Time for the Bend(s)

For those of you (like me) who like to do your homework before making your Fantasy Fishing picks, I’ve got some good news and some bad news about Battle on the Bayou coming up on Toledo Bend Reservoir this week.

Let’s start with bad news, but alternate with a little good news.

Bad — I have no idea why anyone would call Toledo Bend a “bayou.” It’s clear we need help on naming these things.

Good — Toledo Bend is one of the all-time great bass fisheries. Through much of the 1970s and early ’80s, it was widely regarded as the best bass water in America. This will be the 13th professional-level tournament held here by B.A.S.S.

Bad — We’ve only fished here five times in the 2000s and this is the first visit by the Elite Series. What’s more B.A.S.S. has never been here in April, so it’s tough to evaluate angler performances here.

Good — The most recent B.A.S.S. event here, a 2009 Central Open, was won by an Elite angler, James Niggemeyer.

Let’s see what we can figure out.

Group A

Alton Jones is on a tear. I’m harkening back to 2009, when he led the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race after three events. This year, he’s even better at this stage (853 AOY points vs. 813 in 2009). No one wants the title more than AJ, and if he’s going to have a chance to win it, he’ll need a strong performance in his home state of Texas.

Yes, I suggested you stay away from him last week, and he finished fifth. My advice comes free with a grain of salt.

Watch out for another Texan who’s having a pretty good year, so far. Todd Faircloth is in 28th place in the AOY race, but he’s better than that. I don’t know anyone who follows the sport closely who doesn’t consider him to be a top 10 or 12 angler. I think he’s going to make a move at Toledo Bend.

Group B

The weather’s heating up and the fish will be postspawn at Toledo Bend. That’s when Kelly Jordon starts to shine. If the season started in May and ran through September, KJ would challenge for AOY every year. He’s a solid 10th in the race right now and should be even higher after this tournament.

Want to take a chance? Derek Remitz is ripe for the picking. He’s dead last in the AOY standings will little chance to rebound and earn a Classic berth unless he wins one this year. That’s got to be on his mind. I expect he’ll be pulling out all the stops in hopes of taking home a trophy and getting an automatic bid. If he can get on an offshore jig bite, he just might get it done here at Toledo Bend.

Group C

James Niggemeyer won the Open here in 2009, so lots of your fellow Fantasy players will be picking him. That’s not a bad choice.

If you want to go a little counter-intuitive, consider Takahiro Omori. He’s 83rd in AOY, but finished second here in 2003. That was a prespawn event, and this one will be postspawn, but Tak is a master at getting offshore and finding bass on either side of the spawn.

Group D

When the Elites were still in Florida, Zell Rowland told me to look out for him once they got to Texas — it wouldn’t be a sight bite anymore, and he had something planned for those Toledo Bend bass.

Well, Zell, I’m taking you at your word here and picking you to have a good tournament at the Bend. If experience is worth anything, Zell should flat out win here since he’s got as much as anybody on these waters.

I also like Greg Vinson for this one. He’s a terrific angler and a steal in this group most of the time.

Group E

I predicted a big jump for David Walker at the Pickwick tournament, and I was right! He jumped from 53rd to 66th — admittedly not the direction I was expecting him to go. Could I be wrong about his being one of the 20 or 25 best anglers in the Elite Series? Well, of course, I could, but I’m still banking on him ... at least for now.

Look out for some of the Texas rookies, too. They got to the Elites by being good, and on their home waters they should be at their best. Craig Schuff, Dean Alexander, Keith Combs, Russell Parrish and James Strickin all call the Lone Star State home and all have at least some experience on Toledo Bend.