Fantasy: Flippers and froggers on the Delta

The California Delta is the first stop on the Western Swing for the Elite Series this year. It has been a couple years since the Elites headed West, and so many Western anglers are chomping at the bit to get home for the first event somewhere near their backyard, while other competitors are making the trek West for the first time ever.

I have never seen the California Delta in person, but one thing I do know is that it is a pretty long haul from the Sacramento River launch to the big bass territory that anglers desire in the Delta.

Here are my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks for the Sacramento River. Take them as you may.

Bucket A

Conservative pick: Justin Lucas

Justin Lucas resides on the shores of Lake Guntersville, but he hails from California. I expect Lucas to feel like he is home away from home when he wets a line on the Delta next week.

He experienced pressure of fishing a major tournament on his home waters (Guntersville) and handled it well, finishing in 30th place. I don’t expect him to struggle this week on the Delta. This versatile angler has made a check in 18 of his 22 B.A.S.S. events … wow, just wow.

Dark horse pick: Todd Faircloth

Crazy to think that Faircloth could ever be a dark horse given the consistency he has shown over his career, but with 1.9 percent of Fantasy Fishing players choosing the four-time winner, I consider it a steal. Faircloth and grass lakes/rivers seem to coincide, and I don’t think anything will be any different when it comes to the California Delta.

I take Faircloth given his ownership percentage.

Bucket B

Conservative pick: Scott Rook

Scott Rook is a river fisherman and a fantastic one to boot. I expect most anglers to make a long run to areas in the California Delta and battle tides and congested areas to search for big bass. If there are good fishing areas on the Sacramento River portion of this venue, I expect Rook to find them.

It is always crucial to have backup areas near the launch ramp just in case things turn bad in your main area. This rang true at the Sabine and I could see it possibly happening again at some point.

Dark horse pick: Tommy Biffle

Tommy Biffle is a shallow water specialist, and the California Delta sets up well in terms of flipping and pitching. I expect Biffle to do exceptionally well flipping grass and doing what he does best.

While Bucket A is filled with West Coast anglers and so many options that could do well there, Bucket B is wide open with just a few favorites but plenty of potential to go around.

I’m going with Biffle on this one.

Bucket C

Conservative pick: Cliff Crochet

Cliff Crochet and the Cal Delta could go hand in hand this week, especially if a frog is any kind of player this week. He seems to thrive on this type of fishery. Flipping, pitching and frogging are the name of the game here. Last time the Elites fished here, in 2010, Crochet was a rookie and it was his first event of the regular season. He didn’t do so well, but he is a completely different angler with a few years under his belt.

Dark horse pick: David Williams

Bucket C is wide open with possibilities, but rookie David Williams stands out to me as an underdog that could do well on the Cal Delta. After a stellar start to the season with a Top 20 at the Sabine, Williams caught 15 pounds a day and he fished his style. Williams isn’t going to do anything fancy or out of the ordinary during his rookie season, but he will fish his style. He won the 2014 Southern Opens points race by doing that, and I expect another solid finish in the first event on the Western Swing.

Give me the rookie on this one. Williams it is.

Bucket D

Conservative pick: Randall Tharp

No way when the season started would you think that Tharp would have 61st- and 84th -place finishes to start the season. Neither the Sabine nor Guntersville were stellar events for him, but I expect one of the best shallow-water anglers to turn it around on the Delta. Big weight, big hook and a flipping stick ring in my head when I think of Randall Tharp. Watch out this week because this familiar face will find his way to a payday and possibly fishing on Sunday.

Dark horse pick: Charlie Hartley

In the last two weeks Charlie Hartley has finished 38th at Lake Guntersville and just placed 10th on the Alabama River in the second Southern Open. With back-to-back good finishes, he should keep the momentum rolling along and find another payday at the Delta.

You can’t keep the Honey Badger down for long. I’m going with Tharp.

Bucket E

Conservative pick: Jared Lintner

I don’t think you can go wrong choosing Jared Lintner in this bucket for a couple reasons. Not only does he live just a couple hours down the road, but he has also proved to be a stud on the grass lakes and pulling them out of the thick cover.

It helps that in 2007, he finished in seventh place on the Delta. Another good finish should come Lintner’s way next week. The problem is that more than 38 percent of players expect Lintner to do well also, making him one of the most picked anglers.

Dark horse pick: Fred Roumbanis

To say that this season has been a struggle so far for Fred Roumbanis would be an understatement, but if there is one thing about Roumbanis that doesn’t change, it is his smile. The California Delta should add to that grin because his favorite weapon should make an appearance this week.

Braided line and frog poppin’ should be a common sight this week at some point. Roumbanis is among the best with a frog in his hand.

I’ll take a little Boom Boom on the Delta to round out my team.