Fantasy Fishing: Bushes or offshore at Travis

Four events of the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing season are in the books. At this point in the year you’re either a primed contender in the standings or have succumb to a tough tournament.

Lake Travis will be an important event for not only the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, but also for Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players. The lake is an unknown for a majority of the field, even if they pre-practiced before the off-limits period.

My strategy at Travis will be based around conservative and “safe” bets, even if their ownership percentage is higher than usual.

BUCKET A: HACKNEY

My pick: Greg Hackney

Lake Travis should have a few patterns happening when the Elite Series field hits Jonestown, Texas. One of those patterns should be flipping and pitching flooded trees. Greg Hackney is one of the best flippers on the Elites and when he puts his eggs in that basket it usually works to his favor. He’s known as an angler that has the potential to win anytime he dials in a flipping bite.

Darkhorse: Josh Bertrand

The other pattern that should prevail at Travis is the offshore bite. Josh Bertrand can fish any pattern and has proven that. It explains why he is in Bucket A after three events of the season. Although he is versatile, Bertrand always looks for the chance to use his electronics and search for schools of bass and where they make their summer homes.

BUCKET B: EHRLER

My pick: Brent Ehrler

My Bucket B pick is hitting on the theme of offshore fishing as well. Brent Ehrler is one of the best at knowing where the big bass go during the summer months. He almost won Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest in 2017 at Sam Rayburn, and I feel he is primed for another good event. Managing fish could be a huge factor in this event because of the do-or-die nature of early summer fishing. Finding schools of bass to fill a limit shouldn’t be hard, but finding a school of quality bass is the bigger challenge.

Darkhorse: Todd Faircloth

Todd Faircloth could have a great event for the same reasons I chose Greg Hackney in Bucket A. Faircloth is notoriously a patient fisherman, which is often good in tough events. It also helps during tournaments when anglers have to sift through numbers of smaller fish to make crucial upgrades. Whether Faircloth chooses the offshore game, or flipping flooded trees, he should succeed.

BUCKET C: HERREN

My pick: Matt Herren

Along with flooded trees and offshore fishing, the predominant structure in Lake Travis is rock walls and stone outcroppings. Herren has often succeeded when fishing along rock walls with a jig. Flippers tend to get a feeling when the next bite may occur, especially when they know exactly where the “spot on the spot” is located. Herren did that efficiently at Lake Norfork in Arkansas when he came close to winning in 2016.

Darkhorse: Stetson Blaylock

Stetson Blaylock hails from Arkansas, and his home fishery is Lake Ouachita. You’re probably wondering what that has to do with Lake Travis, but the fisheries seem to be very similar based on my research. Both have flooded trees that fish hang around, the fisheries are draped in rock walls and there are humps and offshore spots that fish congregate during the summer. I’d expect Blaylock to keep his string of checks and strong finishes rolling at Travis.

BUCKET D: HANSELMAN JR.

My pick: Ray Hanselman Jr.

Rookie Ray Hanselman Jr. lives near Lake Amistad in the western part of Texas. He’s not necessarily fishing close to home when the Elite Series will visit Lake Travis, but having a lot of experience competing on fishing team trails and other big events in Texas, he will feel comfortable in his home state. After two bumps in his season so far, I’d expect a bounce-back performance in the Lone Star State.

Darkhorse: Timmy Horton

Timmy Horton loves to fish the abyss offshore; that’s his happy place. Kentucky Lake was just a little too early on the schedule to fall into Horton’s wheelhouse. Travis, on the other hand, will give him opportunities to bomb long casts and probe the depths with big baits. He’s one of the best when it comes to fishing deep and managing schools of fish. I’ll make a bold prediction that Horton will be seen on the Bassmaster blog with a double (two bass hooked to the same crankbait) in this event as well.

BUCKET E: MULLINS

My pick: David Mullins

It’s been a rough start to David Mullins' season. With that being said, Lake Travis could be a bright spot as we get close to the halfway point of 2018. Mullins can mix it up shallow and compete, but he excels offshore. It’s hard to predict what an angler will find in practice, but I’d be willing to bet Mullins’ energy will be concentrated in deep water.

Darkhorse: Randy Sullivan

Rookie Randy Sullivan resides in Texas and is near the Dallas/Fort Worth area. With the long break after Lake Martin many anglers pre-fished Travis and with Sullivan’s close proximity he should’ve too. He qualified in 2017 via the Central Opens. He did the majority of his work in the Table Rock and Grand Lake events, which are more similar to Travis than other area Texas lakes. That could bode well for Sullivan.