Two tournaments in a row and two disasters in the Fantasy Fishing realm for my team. It’s a tad disappointing, but when you avoid the high percentage anglers it can most certainly burn you. The St. Lawrence River showed out tremendously and a lot of good anglers with good two-day weights got the weekend off without a pay check surprisingly.
Those smallmouth specialists that garnered high percentages paid off for the field last event. With Kevin VanDam, Brandon Palaniuk, Jonathon VanDam, Jamie Hartman and Brent Ehrler all making Day 4, it paid to go with the sure-thing picks.
There is no rest for the weary as Lake Champlain is this week as the second week of the back-to-back New York swing. We saw minimal largemouth impact the St. Lawrence when it came to the Top 12 even though three anglers from 20th to 30th focused on them heavily. Champlain should see more of a largemouth factor, so my thought this week is to pick guys that can mix it up if need be. They may target largemouth one day, but can switch it up for smallmouth at a moment’s notice.
BUCKET A: Wheeler
My pick: Jacob Wheeler
Wheeler has shown prowess for both smallmouth and largemouth this season. He snuck into the Top 51 cut at the St. Lawrence River, but didn’t move much as he finished 47th. Last fall Wheeler finished 22nd at the Open and expressed his love of Lake Champlain. He is definitely gunning for a Top 12 this week, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he made Day 4 based off smallmouth, largemouth or a mix of both.
Watch out for: Greg Hackney
If I was to sell out for an angler strictly concentrating on largemouth, it would be Greg Hackney. He was one of the few to solely focus on largemouth at the St. Lawrence, and if targeting green ones is his best shot to win at Champlain then that’s probably where he will dedicate his time.
BUCKET B: Pirch
My pick: Clifford Pirch
Back in January I picked specific winners for every Elite event as a different form of Fantasy Fishing and my initial gut choice was Clifford Pirch. I saw how many smallmouth were caught and how healthy the size and population was and expect some smallmouth guys to rise to the top. Pirch is one of those sneaky smallmouth specialists and I’m hoping a little sneak will gain some extra points in this bucket.
Watch out for: Micah Frazier
I put Frazier on my “watch out for” radar at Sam Rayburn, and he notched a Top 20 there. With Champlain dubbed as one of Frazier’s favorite fisheries that can be a dangerous combination. Hopefully his finish translates like it does at one of his other favorites, Kentucky Lake. Fishing with confidence and excitement can put anglers in the right mindset.
BUCKET C: Avena
My pick: Adrian Avena
Last fall Avena drove 23 hours straight from the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship in Minnesota to Lake Champlain. Without any practice time he went fishing on instincts and his gut, which paid off with a Top 12 finish. Let’s see how comfortable Avena is this week on one of his favorite fisheries.
Watch out for: Skeet Reese
Reese has resurrected his season over the last few events and with a Top 20 at the St. Lawrence River he is steadily rising in the AOY Standings. He is on the verge of the Classic cutline and is gaining steam at the right time of the year.
BUCKET D: Benton
My pick: Drew Benton
Benton is a largemouth, grass fisherman at heart so if I had to guess what he will focus his efforts on the most it would be those big green fish. If he somehow found a smallmouth side deal then it could be a perfect storm for the second-year Elite angler.
Watch out for: Justin Lucas
When you look at the lower buckets it’s important to see past their current Angler of the Year position and rather see how they are trending. They could be in the mid 70s, but if they have risen from the 90s over the last few events it could be a great pick compared to someone who may have fallen from the Top 50 to that mark. Lucas is on the rise with three checks in a row.
BUCKET E: Grigsby
My pick: Shaw Grigsby
Grigsby needs a big tournament and this could be a remedy for him this week. Grigsby has the chance to compete with largemouth at Champlain, probably the last event of the year where they will factor.
Watch out for: David Williams
I mentioned smallmouth, we’ve touched on largemouth, but one thing not mentioned is the dock fishing. With the high water New York has experienced on all of their fisheries, the docks will have plenty of water around them. That could be a deciding factor for a dock specialist like Williams.