Fantasy Fishing for me this year has been a bit like eating at IHOP at 3 a.m. You always expect it to be awesome when you get in, but you almost always end up disappointed. Maybe the service was lacking, or your All-American breakfast was a little cold, but either way you were left wishing you had made a few different decisions. To recap St. Clair, I ended up dropping a few spots, and I’m not sitting in the 88th percentile. I’m not expecting to make the top 10 percent, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
Mille Lacs is known for massive smallmouth. If you thought St. Clair showed out, in 2016, Mille Lacs left me with my jaw on the floor after Seth Feider caught 76 pounds and 5 ounces over three days. That’s better than a 5-pound average. I fully expect it to be just as exciting this go-round. For my last shot at the 2017 Fantasy Fishing season, I’m going to make my pick and as well as offer up another angler I think you should consider.
BUCKET A: CHRISTIE
My Pick: Jason Christie
At this point, Jason Christie is 15 points behind Brandon Palaniuk. You better put your money on the fact that winning the last event was not enough for him. He is shooting for that coveted Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. He obviously knows something about smallmouth. Last time they were at Mille Lacs, he finished in the middle of the pack in 18th. With that AOY title on the line, I would guess he’ll be playing to win.
Also Consider: Brandon Palaniuk
If you took the AOY title completely out of the picture, I would still put Brandon Palaniuk’s name in front of you. He definitely knows his way around smallies and finished 11th last year. Those skills alone should be reason enough to pick him. However, the reason I am not picking him is because all he needs to secure his AOY title is finish in 15th or better assuming Christie were to win. The likelihood of that exact scenario is pretty unlikely, and Palaniuk knows that. I’m going to guess that he will be playing a little conservatively. That’s not the best way to get points in fantasy fishing.
BUCKET B: FEIDER
My Pick: Seth Feider
Seventy-Six pounds. There is not a better choice in Bucket B than this guy. He stomped the rest of the field in 2016 by 6 1/2 pounds. The thing about Feider is he is an expert at finding the subtleties to get those key 6- to 7-pound bites. If he isn’t in the top five, it’s because he shaved his mustache, cut his hair and became a dental hygienist. In other words, that ain’t happenin’.
Also Consider: Brent Ehrler
If you had to consider someone else, I would definitely consider Brent Ehrler. He finished second and had the big bass of the tournament and collected the 40-point bonus. He definitely has a knack for finding the big girls, and that bonus could come into play. Because only half the field is in play this time, the scores will be higher. You might need the extra points to make the last second charge up the leaderboard.
BUCKET C: CREWS
My Pick: John Crews
You might think John Crews is a funny choice here, but he is in a bucket that doesn’t have very many clear choices. This bucket gives me a good opportunity to balance out a few high-owned picks with a low-owned selection. His 2.6-percent ownership is pretty attractive. There will certainly be a pick or two in this bucket who show up to play. I’m hoping I made the right choice.
Also Consider: Bradley Roy
Roy has been on a pretty good tear lately with a 32nd at Champlain and an 11th-place finish on St. Clair. He didn’t do great here last year, but momentum could play a huge factor. Might be worth a look.
BUCKET D: JONES
My Pick: Alton Jones
Alton hurt my feeling at St. Clair. He just flat out didn’t have a good event. He caught 67 pounds of Mille Lacs smallies last time they visited, which was good enough for sixth place. I expect him to be a little mad at them after the last event. He could even pull off the win here.
Also Consider: Stephen Kennedy
It was kind of tough for me to not pick Kennedy after his stellar finish at St. Clair. In fact, if there were one bucket I would consider switching before the event it would be this one. He finished 15th place here last year, and with his momentum coming into the event, it could be a good event for him.
BUCKET E: J. VANDAM
My Pick: Jonathon VanDam
This will be his first crack at Elite competition here at Mille Lacs, but you can bet he will bring his A-game. He has had an up-and-down season this year, but this part of the country is where he thrives. His ownership is pretty high, but he is too good fishing for giant smallies to pass up.
Also Consider: Dave Lefebre
There are a few good picks in this bucket, but Lefebre definitely stands out. He finished third last year and his ownership is pretty low. In 2016, he was in a similar position. He had a tough back half of the year, but ended his season on a high note. I could definitely see him doing that again.