MANY, La. — Did your Fantasy Fishing team gain or lose ground after Bassmaster Classic scores recently got culled from the standings? Your answer should determine how you pick your Toledo Bend roster.
If you're in the 90th percentile or better, make conservative picks, going with favorites. If the adjustment knocked you backwards, make high-risk/high-reward picks to regain ground: High finishes by undervalued anglers can yield big gains.
"Undervalued anglers" are those who have momentum and good history at a lake but a low ownership percentage or are in a low-tier bucket due to a current slump but have a career history of better finishes.
Looking at the Lake
According to BassGold.com pattern information for Toledo Bend, offshore structure has been best in early summer. That means grass and timber on ridges, humps, ledges and creek channels. All should hold populations of postspawn bass. But at 65 miles long, Toledo Bend is big enough to give anglers several options for how and where to catch 'em.
Bait-wise, worms have been most productive as well as other deep baits like crankbaits, lizard/creatures (mostly Carolina rigged) and jig-n-pigs. As such, the following roster suggestions include anglers that are adept at throwing cranks and soft plastics, are enjoying momentum (as indicated by Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings), and have finished well on Toledo Bend previously – though B.A.S.S. hasn't had a summer tournament on T-Bend since June 1980.
Conservative pick: Todd Faircloth
Safe bets: Dean Rojas, Edwin Evers
Dark horse: Keith Combs
Faircloth is the second-most-picked angler in this group, at 12.9 percent ownership at the time of this writing. Research shows his average finishes here are fifth best among Elites that have fished at least three tournaments here in the last 11 years, including a seventh, 17th and 18th. From nearby Jasper, Texas, Faircloth grew up fishing Toledo Bend. And at 6th place in AOY points, he has momentum.
Despite wins here in 2001 and 2011, Rojas is only the eighth-most-picked in Bucket A. Maybe because his wins came in April and February, and the Bend will fish much differently now. But, in 2011, when the lake was about 8 feet low and the bass population was in all three spawning stages, he won mostly on swimbaits. His average T-Bend finishes are second-best – including his wins, a fourth and 28th – and he's now 29th in AOY points.
At ninth in AOY points, Evers has the fourth-best average T-Bend finish in our data set, including a sixth, seventh and 12th.
Combs is the best high-risk, high-reward pick in Bucket A. At just 1.7 percent ownership, if he finishes best in the bucket, you score more than 98.3 percent of the other 19,000-some fantasy competitors. In 16th place in AOY points, Combs has both momentum and a respectable history on Toledo Bend. His average finish here is seventh best, including an 18th, 25th and 27th.
Conservative pick: Chris Lane
Safe bets: Aaron Martens, Jeff Kriet
Dark horse: Mike McClelland
At 31 percent, Chris Lane is the most-picked angler in Bucket B. His average T-Bend finish is 10th best, with a fourth and 20th, and he's 22nd in Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points.
Martens jumped from Bucket C to B after breaking a slump with a third-place finish on Douglas Lake. Can he build on that momentum to finish the season strong, or will he slip back? At 56th in AOY points, he needs a few Top 10s to qualify for the Classic. Right now, he's the second-most picked angler in Bucket C at 17 percent. His average T-Bend finish is 15th best, including a ninth and 21st.
Kriet is at 10.2 percent ownership and has the momentum (20th in AOY) and history to justify it. His average T-Bend finish is ninth best, including a fourth and 24th.
McClelland offers the best value in the bunch, with similar momentum and history, but only 1.6 percent ownership. He's 21st in AOY points and his average finish here is 13th best, including a fifth.
Conservative pick: Matt Reed
Safe bet: Steve Kennedy
Dark horse: Andy Montgomery
Reed: 12.4 percent ownership. Average finish is 20th best, including a 24th, 31st and 33rd.
Kennedy: 9.3 percent ownership. Average finish is third best of Elites that have fished at least twice here in the past five years, including an eighth and 12th.
Montgomery: 3.8 percent ownership. Has the best average finish of Elites who have fished at least twice here in the past five years, including a second and sixth.
Conservative pick: Takahiro Omori
Safe bets: Stephen Browning, Brian Snowden
Dark horse: Rick Morris
Omori: 6 percent ownership. Average finish is the best of Elites who have fished at least three events here in the past 11 years, including a second, sixth, 14th and 23rd.
Browning: 2.3 percent ownership. Average finish is sixth best, including a ninth, tenth, 21st and 24th.
Snowden: 0.3 percent ownership. Average finish is third best, including a ninth, 27th and 30th.
Morris: 0.4 percent ownership. Average finish is 12th best, including a win, 13th and 59th.
The best bet in this bucket is John Murray, at 3.5 percent ownership. Average finish is 11th best, including a 2003 Bassmaster Open win.