Fantasy Fishing: Stop, hammer time - Toledo Bend style

After four Elite Series tournaments it appears that my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing skills have created quite a buzz. I was out fishing the Potomac River recently when I ran into an acquaintance who flagged me down from his boat.

“Hey Pete, thanks for the Fantasy Fishing picks,” he yelled.

I’ll admit it. My head got a little swollen and I puffed my chest out. “Glad I could help,” I replied, trying to remain nonchalant.

“Yeah, I just do the opposite of everything you recommend and it has me in the 99th percentile.”

Ouch.

OK, for a self-proclaimed expert my season has been a disaster. Last year when I found myself in the same predicament I offered up the George Costanza “opposite plan”, but I’m hesitant to visit that well again. I need a new strategy. With that in mind, I’m going with the following five highly touted young men:

-Ryan Leaf

-JaMarcus Russell

-Art Schlichter

-Lawrence Phillips

-Ryan Leaf

Hmmmm. Despite their stellar credentials they didn’t show up in any of my online buckets so I need to look elsewhere.

This is Toledo Bend, one of the sport’s all-time greatest fish factories, and it’s fishing exceptionally well right now. They’ve already weighed in about 34,642 double digit bass this year there, and that’s despite the fact that it seems like it’s been unfishable much of the time due to raging flood waters. The lake is high and fertile and loaded with big bass, and I fully expect Jacob Powroznik’s winning weight of 79-12 from 2014 to be eclipsed.

When you go to big-fish lakes at their peak, you have to choose hammers. Don’t choose the guys who solely excel when 12 pounds a day is good. Go for the sticks who have Century Belt gold running through their veins.

I’m reminded of the words of three-time NBA All-Star Antoine Walker, when asked why he shot so many three-pointers: “Because there are no fours.” I’m looking to build a team of anglers who can fill the hole with one four pointer after another and who keep on shooting even when they miss. Of course, it didn’t work out for Antoine – he had legal problems and suffered through bankruptcy once his career was over (despite over $100 million in NBA salaries) – but I just need dudes who can shoot for the moon this week.

All heavy hitters up and down my lineup.

BUCKET A: COMBS

There’s an old maxim that you should never gamble with a man named after a state. For similar reasons, you should never bet against Keith Combs when you’re fishing in Texas. As I’ve documented previously, he’s won major events on Falcon, Fork, Tawakoni and Conroe – site of the 2017 Classic – and has near misses at just about every mud puddle from Abilene to Zavalla. Toledo Bend is just a long cast of a 10XD from his house, and you can be sure that he’s spent some time there during the offseason, whenever conditions allowed. He had a clunker here in 2012, but I don’t expect that to happen twice in one lifetime.

Almost Picked: Jacob Powroznik, who won here in 2014, and Dean Rojas, who has twice won Bassmaster events on the big Texas/Louisiana lake. I vacillated between the two of them before ultimately going with my gut and choosing Combs.

BUCKET B: FAIRCLOTH

For the same reasons I picked Combs, I’m going with Faircloth, who’s probably spent as much time on the Bend as anyone in the field. He’d still be a good pick if he’d never made a cast there, but the combination of big bags, grass and fish in varying stages of their post-spawn migration should make the quiet Texan a solid pick. He’s been in the Top 20 in all three Elite tournaments on Toledo Bend.

Almost Picked: Ish Monroe. With high water, someone’s going to find a frogging bite, and there’s a good chance that Ish will stick with it longer than anyone else. He’s a tough Fantasy pick, because he’s not afraid to finish 94th (like he did in 2014) if he can go for a win, but at some point he’s going to win again.

BUCKET C: ASHLEY

No one other than Faircloth has made theTop 20 in all three Elite events on Toledo Bend, but Ashley has a fifth-, a ninth- and a 34th-place finish. Coming off of a Top 12 finish at Wheeler, he has some momentum, too. You don’t normally think of the slightly-built singer as a big fish machine, but he’s a proven winner and he’s won on the biggest stage of them all.

Almost Picked: Terry Scroggins. Most of us think of Scroggins as a Florida flipper, and that’s an accurate impression, but he’s also deadly on the offshore haunts. When B.A.S.S. first visited Falcon in 2008, he came in second with 132-04, largely on the strength of a 44-pound final day limit that came close to beating the “unbeatable” record set by Dean Rojas seven years earlier.

BUCKET D: M. DAVIS

He may not show the fire he once had in his belly, but Mark Davis still understands postspawn fish better than most pros, and he’s patient enough to find and wait them out. In the last two Elite Series stabs at Toledo Bend he’s finished fourth and seventh, and he was also in the money in 2011. All the way back in 2001, he finished 11th. As others stay shallow, bet on him to find an offshore honey hole if one exists.

Almost Picked: Tommy Biffle. For the same Fantasy Fishing-based reasons that I’m afraid of Ish, I’m afraid of Biffle, Steve Kennedy and Kelly Jordon, too. You know they’re going to win at some point, but you also know that they’re constantly courting disaster in search of that win. Biffle has missed the money in all three Elite events on Toledo Bend, but with the water high he’ll glue a flipping stick in his hand in search of a Century Belt.

BUCKET E: MORGENTHALER

By its very nature this is a tough bucket to pick, but Morgenthaler has an opportunity to right his ship with an extra-extra-heavy flipping stick in his hand. He’s probably mad that there wasn’t a true Florida grass-flipping event on the schedule, and he should take out his anger on the fish of Toledo Bend, where he came in second in 2014.

Almost Picked: Paul Elias. When you’re picking hammers, how can you not pick the angler who holds the Bassmaster all-time winning weight record for the five-fish limit era? Clunn got back on top this season after some lean years – why not his contemporary who first fished a B.A.S.S. tournament on Toledo Bend in 1980, before a portion of the field was even born?