In an episode from the second season of the classic 1970s sitcom What’s Happening! called “Give Me Odds,” Dwayne — played by the highly underrated Haywood Nelson — has what he describes as a foolproof system for gambling on NFL games. While he won’t reveal the system to his friends at first, the proof seems to be in the pudding as he’s won the local football pool five weeks in a row.
Rerun, hoping to get in good with his surly brother-in-law Ike, offers up Dwayne’s straight-up pick for the game of the week, a matchup between the Raiders and the Buccaneers, the league’s best and worst teams, respectively. The Raiders are favored by three touchdowns.
Rerun is so convincing that Ike bets $500, his Hawaii vacation money, on the Bucs. Only after the game has started does Dwayne reveal his lucky system: He picks the score by determining the number of people at each team’s last home game, divides that figure by the number of miles between the stadiums, and subtracts the quarterbacks’ numbers. How does he choose which team will win? He simply picks the team with the fancier helmets.
Given my recent picks, it seems like the “fancy helmets” strategy couldn’t be that much worse. After several years where I’ve consistently been in the upper echelon of Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players, this year I’m somewhere around the Mendoza Line. I need to get on the right side of decent. There are plenty of anglers in the same boat, trying to make a charge at some achievement, whether that be AOY, a Classic berth or simply remaining on the Elite Series next year. I’m glad I haven’t bet my vacation money on my Fantasy Fishing picks, but there are lots of pros who over the next few weeks will lock in whether their 2016 season is a success or a failure by their subjective standards. A little bit of focused desperation never hurts.
With that in mind, I’m looking for some combination of the following factors in all of my picks: (1) Grass expertise; (2) prior success up north; (3) something to prove. Here you go. No wagering, please.
BUCKET A: POWROZNIK
Greg Hackney is in this group, and he won on Cayuga in 2014 and is coming off another monumental win, so there’s no doubt that he’ll be an overwhelmingly popular pick, and deservedly so. But don’t forget about Jacob Powroznik, who finished sixth here the last time around and is currently in sixth in the AOY race. He’s 88 points behind Hack, but that can be made up over time, and it’s one of the titles he needs to cement his status as one of the top anglers in the game right now. Most importantly, he’s a master grass flipper as well as a superior drop shotter.
You can bet that while he’s playing with house money Hackney will ride the flip stick until it breaks, but look for Powroznik to be in contention whether largemouths or smallmouths prove to be the winning ticket.
BUCKET B: B. LANE
It may sound weird, but when in doubt in New York go with a Florida flipper. The shallow bowls of the Sunshine State are a great training ground for places like Oneida and Cayuga. Bobby Lane finished 34th here last time and has done well on Oneida most of the time, too. He’s currently in 28th in the AOY race, inside the bubble, and needs to finish strong to keep his streak of Classic appearances alive. He hasn’t missed one since joining the Elites. The last time he didn’t fish the Classic was 2007. With mostly grass waters left on the schedule, expect him to keep his streak alive.
BUCKET C: CHAPMAN
After a solid start to the season with fifth- and fourth-place finishes at the St. Johns and Winyah Bay, respectively, Brent Chapman has missed four checks in a row, with his results getting worse each time. He was seventh at Cayuga in 2014 and has multiple money finishes on nearby Oneida, including a sixth-place result in the 2012 Elite Series Championship. At 58th in the AOY race, he needs to get his season back on track – he’s missed two Classics in a row after qualifying for seven straight.
BUCKET D: MORGENTHALER
Chad Morgenthaler was a bargain in Bucket E, but with two good finishes in a row at Toledo and Texoma, he’s experienced some vertical migration. Fortunately for him, it’s another grass lake. That’s where he shines, and it should allow him to keep his momentum going. If the flip bite is on, expect him to stay with the big stick from start to finish. It could be a recipe for disaster, but after missing the 50 cut by 15 ounces in 2014, you can expect that he’s done some self-analysis and plans to take some revenge. At 67th in the AOY race, he’s at a turning point – with an outstanding performance the rest of the way he could still qualify for the Classic, but if he stumbles he could flirt with not requalifying for the Elite Series.
BUCKET E: SCROGGINS
Terry Scroggins finished 73rd at Cayuga in 2014 and is mired in the worst slump of his career. Since finishing seventh at St. Johns and barely in the money at Winyah Bay (51st), he’s missed four straight Elite Series checks, with three of those finishes being 96th or worse. So why am I picking him? It’s not because he lives close to Tampa and I like their helmets (actually, he lives closer to Jacksonville and their helmets are just so-so). It’s just a hunch. And Bucket E is where you play those hunches and hope to shock the world. Scroggins is probably not going to make the Classic this year (he’s currently 90th in AOY), which will make three misses in a row after fishing 10 straight. The competition is tougher than ever and his back seems to be against the wall.