Fantasy Fishing: Choose anglers who have an axe to grind

I picked a pretty good team for Texoma, but not good enough. It was my best showing of the year, and I climbed from a near single-digit percentile to 17.5 percent. Hey, it’s an improvement!

I was also responsible for writing the daily press releases at Texoma, and as Edwin Evers was coming off of the stage following the Day-1 weigh-in, he jokingly gave me a hard time for not even mentioning him in my last Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing article. Maybe he wasn’t joking … Maybe I should have thought better of my choices last time around.

As much as I tried to come up with a good reason to tell him otherwise, Evers had a solid showing and went home in 23rd place, which would have done me better than my official selection.

The time to make a big change is at hand. If I want to increase my standings by the end of the year, it needs to start at Cayuga. I’ve got an axe to grind as much as the anglers I picked.

Here goes.

BUCKET A: EVERS

Yes, Evers got on my case for not selecting him for Texoma, and while that may slightly influence why I chose him this time around, I also recall that he won on the St. Lawrence River last year. He knows this part of the country very well, and I expect him to have a solid tournament.

He also finished in fourth place in 2014, which was the last time the Elites visited Cayuga. This event is shaping up perfectly for this year’s Classic champ.

Dark Horse: Randall Tharp had a great showing at Texoma, which resulted in his third Top 12 finish of the year. He is still within striking distance of AOY, and I expect him to fish like he’s got something to lose at this one.

BUCKET B: B. HITE

Anywhere there’s abundant grass, Brett Hite will be throwing a bladed jig, and you can bet he’ll catch them at Cayuga. In fact, I think he may be the strongest contender at this event, period. The main weed edge as it falls into deep water will be holding lots of big bass, and a bladed jig is one of the best methods to catch postspawners relating to that type of structure.

Dark Horse: Aaron Martens is one of the best clear-water, finesse fishermen in existence. Cayuga will have plenty of opportunity for him to showcase his skills and use a drop shot or shaky head. He’s been very quiet this year, and he really shines at all northern fisheries. I expect him to make some noise at Cayuga.

BUCKET C: FAIRCLOTH

Like KVD, you just can’t count Todd Faircloth out. He’s been uncharacteristically quiet this year, and he needs to have a few good tournament finishes if he wants to make the Classic cut. Last year he won St. Clair, which eventually led to a Classic berth. Not to mention he finished in second place the last time we went to Cayuga. I won’t start betting against him now!

Dark Horse: Brandon Card is coming off of a solid second-place finish at BASSfest on Lake Texoma, and I gotta believe he’ll keep that momentum rolling into this event. Card is all aces in my book!

BUCKET D: FEIDER

The young Minnesota pro has been fishing better this year than he did during his rookie season last year, and I know how bad he wants to fish the season-ending Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year event on Minnesota’s famed Mille Lacs Lake. Being a Minnesota native and a Mille Lacs smallmouth junkie, he knows if he gets to compete there, he’ll give the entire field a run for their money. He’s moved up into Bucket D, which means a solid finish at Cayuga will move him closer to a Classic berth and a shot at the AOY tournament. Cayuga will fish the way he likes to fish, and I expect a solid showing from him this time around.

Dark Horse: Fletcher Shryock doesn’t live too far from the Finger Lakes, and he needs a good tournament to redirect his ship. The young pro from Ohio has struggled during his first couple of years as an Elite Series pro, but that doesn’t fairly indicate his talent as an angler. He belongs here, and it’s only a matter of time before he breaks loose and takes home a win. Cayuga could be that tournament.

BUCKET E: J. VANDAM

There is no better angler to pick in Bucket E than JVD, and that is not because of lack of good options. Jonathon VanDam knows northern bass as well as anyone on tour, and he’s having a rough go as of late. I fully expect him to turn things around at Cayuga, and get him back in the mix where he belongs.

Dark Horse: Chad Pipkens is having a difficult season. No question about it. But, with his Michigan roots, he knows how to catch postspawn bass in June. I’d bet a bottle of whiskey that he’ll surprise his fans and make a cut at Cayuga, if not into the Top 12.

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