It’s Thursday morning at 3:00 a.m. before the start of the Elite Series event at Winyah Bay. My eyes fly open and because I’m hopelessly addicted to Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, it takes everything I have to clear my dang mind and fall back asleep.
My inner dialogue goes something like this: “How is my team going to do? Is Chris Lane a good choice? Should I run with Matt Herren instead? Chris Lane is well versed in tough tournaments where ounces matter and he’s a stud when it comes to big fish, too. He’s the solid choice, right??? But Matt Herren … he’s killer with any jig in his hand, flipping jigs, swim jigs, ChatterBaits. He’s also a stick when it comes to rivers.
Okay, fine. Chris Lane it is. I picked him from the get-go and I think he’s the logical choice even though my gut says to run with Herren.”
Chris Lane: A mediocre 62nd-place finish
Matt Herren: A solid 22nd-place finish
The difference in points is Matt Herren (231 points) ended up 80 points higher than Chris Lane (151 points). The difference between my 699-point finish and what could have been a 779-point finish costs me hundreds of places — and that was only ONE of my bombs from Winyah Bay.
Currently, I am sitting in an enviable 18,697th place (31.6 percent) in the standings. I know what you’re thinking: Why would I listen to this guy’s picks?! He’s awful! At this point, I couldn’t disagree with you. But instead of trying to convince you that my picks are the ponies to put your money on, I’m going to give my Fantasy season purpose by being a valuable resource for you. Let’s face it whether or not it’s 3 a.m. before the event starts, you’ve all thought it. Should I stick with my picks or should I go with my gut at the last second and change it up?
So hopefully, my goal is to offer up a little science to see if there is any evidence as to whether listening to your gut and last minute changes do you any good or if logic and the set-and-forget mentality should take you to the win.
Each event, starting now, I am going to choose my picks about 2 weeks out and given the time in between events, I’ll give myself a single opportunity to change any anglers that my gut is saying should be added to the mix. I will let you know who I initially picked and who, if any, anglers got changed before the event. Then before the next event, I will recap how it worked out for me last time and make adjustments to see if I can salvage a Top 10 percent in the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing standings.
I’m going to put a lot of stock in Bull Shoals here. From what I can tell, the strategies will be similar at Norfork with the major difference being that one big bite will separate an angler from the pack. There seems to be a huge population of 1- to 2 1/2-pound fish there.
So here goes.
BUCKET A: MYERS
Initial Pick: Gerald Swindle
Momentum seems to be a major player this year. This is hands-down the hardest bucket for me, because there are so many talented anglers to choose from with a lot of momentum.
With the exception of a rough tournament at Smith Lake at the Southern Open #2, Swindle is carrying some pretty good momentum with a solid seventh-place finish at Winyah Bay. That shallow water prowess with a jig should come into play at Bull Shoals/Norfork, as lots of the fish will be up shallow getting ready to spawn. He’s also a killer jerkbait fisherman, both of which should play in Arkansas. He has been on a decent tear lately, and would be a safe pick to get a Top 30 and score some points, which at this point, I could definitely use.
Second Guess: Britt Myers
My gut says if momentum should be the basis for my choice, mayyyyyybe I should change to Britt Myers. He’s cashed a check at the last three B.A.S.S. tournaments he’s fished including his win at Winyah Bay. Not to mention, he has solid finishes at Table Rock in 2014 (19th), Bull Shoals in 2013 (5th), Bull Shoals in 2012 (2nd), Table Rock in 2006 (45th).
At this point, I really feel like I need to make a change. Sorry Swindle … Britt is my guy!
MY PICK: Britt Myers
BUCKET B: EHRLER
Initial pick: Brent Ehrler
FLW legend turned B.A.S.S. pro; Brent Ehrler will be a major player at this tournament. He can do it all—flip, crank, drag, but one of his biggest weapons is the drop shot/shaky head. If he can get his eyes on a few, he’s also a solid sight fisherman. It looks like the weather should be pleasant, but it will be post-frontal which will likely have the fish in a funk. I tend to look to the finesse guys to excel when everyone else is having a hard time finding a bite.
Second Guess: Mike McClelland
Like most of the other pundit pickers have pointed out, Mike McClelland is an underrated pick bringing in a measly 6.5-percent ownership. He won on Table Rock doing what will most likely be a key tactic here — throwing a jig. I truly believe it’ll be won in less than eight feet of water, but I could absolutely see Mike pulling out a solid Top 20 finish doing what he does best up in the sticks.
Even though I think Mike has a great shot at making a run, I’m going to live or die by my original pick, Ehrler. I felt strong about him early on and still do. He’ll be a sure-fire Top 12.
MY PICK: Brent Ehrler
BUCKET C: SCANLON
Initial Pick: Casey Scanlon
I made my original pick of Casey Scanlon based on that fact that he was grossly underrated. He has a stellar history, i.e. Table Rock in 2014 (16th), Bull Shoals in 2013 (3rd), a win at Table Rock in 2012 at a Central Open, Table Rock in 2011 Central Open (7th) with a tough 70th at Bull Shoals in 2012. He cashed a check at Winyah, so if momentum is an indicator, I would hope I’d at least get to watch him fish Saturday. While he has some great finishes and his history looks pretty awesome, my gut is telling me I might need to make a change.
Second Guess: Brian Snowden or Brandon Palaniuk
Brandon Palaniuk and Brian Snowden both are callin’ my name. They are both sticks when it comes to jigs and cranking. They both have awesome history and knowledge of this type of water. With all that in mind, which one should I change to? Palaniuk has a pretty high ownership, so I’ll pass on him. Plus he’s fishing more conservatively than he has in years past. So in that case … I pick …
NEITHER! I’m going to stick this one out and see how it does for me. Hopefully my stubbornness will allow for a strong showing in bucket C.
MY PICK: Casey Scanlon
BUCKET D: M. DAVIS
Initial Pick: Mark Davis
Mark’s credentials speak for themselves. Three-time AOY and 1995 Classic Champ. He is an Arkansas stud! His finishes on this set of lakes include Table Rock in 2014 (2nd) an a few solid cashes in White River tournaments 43rd and 47th at Bull Shoals in 2013 and 2012 respectively. I wouldn’t underestimate him for a second. I look to him to cash a check for sure and potentially make a run at a Sunday showing. At 17.5-percent ownership right now — albeit on the high side, though — Davis might be worth a second thought.
Second Guess: Ott Defoe
Ott Defoe is an absolute hammer on river bass, although he’s had some semi-mediocre finishes on White River lakes. However, he is due for a good tournament. Whether or not I pick him when he does make a return to the Top 12, I expect it to happen soon.
After a little back and forth, I think I’m going to hang on to my initial pick in this bucket.
MY PICK: Mark Davis
BUCKET E: ROUMBANIS
Initial Pick: Jeff Kriet
Absolutely nothing against the Ol’ Squirrel, but I tend to forget about him when it comes to Fantasy Fishing. It’s probably because he doesn’t usually find himself in Bucket E. You pretty much have to throw momentum out when you’re picking from this bucket anyway, simply because they’ve had a tough time lately.
It all comes down to history and/or gut. In this case, Jeff Kriet has both working in his favor. If I’m sure of anything, it’s that he is stubborn and wants some revenge after the last few tournaments. He has a stellar finish on Table Rock in 2014 (7th) as well as cashing one check and just barely missing it in 2012 and 2013 on White River lakes. Look for him to be fishing on Saturday.
Second Guess: Fred Roumbanis
His history is kind of all over the place. He barely missed a check at Table Rock in 2014, had a solid 2nd-place finish at Bull Shoals in 2013 and a mediocre 60th on Bull Shoals in 2012. What will set him apart is his knack for catching random big fish. Not only will he have a shot at the 40-point bonus, but if he catches a big one, or two, on Norfork, that will go a long way. He has zero momentum right now with several back to back to back bottom end finishes. Could he turn it around here?
I think I’m going to make one more change here and rock and roll with the Boom Boom!
My Pick: Fred Roumbanis