Fantasy: Go under the radar for good picks on the Sabine

Even though I am still currently trapped in a world of snow and ice here in central Illinois, my cabin fever is finally getting a little reprieve. The new Elite Series season and Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing presented by Toyota is about to kick off on the Sabine River in Orange, Texas.

I ended up not doing so hot after switching some of my picks to the “dark horses” for the Bassmaster Classic, so this tournament will be a new beginning for me. After all it was the Classic, where points don’t carry over, for the fishermen or for Fantasy Fishing players. Go big or go home, right?

Now that it’s the regular season, our Fantasy Fishing points carry over for all eight events. Ideally, we want to begin the season with a strong start, but the Sabine River isn’t exactly a cut-and-dried fishery. There are a lot of variables to consider here, so choose wisely!

Here is how I see the Sabine River shaking out.

Bucket A

Give the nod to: Todd Faircloth

Todd Faircloth is the safe and secure pick for Bucket A. He won this event the last time the Elites were here in 2013, and with the exception of Dennis Tietje, is as close to a local on the Sabine River as anyone. Faircloth can fish vegetation with the best of them and has a knack for starting the season off well. Smart money says he’ll finish near the top.

But don’t be shocked if: Jared Lintner shows up

Lintner is coming off one of his best years ever as an Elite Series angler and will be looking to start off on the right foot at the Sabine. Last year he learned to have fun and fish his strengths, which happen to be shallow water power fishing. With Bucket A having so many accomplished anglers, Lintner is not on a lot of people’s list, so it may be wise to make sure he is on yours!

Bucket B

Give the nod to: Terry “Big Show” Scroggins

Terry Scroggins had a great tournament the last time the Elites were here, finishing in third. Even though he came in third, Scroggins was arguably on the biggest fish, bringing a limit to the scales only one out of the four tournament days, racking up his final weight with only 14 out of the allotted 20 bass. If Scroggins can figure out a way to connect with even one more fish a day, there is no doubt he’ll be near the top of the leaderboard. He also is overdue for an Elite Series win. Scroggins is my pick.

But don’t be shocked if: Bobby Lane becomes a player

“Big fish” Bobby Lane is another angler who had a great tournament here the last time around. More than that, though, he is a fantastic shallow-water power fisherman who is coming off a second-place finish at the Classic. Momentum is a very real thing in tournament fishing, and I expect Lane to be riding it to a high finish.

Bucket C

Give the nod to: Brandon Card

Brandon Card finished 10th here to kick off his great start to 2013, and he usually seems to show up in these early season tournaments below the Mason-Dixon Line. He is coming off a rough 2014 season, and he proved last time the Elites were here that he is willing to do anything to get to biting bass. I expect him to have another good showing.

But don’t be shocked if: Ish Monroe has a high finish

Ish Monroe was one of only two anglers (Bill Lowen was the other one) to weigh in a limit every day when the Elites were here in 2013, and that landed him squarely in the Top 5. He is a noted shallow-water power fisherman who seems to regularly start his season off with a bang.

Bucket D

Give the nod to: Dennis Tietje

Take away Dennis Tietje’s Day 1 on the Sabine River in 2013 — when he only caught one fish because of mechanical problems — and we could have seen a very different tournament. Tietje still found a way to finish in the Top 12 last time after rebounding on Days 2 and 3. He has more knowledge of the Sabine than anyone and will really be looking to start strong after a dismal 2014 campaign.

But don’t be shocked if: Gary Klein has a good tournament

On such a fickle fishery, a cool head and a lifetime’s worth of tournament experience can pay huge dividends. That is exactly what you get with Gary Klein. Klein is a Texas angler who has stood the test of time and has proved that he can catch them anywhere. Don’t let him off your radar.

Bucket E

Give the nod to: Jordan Lee

The safe bet is Bucket E is Brent Ehrler, but with more than 50 percent ownership, I have a tough time putting him on my team — which is why I’ll be choosing Auburn University hammer, Jordan Lee. Lee is an Elite Series rookie but has proved time and again that he can catch ’em when it counts, having great finishes last year in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens presented by Allstate, as well as in his illustrious career with the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series. Be watching for this dude all year long.

But don’t be shocked if: Carl Jocumsen turns some heads

I’ll admit, this Carl Jocumsen pick is mostly because I have followed the Australian angler the last couple years and I really admire him. This will be his first Elite Series tournament, which doesn’t push the odds in his favor. But Jocumsen has proved his prowess on the Bassmaster Open Series and won’t be afraid to do anything he needs to do to put himself toward the top of the leaderboard.