Fantasy Fishing: Think AOY standings at Rayburn

When considering Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing selections for the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, think about current AOY positions — both points earned and needed to successfully finish up the 2017 Elite Series season.

What I’m talking about is simple: Consider anglers who have had a great year so far, and now being halfway through the season how important it is to continue to do well to remain in the hunt for the prestigious Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.

But also keep in mind the top-shelf anglers who’ve had a difficult season so far like Jacob Powroznik, Matt Herren and Terry Scroggins.

As far as your Fantasy Fishing points are concerned? Sometimes there’s no doubt about buying into an angler that you know will do well, but has garnered a high percentage of ownership. Maybe consider similar caliber anglers who seem to be overlooked to some extent. You’ll climb the standings more if you begin thinking this way.

It’s also worth noting that this tournament will carry a different set of rules, process and weigh-in. Some anglers may not even catch a fish worth bringing to the scales, yet still register a limit. On top of that, everybody gets paid, and there’s a berth on the line to the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

This is a catch-and-release event, but each angler will bring their heaviest bass over 21 inches to the weigh-in stage, then immediately release it. This style of fishing will impact how spots are fished and how anglers manage their patterns.

For full details on the way this event will be conducted in it’s entirety, watch the Bassmaster.com homepage for a full feature.

Here are my picks for this Sam Rayburn tournament. 

BUCKET A: LEFEBRE

Again, I didn’t pick Lefebre knowing he could do well, and again he reminded me of my ignorance. He’s proven me wrong twice, once cost me a 9-month-old beard and a load of pride. This time, I’m coming back to KVDave. He is a very accomplished postspawn angler, and he has a well-defined history of catching big bass in Texas; not to mention a former TTBC champion. Evidently, I can’t learn my lesson about betting against Lefebre — so Dave, if you’re reading this. I am listening. Don’t let me down and don’t screw up my Fantasy team this time! Prove to me you’re a viable selection, and win this thing … (I jest)

Darkhorse: Jason Christie and Ott DeFoe are leading the AOY race by a good margin. Right now, Christie has moved into the first-place slot for now. I’m thinking Christie has a slight edge on DeFoe at this tournament, but you shouldn’t ever overlook DeFoe. As the season wanes on, the AOY race will tighten up and a leader, or leaders, will emerge. Too early to call right now — at this time, both guys are kicking tail.

BUCKET B: THARP

After a terrible tournament at Toledo Bend, I knew the Florida angler and former FLW Cup Champion would bounce back. He did and finished 23rd at Ross Barnett. But, if you think that will satisfy him, you’re wrong. The only thing that will make Randall Tharp happy is a win. He also tops my list of postspawn anglers. You can bet that a jig and a frog will play at Sam Rayburn, and I’m not sure there’s a better guy who’s so good at both.

Darkhorse: Keith Combs or Mike Iaconelli would be safe bets at this event. Both have big history with the TTBC, and Iaconelli is still sore about loosing to Combs a few years back. Combs has a slight edge in the AOY race, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a thing for these two guys. Maybe Gerald Swindle?

BUCKET C: HERREN

Alabama’s Matt Herren has posted two Top 12s and two uncharacteristic finishes in the 90s. Like Tharp, he doesn’t take losing very well, and typically responds with a big finish. Last time, I picked Tharp and Herren also, and both guys moved up a bucket and are my selections again for this one. Herren is due a win, and Sam Rayburn in late May totally sets up for his style.

Darkhorse: Skeet Reese and Dean Rojas should be on your radar for Sam Raburn. Skeet has been making an interesting charge lately, and I’d expect his momentum to continue. Dean Rojas is a fantastic postspawn angler, and likely the best with a frog, which will be a big player in Texas. I’d expect both anglers to do well, and you should feel comfortable selecting them for your FF team.

BUCKET D: POWROZNIK

Jacob Powroznik has been quietly climbing the AOY board — not into the higher ranks just yet, but he’s nearing the top of Bucket D, which wasn’t the case a couple of tournaments ago. He’s been interestingly off this year, which we all know won’t last long. I think he’s on the uphill climb, and I’m confident this trend will continue for the Virginia angler.

Darkhorse: Gary Klein or Cliff Crochet should be looked at and considered. Klein isn’t done with his career yet. He hasn’t won since 2003, and needs the AOY points if he hopes to make the Classic in 2018. Cliff Crochet has been making noise lately, especially early in the event. He has struggled later in the tournament, which is something he wants to correct. Sam Rayburn sets up nicely for the “Cajun Baby”, and he’s coming to town to win.

BUCKET E: LUCAS

The struggle is real for Justin Lucas, and I know his time in Bucket E is growing short. I guarantee this cat will right the ship in short order, and I believe it will be in Texas. Sometimes slumps happen, and they happen to the best of us. Lucas is better than represented by his record this year, and I’m confident you can bank on big improvements from the young pro.

Darkhorse: James Niggemeyer or Terry Scroggins both need a solid performance at the midway mark of the 2017 season. I’ve been saying for some time that Scroggins is just in a slump, but it’s held on longer than most of us anticipated. The Big Show is known around Bassmaster Elite Series circles as the dude to cook for you if you’re hungry, and he’s the guy who can fix just about anything — that includes beating this slump he’s in. It’s only a matter of time before he surprises everyone and wins, except nobody will be surprised because he’s that good. Same with Niggemeyer, his record doesn’t reflect his talent, and with this being a tournament taking place in his home state, you can rest assured he’ll show up to earn back valuable AOY points.

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