Split the difference for Toledo Bend picks

MANY, La. — When reviewing anglers’ past performances on Toledo Bend, be sure to note in what season they fared well or faltered. The differences should factor into your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks this week.

When the Elite Series visited here in mid-April 2011, Dean Rojas won by mostly sight fishing. But other anglers in the Top 10 were fishing postspawn patterns in transition areas in varying depths. When Brent Chapman won here in early June 2012, he and others succeeded mostly with offshore, deep-water summer patterns.

Recent and forecasted weather indicates that this year’s tournament will be contested in conditions that split the difference between the 2011 and 2012 tournaments here, with mostly postspawn bass to be found at several depths.

Bucket A: Faircloth, Hackney or Omori

The clear favorite in Bucket A is Todd Faircloth (21.4 percent ownership), who has lived all his life in nearby Jasper, Texas, and grew up fishing on Toledo Bend. In eight major tournaments on the Bend, he’s finished in the Top 20 six times (17th three times, including in the tournament held in the most similar conditions, the mid-April 2011 Elite Series tournament).

Don’t believe in momentum in professional angling? Don’t tell Greg Hackney (18.1 percent), who tallied back-to-back third-place finishes earlier this spring (on Sam Rayburn in FLW competition; on Table Rock in Elite Series competition), after a Top 20 on the St. Johns River in late March.

Although the Hack Attack bombed on the Bend in the mid-April 2011 Elite Series event, he scored Top 5s in Bassmaster events held here in February, December and June. For good measure, throw in a 21st-place PAA finish in October 2009.

Need an undervalued angler to make a move against the field? Gamble on Takahiro Omori (1.1 percent) to finish ahead of heavily owned Faircloth, as he did in three of seven major tournaments in which they both competed.

Bucket B: Rojas, Montgomery or Chapman

The clear Bucket B favorite is Dean Rojas (19.5 percent), who won Bassmaster tournaments here in mid-April 2011 and late February 2001. Additionally, he finished fourth here in a late March 2002 event, 28th in late February 2003, 38th in early June 2012 and 48th in late February 2003.

If you’re sitting comfortably in the top tier of Fantasy Fishing points, picking Rojas is probably the best play. If you need to make a major move to get back into contention, however, consider undervalued Andy Montgomery (0.5 percent). Although the South Carolina pro finished 53rd the last time the Elite Series hit the Bend, he finished sixth in the April 2011 Elite event and was runner-up in an October 2009 PAA tournament here.

Although Brent Chapman (9.7 percent) won here when the Elite Series last competed on Toledo Bend in June 2012, he finished 56th in April 2011. In prespawn tournaments between 2001 and 2003, he finished 26th, 10th and 24th, respectively.

Bucket C: Evers, Robinson or Kennedy

The clear favorite and lead-protecting play in Bucket C is Edwin Evers (45.9 percent), who’s notched three Top 12s and an additional Top 20 on Toledo Bend. Word of caution: Evers just barely cashed a check here in April 2011, placing 49th.

The high-risk, high-reward play this week is Marty Robinson (4 percent). He placed third here in June 2012 and 18th in April 2011.

Want a wild card? Try Steve Kennedy (2.1 percent). He finished eighth on Toledo Bend in April 2011, when conditions were similar to current conditions — more similar, at least, than they were when he finished 71st in early June 2012.

Bucket D: Clunn or Myers

No one in Bucket D has much momentum or a stunning history on Toledo Bend. I’ll probably pick Rick Clunn (4.3 percent), who has three decent finishes here and three bombs since 2001. His best finishes: 12th, sixth and 15th, in February 2001, December 2003 and February 2003, respectively. His worst: 94th, 76th and 81st, in April 2011, June 2012 and March 2009.

Everyone else in this bucket either never has fished a major on Toledo Bend, or has a handful of bombs here, overshadowing a lone Top 10 or Top 20. I’ve got a gut feeling Britt Myers (1.6 percent) will have a good tournament, but I don’t have any data to support that hunch. His finishes here are 55th in April 2011 and 31st in June 2012.

Bucket E: Tietje or Vinson

Although he lives closer to the Sabine River, Dennis Tietje (17.5 percent) can lay claim to Toledo Bend as home water as well. His record in major tournaments is pretty good — seventh and 18th in March 2002 and 2009 Opens; 41st in April 2011.

I don’t think Greg Vinson’s slump continues much longer. He should feel confident launching on Toledo Bend, where he placed 11th in April 2011 in similar seasonal conditions. He didn’t fare as well here in June 2012, finishing 59th, but that was when the bass were fully entrenched in their summer haunts.

Who are you picking for your Fantasy Fishing team?

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