This one has an interesting format, and will challenge Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players. As I read the rules: Thursday and Sunday on Norfolk Lake and then Friday and Saturday on Bull Shoals. Sounds like fun to me!
So once again we have Norfolk, a lake with limited history, but at least we’ve seen Bull Shoals in recent years. Recent winners are Jason Christie and Brandon Palaniuk. Can those two guys do well enough on Norfork to carry them through to Bull Shoals and back again? I think they’re both capable, but there will be a bunch of outcome-impacting decisions to be strongly considered.
Additionally, there were very few anglers who did well on Bull Shoals in 2012 who also did well again in 2013. That should factor into your decisions because history plays a strong role, but it can also turn around and bite you, so choose wisely.
BUCKET A: ZALDAIN
Britt Myers is an obvious and strong selection here. He was one the very few who did well both times on Bull Shoals both fifth- and a second-place finishes. That’s hard to overlook, but how good is he on Norfork?
When I looked at the numbers, Kevin VanDam cashes a check in a crazy 82 percent of the events he enters. Crazier yet, he averages a Top-20 finish in 58 percent of those events. Has he been in a slump? Perhaps, but those kind of numbers are hard to overlook. That’s why most consider him the best bass fisherman ever. He’d be a very safe pick in Bucket A.
Chris Zaldain and Justin Lucas jumped out at me, as well — two younger guys demonstrating great consistency and potential. Lucas is cashing at 82 percent of events, and Zaldain is at 63 percent. And, both pros have done well on Bull Shoals, and I think they stand a solid chance at doing very well this year. I am giving the slight edge to Zaldain in this one.
My Top 4: Zaldain, Lucas, KVD, Myers
BUCKET B: MENENDEZ
This bucket has a ton of guys who did well one year on Bull Shoals, but not so well the next. Mark Menendez finished in the Top 10 last time, and he has got momentum on his side after a great start to 2016. Besides, how can you not root for Menendez.
I also considered Boyd Duckett who’s finished in the money 13 out of the last 18 events. There is a ton of talent in Bucket B, so it’s a crapshoot. Brent Ehrler and Jacob Powroznik also seem to do well everywhere they go, making them safe bet.
My Top 4: Menendez, Ehrler, Duckett, Powroznik
BUCKET C: CHRISTIE
This bucket is complicated because it contains the past two Bull Shoals champions: Brandon Palaniuk and Jason Christie. They both seem to be right at home throwing crankbaits, which will likely play as a top pattern. I give Christie a slight edge here.
Greg Vinson finished 23rd and 33nd respectively, and Brian Snowden made a top 10 as well making both anglers viable options. You also have a bunch of new blood here to sort through: Adrian Avena, Luke Clausen and Dave Lefebre. Each will be a factor in multiple events this season, in my opinion — perhaps this event.
My Top 4 :Christie, Vinson, Palaniuk, Clausen
BUCKET D: BRAINARD
Mark Davis is a quality selection in this bucket, he is more than good enough to cash a check at this tournament — any time there’s an event on an Ozark lake, Davis is a threat. A couple of others to watch are Ott DeFoe, Scott Rook and Chris Lane.
After further research, a solid pattern has yet to emerge, so I‘m venturing into uncharted waters considering Jay Brainard. He’s new, but he comes across as a very competent and talented angler to me; let’s call this pick a hunch.
My Top 4: Brainard, Davis, Rook, Morgenthaler
BUCKET E: J. VANDAM
I’m taking Jonathon VanDam in Bucket E. I just hope I’m not picking the wrong VanDam at this event, but based on his past success, I feel good about JVD.
There are plenty of anglers in this bucket that will not be for much longer, and JVD tops that list for me. Russ Lane, Casey Ashley and Brandon Card also stand out — they’re just too dang good to be in the bottom bucket.
My Top 4: J. VanDam, R. Lane, C. Grigsby, Ashley
A - Hackney
B - Martens
C - Palaniuk
D - Pipkens
E - R. Lane
(Honestly, I may like her team better than mine, but I have a lot of ground to make up and picked accordingly.)
A - K. VanDam
B - Ehrler
C - Palaniuk
D - Pipkens
E - C. Grigsby
Scoreboard at my house:
Sam - 2063
Dad - 1927
Maggie - 1722