We are officially headed to the second stop of the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series season. Lake Martin went just “OK” for me. I ended with a little over the thousand-point mark.
The 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, however, was a completely different story. I had a solid strategy that I was sure would pay off. My game plan was to pick guys that could handle the “Classic pressure”. It seems like every year, I manage to make a pick that lands in dead last. This year, I hope I got that out of the way with Skeet Reese. Not sure what happened, but several of my guys tanked and I landed just over a thousand points again — and at the Classic, if you’re not posting 1200-1300 points, you’re really setting yourself back.
My game plan at the Sabine will be to strictly shoot for making up some ground. When you get into the nitty-gritty of the top 51 on the leaderboard, you have to pay close attention to the ownership percentage, because every spot gained counts big time. This week, because I’m in the sixty-first percentile, I must pick guys who are sure to score big.
The Sabine is a cool place and is apparently fishing better than it has in years past. We have had a few high-water weather events like the Hurricane Harvey this last year that helped with the spawns. While a 1 1/2-pound bass played as a solid keeper last year, I think the average solid fish will be closer to two pounds.
We should see a strong group of anglers with a nine- to 10-pound bag each day. That said, a 2 1/2- to three-pounder would be huge.
I’m banking on guys that have proven themselves in shallow, semi-tidal fisheries where finding the “right” bites is key.
Let’s jump in.
BUCKET A: FAIRCLOTH
My Pick: Todd Faircloth
If his history here is any indication, he will, at the bare minimum score me some points. He is a Texan and a grass angler that knows how to find good populations here. He won here in 2013 and posted a ninth in 2015. I’m going to lean hard on him here, and not worry about his ownership percentage, which will definitely be high.
Don’t Forget: Rojas
Rojas landed in second here in 2013 after having to share water on the final day. He was in position to run away with the event, but only put one fish on the board on the last day and fell short. A frog will definitely play in this post-spawn event, so I expect him to show up.
BUCKET B: SCROGGINS
My Pick: Terry Scroggins
Big Show has proven he can do well here. One of the keys to having a solid Fantasy Fishing event is landing those 40-point bonuses for biggest bag of the tournament and biggest fish. Scroggins had one go nearly seven pounds in 2015. That’s a MASSIVE fish for the Sabine. If he can even find a five- or six-pounder, he could get me those bonus points. His finishes here were third and 26th the last two times we visited Orange, Texas. I’d be completely happy with either one of those finishes.
Don’t Forget: Aaron Martens or Mike Iaconelli
Martens stumbled here in 2013 and had a dismal 88th-place finish, but turned it around in 2015 with a third-place finish. He could certainly do that again. Ike has an 83rd-place finish here as well, but if you remember, he wrecked his boat on the banks in a runoff creek and that threw him off-balance for the event. He took down a 30th-place finish in 2015. He loves shallow, tidal, tough-bite tournaments. He could make a run.
BUCKET C: CREWS
My Pick: John Crews
If there were one bucket in which I would ask forgiveness for swapping anglers at the last second, it would be this bucket. There are some solid picks here. My gut is telling me to go with John Crews for now. He loves to shallow fish, especially with a frog. He finished sixth and 23rd here previously, and could very well make another decent finish — and get me some points.
Don’t Forget: Mike McClelland or Chris Lane
Mike McClelland made a crazy two-hour run, one way run to a few small canals in both of the previous tournaments here. The anglers are not allowed to enter the Gulf this year and that could affect McClelland’s game plan. On the other hand you have Chris Lane who won here in 2015. The only thing keeping me from possibly picking him is that he has zero momentum coming off of last season. I’ll need him to post a few decent finishes before I can confidently pick him for Fantasy Fishing.
BUCKET D: SWINDLE
My Pick: Gerald Swindle
This is easily one of the most stacked Bucket Ds I have ever seen in my six seasons of Fantasy Fishing. Of all the names, I absolutely know who I’m picking though. Swindle has his game face on this season. If you watched him at the Classic, it was almost like he had to force himself to get out of game-time mode so he could throw out his redneck, post-game recaps, and manly hygienic product endorsements. Not only does he work harder than just about everyone else, he just finished 10th at the Classic and has great momentum and he landed in 24th in 2015.
Don’t Forget: KVD, Stephen Browning, Bill Lowen, Dave Lefebre … The list goes on.
There are so many river rats, tough-event specialists and flippers in this bucket, you could almost close your eyes and randomly click on one and score some good points.
One angler worth mentioning is KVD. He finished 15th in 2013 and 46th in 2015. 2014 and 2015 were his toughest seasons in the last 15 years. He is the best at getting bites in tough tournaments. If those are his finishes when he’s struggling, it’ll be interesting to see what he does when he’s on! He’ll probably throw a jerkbait in five inches of mud or something.
BUCKET E: MONROE
My Pick: Ish Monroe
Again, we’re looking at a lot of good options. I’m sticking with Ish for one reason: He only fishes for big bites. He’ll be throwing a frog, and flipping something big and bulky to target the better-than-average fish. He finished fourth on his frog in 2013 and cashed a check in 2015. Either way, I think he’s good for some points.
Don’t Forget: Keith Poche or Shaw Grigsby
This pick is a little bit sneaky, but it probably shouldn’t be. Poche finished 29th and 11th previously, and he is from this neck of the woods. He will be under valued and would be a good bargain pick. If you want a solid sentimental pick, go with Grigsby. He can absolutely still hang with this group, and I’m ready to see him hoisting another trophy. He is an awesome grass fisherman and if he can stay around them for four days, he could post a solid finish too. He finished 37th and seventh the last two times the Elites visited the Sabine.