has no true momentum at this point, but I think he has had enough good finishes to put my money on him. Even if he finishes in the 30s or 40s, it will be better than my average Bucket E picks so far this season.
Also Consider: Rick Clunn
If I were going to pick a veteran who could do well, it would be the ultimate veteran, Rick Clunn. He did great in 2014 with a fourth-place finish. He also has had a few good events this year and despite having fished at the top level for many, many years, he can still hang with the pups. He tends to get everyone’s attention once or twice a season with a strong finish or two. He is one of the best with a crankbait and a spinnerbait. Don’t count the Godfather of Bass Fishing out.
I’m sitting in the 83rd percentile now. My goal is to break the top 10 percent. If you’re wondering how low ownership affects your results, feel free to track along with me. It served me well at Sam Rayburn and I jumped about 10 percent. Good luck!