Fantasy Fishing: Don't dig yourself a hole in the first tournament

So, you want to win a boat in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing. Well, here are some ideas you need to consider when making your Fantasy Fishing selections for the Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River presented by Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels.

It’s quite possible the spawn is farther along than the past derbies on the St. Johns. After the Open at Toho, on Feb. 2, Ish Monroe said the following to writer Mike Suchan: “The fish today were moving up to spawn. Tomorrow, or the day after, this lake will be wide open. Don’t be surprised if you see 11-, 12-pounders caught.”

Diversity is important. You can’t win a new boat after one week of Fantasy Fishing, but you can sure dig yourself a hole. Make sure to select a couple of guys who won’t spiral out of control if the river sets up as a postspawn event. This event sets up well for plenty of guys whoaren’t from Florida.

Bucket A: Hackney

Many people look at Bucket A and become overwhelmed by all the anglers who could possibly win it. There’s a good chance that half of the Top 20 will come from this bucket. You can easily recover from giving up 10 spots in Bucket A. What you don’t want to do is give up 75 places by making a bad selection in buckets B, C or D.

Be careful with Edwin Evers. The last 10 Classic winners have an average finish of 53rd in their first event following their classic win. Kevin VanDam is the only reigning Classic champ with a Top 10 in his first event, with a fourth-place finish on the Harris Chain in 2011.

I know Evers is really hot, but there are a lot of distractions involved with serving as Classic champion.

I’ll point out here that Aaron Martens has 68 Top 10 finishes, three in Florida, with the most recent being in 2007.

But I’m taking Greg Hackney. He can compete if he needs to sight fish. And if they’re off the beds, he can punch and swim a jig to victory. There are 10 other guys who can complement the selections from your other buckets and finish in the Top 20.

Bucket B: Faircloth

Ish Monroe, Gerald Swindle and Jeff Kriet quickly jump out with quality Florida experience. If you go with a Florida flipper from Bucket A, Swindle’s junk fishing would pair well. Monroe would match up well with someone more versatile from Bucket A.

Consider Mark Davis. Of the 10 stops on this season’s Elite Series schedule, he has had Top 10 finishes at six of the venues and finished 13th at Cayuga. I realize that past performance does not reflect future results, but 2014 set up very similarly for Davis, and he showed up big time with a third-place finish at the St. Johns.

I’m taking Todd Faircloth. He has a hot hand right now and is making all the right decisions. When you throw that into a grass derby that he has had great results in, he’s very difficult to pass up.

Bucket C: Scroggins

There isn’t much wiggle room here. Shaw Grigsby and Terry Scroggins are going to get the most pull. They have much more experience in Florida than the rest of the bucket.

Guys like Keith Poche or Andy Montgomery could come across a flipping bite that could produce, but it’s hard to pick an angler whose primary style doesn’t fit well in the Florida super grass.

I’m taking Scroggins. I saved my Floridian picks for C and D. Scroggins will be solid even if he doesn’t win.

Bucket D: Tharp

This is the bucket where I always want to swing for the fence. Fletcher Shryock’s Instagram makes me want to pick him. He’s got plenty of experience in Florida and is due to break out.

But, it’s March and I want a new boat. This place sets up well for Chad Morgenthaler and Randall Tharp. Fred Roumbanis also handles grass really well.

I’m taking Tharp. He hasn’t had super crazy success in here, but he’s a good, reliable stick who is coming off a tough year. I expect him to be ready to fish.

Bucket E: Clausen

Last year, 50% of Fantasy Fishing players — myself included — took Brent Ehrler at the Sabine River, and he finished 87th.

Good luck! Most of these guys have some experience in Florida, and Drew Benton will get a lot of looks being the only Floridian in the bunch.

I’m taking Luke Clausen. He’s a Classic champion with a lot of good experience in Florida. I’ll be happy if he finishes in the Top 30.

Tell me on Twitter at @Johnnypbradford who you’re picking!

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