With a pretty good Fantasy Fishing finish on the St. Lawrence River, I’m slowly working my way up into the top 10 percent. Our next stop on Lake Champlain July 27-30 should be another crazy fun tournament to watch. While the St. Lawrence River tournament was dominated by smallmouth bass, historically Champlain is known for a healthy number of 3- to 4-pound largemouth. I’m looking for a good mix of hunger for AOY and a knack for finding the key spots away from the crowds to lead to the trophy. That very ability to find the small subtleties led Timmy Horton to his victory by over a 13-pound margin in 2007 with a four-day total of 83-10. While 22- to 24-pound bags are far from impossible, in the last decade or so of tournaments out there, it takes a hair over 20 pounds a day to bring home the win.
Looking at all the buckets, there are so many of the guys I want to pick that have extremely high ownership. However, in each bucket there are one or two guys that should fly under the radar and are likely to post a high finish. I’m going to try to pick mostly guys under 10 percent ownership if I can help it.
One of the great things about this lake is that it has thousands of acres of fertile water to spread out in. There are massive grass flats and timber as well as plenty of offshore structure. Being that it is the middle of the summer in New York, that offshore stuff should play big time. The weather looks relatively stable moving in to the end of the week so I’m going to lean on the offshore guys pretty heavily.
BUCKET A: Evers
I only have a few more events to sneak into the top 10 percent, so I have to make some moderately risky picks here. That said, I’m picking Edwin Evers again, praying he beats the odds on favorite. Evers doesn’t have great history on this body of water, but my mind keeps going to Kentucky Lake and Toledo Bend when he cranked up giant bass over four days and took the title. He has a great knack for finding little things others miss and milking it for all it’s worth. If he finishes near the top, the 1.5 percent of us who are picking him could get a big point bonus over the field for bucket A. He is realistically out of the AOY race, but he doesn’t have a quittin’ bone in his body. My guess is we’ll see him coming out swinging.
Flip-Flop Pick: KVD
I’ve got to take a second to congratulate the GOAT, KVD, on his 24th victory. This guy is probably at least 40 or 50 years away from retirement, so if you thought he was nearing the end, think again. He has a massive 43 percent ownership right now. There has only been one person ito win back-to-back Elite events and that was Edwin Evers. However, if you want to maintain your position on the leaderboard, KVD would be a great option. He is poised to finish out strong and make a run at the AOY title. He will certainly post a great finish and get his 43 percent a lot of points.
Bucket B: Monroe
With the diverse largemouth habitat here, it really gives guys who excel at catching green fish the option to fish their strengths. That said, it should take close to 18-pounds per day on average to break into the Top 12. No one knows how to target bigger than average fish better than Ish Monroe. He has occasionally done well on northern largemouth fisheries and with all the froggin’ water available, he will find his niche and get to work. He has a sixth place and a fourth place in 2009 and 2010 respectively with a dismal 140th place finish when Bill Clinton was in office. He’s right on the AOY bubble so he needs to get good finishes in tournaments where he can fish his strengths to make up for the tournaments that require a pixie stick to catch a 2-pounder
Flip-Flop Pick: Dave Lefebre
Lefebre has to be the most frequently picked angler amongst us pundit guys. It seems like every tournament, his name is thrown around because of his consistency. He loves to fish grass, so I don’t see him venturing too far from the bank. Some of the big ones live there, so if he can find one or two key bites a day, it could take him a long way. His 20 percent ownership is pretty tough to swallow, so I’ll probably stick with Ish.
Bucket C: Reese
This bucket is so full of stout fisherman that it makes it tough to single out just one or two. Steve Kennedy, Skeet Reese, Matt Herren, Timmy Horton and John Murray all have what it takes to make a run, just to name a few. My gut though is leaning to the man in yellow. He loves the post-season tournaments and always posts a good finish or two towards the end of the year. He is on the Classic bubble so he has a little extra incentive to do well. He also has some good finishes here including a second in 2007 and a 10th way back when I was in seventh grade. With the exception of a few events, he has had a stellar season. If anyone has the drive to finish strong, it’s Skeet.
Flip-Flop pick: Adrian Avena
Something is telling me to keep an eye out on this northeastern native. He posted a sixth place finish here last year. With this being his sophomore season, I know he wants to finish strong so he can give it another shot next year. He is a phenomenal frog fisherman, but can also find fish offshore and put the hurt on them. This one is definitely a bucket to think about.
Bucket D: Biffle
There is not just a ton of history represented in this bucket. There are a few wily veterans in the mix, but their finishes here are not super impressive. Tommy Biffle tops the list with fifth and fourth place finishes here in 2006 and 2007 respectively. He also has a handful of wins and high finishes in the North. Don’t be surprised if he puts it together here.
Flip-Flop Pick: Chad Pipkens
I went with Pipkens for the last event and he took me on a rollercoaster ride. For whatever reason, he always tends to finish the season strong. He struggled to qualify for the 2017 season but fortunately requalified through the Opens. I know he doesn’t want to have to do that again. He has a little work to do to ensure he doesn’t have to sweat it out. If that’s not motivating, I don’t know what is. Plus he can flat out catch ‘em if he can put his head down and focus.
Bucket E: Tacoronte
For once, I’m picking based on who I think will do well and not just on who I think will bomb the least. Tacoronte may be from Florida, but he has some stout stats up north. He posted a ninth and 15th in Northern Opens here in the last few years against massive fields. That justifies more than a little faith in the guy. I’d say he has something figured out on these fisheries. I’m going to put a lot of stock in him this time around.
Flip-Flop Pick: Takahiro Omori
An easy second pick here is Tak. He absolutely loves to fish grass and is way too good to be sitting in Bucket E. He has burned me a few times this season, so between that and his high ownership, it will take a good bit of convincing to get me off the Tacoronte-train. It sure would suck to miss out on his first Top 12 of the season though. Food for thought.
I jumped up 2 percent in the standings after St. Lawrence River to the 88.7 percentile. If I can get another 1,100-1,200 points, that should jump me up into the 90s.