Fantasy Fishing: Go with strong flippers at Okeechobee

First event of the year was a pretty solid one! I ended up in almost the top 10 percent. It’s a great place to start. Here’s a little strategy for you depending on where you ended up after the first event. If you’re below the 80th percentile, I would suggest staying away from the highest owned guys, but don’t go dark-horse crazy yet.

If you’re below the 60th percentile, I might be more inclined to swing for the fence a little, but don’t give up on the boat just yet. Every year, the winner of Fantasy Fishing seemed to have at least one bad tournament so you if you tread lightly, make a few calculated risk/reward decisions and get a little lucky and still pull off the win.

And for those under the 50th percentile, it’s time to go for a gift card! Lots of low owned dark horses mixed with a few sure-fire picks could be the ticket.

That said, this event should be an absolute slugfest. Between the recent full moon and the water temperatures climbing, it should get a group of fish steadily coming in to spawn. That could make for a sight fishing, flipping, hydrilla-gorilla beat-down.

BUCKET A: THARP

Logical Pick: Randall Tharp

Randall Tharp is an absolute beast with a flipping stick in his hands, not to mention that lake speaks to his soul. He can absolutely smash them even if the weather gets tough. You never know when a little cold front might blow through Florida and get those fish tight-lipped.

Gut Pick: Alton Jones Sr.

If the weather cooperates, look to Alton Jones Sr. to find them on beds. He knows how to catch those big spawning females. You can bet he’ll be coming to the office with a Yum Dinger in hand.

BUCKET B: FAIRCLOTH

Logical Pick: Bobby Lane

They don’t call him “Big Fish” Bobby Lane for nothing — he is a solid Florida stick. The lake is in great shape and the fish should be plentiful. Look for Lane to find something a little different and go for the win.

Gut Pick: Todd Faircloth

Any lake the Elite Series goes to that has grass, Todd Faircloth is a factor. In spawning events, he’s normally fishing for the ones that aren’t easy to see, so he will likely not be sharing water. That’s why I’m giving him the edge in this bucket. Fish management is going to play a big role. Plus, he’s riding some decent momentum coming out of the Cherokee event.

BUCKET C: MONROE

Logical Pick: Ish Monroe

I asked Ish Monroe one time what it would take for him to put down the flipping stick and pick up a spinning rod for a tournament. To say it gently, he said it would take a cold day in H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks. He has a lot of experience on the “Big O” including a win a few years ago. I expect him to do very well.

Gut Pick: Jacob Powroznik

Powroznik has eagle eyes and will definitely find some good ones sight fishing. That 40-point big bass bonus goes a long ways. If you are wanting a solid pick who has a shot at that bonus, go with Powroznik.

BUCKET D: LEFEBRE

Logical Pick: Koby Krieger

I think Koby Kreiger, a Florida-boy, can hold his own on the “Big O,” but with Kreiger and roommate Powroznik sharing notes, he could be a deadly pick in this bucket.

Gut Pick: Dave Lefebre

Dave Lefebre has proven that he can pick apart cover with a Texas rig. Sometimes that’s what it takes to get those big girls to bite. I think his flipping prowess will take him a long way. He’s got my vote, especially if the weather gets nasty.

BUCKET E: C. LANE

Logical Pick: Chris Lane

Chris Lane is going to be a highly owned angler in Bucket E. He’s won a lot of money in Florida and seems to thrive this time of year. He can find them away from the crowds and prefers fishing alone. Something keeps telling me that finding under-pressured groups of fish will be a deciding factor for doing well until the final weigh-in.

Gut Pick: Brett Hite

Grass and spawn/prespawn is a combination where Brett Hite can crush it. I picked him several times last season and it paid off big time. He struggled at Cherokee, but he’ll be right at home on Okeechobee.

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