I like Ike, but avoid the other favorites

PHILADELPHIA — Owing to a disconnect between the favorites and actual angler history on East Coast tidal waters in August, I almost balked at making my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks public this week. Had I the option to keep them secret, I’d like my chances to win.

That’s a bold statement, I know. But the numbers point away from most of the favorites (with one major exception) and toward anglers who are flying way under radar.

Because neither B.A.S.S. nor FLW has ever held a top-level tournament on the Delaware River, we can’t make apples-to-apples comparisons when evaluating angler histories. But with a wealth of tournament data from East Coast tidal fisheries like the Potomac, James and Hudson rivers, we can make oranges-to-tangerines comparisons, so to speak.

We’ll also consider — but not weigh as heavily — angler history on tidal fisheries like the California and Louisiana deltas. We’re not, however, going to consider history on the St. Johns or Sabine rivers. Even though they are tidal fisheries, most of their tournament bass are caught in areas not greatly affected by the tide. Successful tactics for sight fishing on the St. Johns River’s Lake George in early spring are not likely to translate to early-August fishing on the Delaware River, where the average tidal swing is 7 feet.

Bucket A: Reese or Howell

Although Aaron Martens and Greg Hackney are the most-picked anglers in Bucket A (18.4 percent and 16.5 percent), they’re a bit overvalued compared to anglers with similar histories but lower ownership percentages, like Skeet Reese and Randy Howell.

At only 2.9 percent ownership, Reese is the best value in Bucket A — and it’s not even close. Consider his track record on the Potomac in August: first, second (Elite Series) and third (Bassmaster Top 150). He finishes almost as well on tidal fisheries elsewhere and at other times — seventh on the Louisiana Delta in August; fifth, fifth, fourth and second on the California Delta in the spring; and fifth on the Columbia River in the fall.

At 4.3 percent ownership, Howell is undervalued also. In three top-level Bassmaster tournaments on the Potomac in August, he has finished increasingly better — 21st in 2000, 14th in 2006 and fourth in 2007. And in mid-June 2013, he won a Bassmaster Northern Open on the James River.

I’m sticking with Skeet.

Bucket B: B. Lane or K. VanDam

Here’s another revelation I wish I could keep under wraps this week — Bobby Lane has excelled in summer tournaments on an East Cost tidal river. Of five FLW tournaments he fished on the Potomac between 2005 and 2011, he won two Everstarts and finished third in two FLW Tour events.

You’d think the safe play is Kevin VanDam — who doesn’t spend much time in Bucket B — but you won’t be getting as much résumé from the Kalamazoo Kid as you should for 47.9 percent ownership. In three trips to the Potomac in August, he’s been in the Top 12 only once, a fourth place way back in the 2000 Bassmaster Top 150. In 2006 and 2007, he placed 29th and 20th, respectively. He’s been better on other tidal waters and/or at other times of year — first on the Louisiana Delta, also in August; sixth on the James River in September (2003 Forrest Wood Cup); and sixth and eighth on the California Delta in spring Elite Series events. But he’s also finished 32nd and 29th on the Louisiana and California deltas, respectively.

I’m buying Bobby.

Bucket C: Kennedy or Jordon

My best bets in Bucket C, Stephen Kennedy (3.7 percent) and Kelly Jordon (2.1 percent), come with caveats. Although the numbers indicate they have the best histories on tidal fisheries in August — specifically the Potomac — neither has ever been a Fantasy Fishing star.

For starters, most of the best finishes in their careers came in the last 10 years rather than the last five. Secondly — and this is not scientific in the least — whenever I pick one of them, they don’t even cash a check, it seems. That said, their numbers are best in the bucket.

In 2006 and 2007, Jordon won an Elite Series tournament on the Potomac River in August and was runner-up in another. In two other top-level tournaments on the Potomac, one in August, the other in June, he finished 36th and 30th.

Kennedy placed third and 14th in the August 2006 and 2007 Elite Series tournaments on the Potomac. He didn’t fare as well there in June FLW Tour events, however, placing 21st, 81st and 117th.

At 45.2 percent, Edwin Evers is overvalued this week. And not just because almost half the field is picking him. Tidal fisheries (not counting the St. Johns River, remember) have not been his best venues. In three tries between 2000 and 2007 on the Potomac River in August, he placed 90th, 30th and 71st. The California and Louisiana deltas have not been kind either: He finished 50th on the former (August 2003), and 85th and 96th on the latter (spring 2003 and 2007).

I’ve justified picking Jordon.

Bucket D: Iaconelli or Morris

At 62.3 percent ownership, you’d think Michael Iaconelli would be overvalued. And if he were up against Bucket B or A competition — and on any other fishery — you’d be right. But in Bucket D on the Delaware River, the numbers make sense.

Iaconelli is one of the only Elite Series anglers — if not the only one — with a history on the Delaware. You can read about it here [http://www.bassmaster.com/news/delawares-rising-bass-tid] and here [http://www.bassmaster.com/blog/think-rocky-balboa].

Now, consider this résumé AND the fact that Ike needs to win a tournament to qualify for the Classic: August Bassmaster tournaments on the Potomac — fourth, fifth, 14th and 31st; June/July FLW tournaments on the Potomac — first, second and 27th; June/July Bassmaster event on the James River — third and fourth.

If, however, you want or need to go against the tide to make up ground against the field, consider picking Rick Morris. At 1.2 percent, he’s very undervalued. Although he did not cash a check the first two times he fished top-tier tournaments on the Potomac (65th and 58th, in 2000 and 2002), he got much, much better over the years. In four tournaments there between 2003 and 2007, he finished second, third, fifth and 39th. Also encouraging is a 10th-place finish on the Hudson River in August 2004.

Cliff Pirch (1.5 percent) is my dark-horse pick. He’s got a lot of experience on tidal rivers, but he’s never finished well on them consistently.

I like Ike.

Bucket E: Remitz or Goldbeck

Grant Goldbeck (11 percent) is the safest pick in Bucket E, but Derek Remitz (1.8 percent) has the potential to help you make a better move against the field.

A native Marylander, Goldbeck is no stranger to fishing tidal waters. He is, however, an inconsistent competitor on them. Between 2002 and 2007, his finishes on the Potomac were all over the map.

In Elite Series competition, Goldbeck has been stellar on tidal rivers in August, placing 15th and ninth on the Potomac in 2006 and 2007, respectively. His Bassmaster Open and FLW Everstart summer finishes on East Coast tidal waters, however, have been inconsistent — 11th in 2004, Hudson River; 134th in 2005, Potomac; 25th in 2013, Potomac; 28th in 2002, Potomac; 70th in 2011, James River.

Remitz’s history is not as good as Goldbeck’s, but it’s better than almost everyone else in the bucket, including Ish Monroe, who is most popular at 25.6 percent. In three summer tournaments on East Coast tidal rivers between 2007 and 2001, Remitz placed 19th, 28th and 24th. Monroe, on the other hand, has never cashed a check in a summer East Coast tidal river tournament — 92nd, 69th, 89th between 2000 and 2011. Interestingly, Remitz has fared better in Elite Series competition on West Coast tidal waters too. He placed second and 14th on the California Delta in 2007 and 2010; Monroe finished 47th and 49th.

I got Goldbeck.

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