There were a few Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players that did their research and made some solid decisions for the Winyah Bay Elite event. Evidently, I wasn’t one of them. But, it was awesome to see Britt Myers win a tight race between Kelly Jordon and Brett Hite.
If you’re anything like me, the overall Fantasy results left you scratching your head.
I’m not just riding the Fantasy Struggle Bus; I’m driving the damn thing.
The 2016 season is only two tournaments deep, not including the Classic, and it’s proven to be extremely complicated — or at least I’m making it that way. If you’re tired of being stuck in the back seat of the Fantasy Struggle Bus, it’s time to get off the bus in Mountain Home, Ark.
This tournament has a very unique structure. It’s headquartered in Mountain Home, Ark., which happens to be right in between Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes. Both lakes will be fished separately during this four-day event with daily weigh-ins to be held in the same location each afternoon. Day 1 will be on Norfork, while Days 2 and 3 will be on Bull Shoals, and Championship Sunday will go back to Norfork.
Thus far, I’ve been evaluating Fantasy selections based on skill-set in relation to the fishery, momentum, hunger, overdue for a win, etc., etc. etc., blah, blah, blah. And, that hasn’t panned out for me … at all. So, I’m simplifying my approach and made my choices based on momentum, while sprinkling in just a touch of history.
Last time, I didn’t listen to that pesky voice in my head, Gerald, and I should have. This time around, I’m pulling an audible and putting him in the game — for most of the game anyways.
Time to get off the bus!
BUCKET A: EVERS
Edwin Evers has done very well on the White River fisheries over the years, claiming a fourth-place finish on Bull Shoals in 2012, 25th on the same lake in 2013 and sixth on Table Rock in 2014. That combined with his tremendous 2015 season and 2016 Classic title, I see his streak continuing.
Greg Hackney could be a solid choice, as he comes into this event with solid finishes on the same fisheries, a 51st, 11th and 3rd respectively. Don’t overlook Gerald Swindle, either. He’s done well here, and is having a great season so far.
Interestingly, Evers currently owns 21.2 percent of Bucket A, while Hackney has a whopping 53.2 percent of the support. Both will be safe bets, but I’m sticking with Evers.
Second choice was Britt Myers. Coming off of his win at Winyah Bay, and his history on White River lakes, he has momentum and history on his side. I don’t have a good reason for not picking Myers; call it a gut feeling on Evers.
Dark Horse: Brent Chapman. When Chapman smells blood in the water, he hunts his way to the top, and he’s having a solid year so far.
BUCKET B: MCCLELLAND
Todd Faircloth is dominating the bucket ownership with 45.9 percent, even though he barely made the Top 50 in two of the past White River events. He seldom has two bad tournaments in a row; he’s overdue, and is usually a safe bet.
I’m going with Mike McClelland in this one. He won Table Rock in 2014, and earned a 35th-place finish on Bull Shoals in 2012 — he knows the fisheries very well, and is hungry for another solid finish. Plus, recently it seems that the local sticks are winning on their home waters.
Gerald seems to agree.
Second choice was Mark Menendez, who also has a history of doing well in the region. Plus, he’s had an excellent year so far; I expect him to keep riding his momentum and finish strong in Arkansas.
Dark Horse: Tie between Mike Iaconelli and Bill Lowen.
BUCKET C: PALANIUK
Brandon Palaniuk’s style of fishing really shines on these lakes. He placed eighth on Table Rock in 2014 and won Bull Shoals in 2012, making this an easy selection. I think.
Honestly, this bucket is like A; it’s full of hammers. Jason Christie won Bull Shoals in 2013, Matt Herren placed third in 2012.
Second choice Brian Snowden. Gerald disagrees and says that Brian Snowden is the best pick in this bucket. It’s hard to argue, as he's has been consistent on these fisheries. So, he was my second choice — just to satisfy that voice in my head …
Dark Horse: Matt Herren
BUCKET D: M. DAVIS
Gerald likes a strong charismatic personality with a bright smile. David Walker fits the bill perfectly, and he is good on these lakes — not a bad choice at all. Chris Lane is dominating ownership in Bucket D with 50.7 percent, but I think Arkansas veteran angler Mark Davis will challenge the field at this tournament.
Second choice was Ott DeFoe. He’s a very consistent angler, and he needs to turn his season around at this event.
Dark Horse: Chad Pipkins
BUCKET E: J. VANDAM
Bucket E is full of solid anglers for this tournament. Russ Lane, Tommy Biffle, Gary Klein and Brandon Card each own 14-plus percent of the bucket, and for good reason — they catch fish. Jonathon VanDam just missed the Top-50 cut on Table Rock in 2014, but he finished ninth on Bull Shoals in 2013, and cashed a check with a 39th-place finish in 2012. He’s been quiet in 2016, but I bet he shows up and makes some noise this year.
Second choice was Gary Klein. The veteran is long overdue for a big win, and he’s very dangerous on the White River fisheries. It wouldn’t surprise me if he wins the whole dang thing. I may slip him in the E slot before the roster locks up.
Dark Horse: Jeff Kriet