Underdog strategy for Fantasy Fishing

The Green Bay Challenge ended up being the second event I had under the median Fantasy Fishing score for the event. I wasn't just under the median; I was well under it. I thought I had a great team to catch smallmouth heading into the event, but it turns out I had a less-than-mediocre team. Somehow I still managed to stay in the top 9 percent of Fantasy players. I am hoping that in this last event of the season, I can jump back into the top 5 percent.

The Elite Series is going back to Oneida Lake in Syracuse, N.Y., this week for the first time since 2009. Chad Griffin won the event the last time the Elite Series pros visited this lake. Oneida is a place that offers excellent largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing. Every angler should be able to find a pattern that best fits his style of fishing.

This season, I have tried to stay away from the top picks in each bucket of Fantasy Fishing. I expected them to do well in the event, but the goal was pick other anglers who may do better in hopes of gaining more points in that specific bucket. This plan has worked pretty well. Some of the choices did not work out, but the majority have worked out better than expected or a push in the group. I am trying to continue that strategy for this last event along with using the last four Elite Series events and the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open event at Oneida to make my choices.

Bucket A: Dean Rojas

Rojas finished 38th in 2006, fourth in 2007, first in 2008, and third in 2009 on Oneida in the Elite Series. That works out to an average finish of 11.5. Only one finish outside the Top 4 is an astonishing feat. Still, the finish in 2006 had Rojas in the money.

Rojas is also having a good season, sitting in 10th of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings heading into this final event. Rojas will be throwing Kermit around in search of some giant largemouth. Currently only 8.3% of Fantasy players are picking Dean Rojas right now. I expect that to go up a little before the event starts. This is still a low enough percentage to beat most Fantasy players if Rojas wins.

I expect Rojas to have a great event and move into the Top 8 in the standings. Only the Top 8 — plus four anglers who are voted in by fans — get to take part in Toyota Trucks All-Star Week. This event is a separate bracket-style tournament. Ott Defoe took home the trophy and the $100,000 check last year in the event.

Other strong contenders in the bucket include:

  • Randy Howell, who has made a check in his last five events at Oneida.
  • Kevin VanDam, who has also made a check at the last four events on Oneida. VanDam also used a strong finish on Oneida in 2008 and a slip by Todd Faircloth to win the AOY title that year.

Bucket B: Michael Iaconelli

Like Rojas, Michael Iaconelli has a very strong history on Oneida Lake. Iaconelli finished tied sixth in 2006, 10th in 2007, third in 2008, and 54th in 2009. Iaconelli also fished the Northern Open event on Oneida last year and finished sixth. This works out to an average finish of 15.8 for Iaconelli. Only finishing outside the money and Top 10 once in five events is very strong.

Iaconelli is sitting in 31st in the AOY standings and will need to have a good event to qualify for his 14th Classic appearance. I would expect Iaconelli to go after smallmouth in this event, but he will follow whatever pattern he finds that gives him the best chance to win. Currently, Iaconelli is owned by 25% of Fantasy players, which is higher than I would like, but his history on Oneida Lake speaks for itself.

Other strong contenders for this bucket include:

  • Skeet Reese, whose average finish on Oneida is 24th.
  • Jeff Kriet, who was 2 pounds short of winning the 2009 event on Oneida.

Bucket C: Stephen Kennedy

Stephen Kennedy has held his own on Oneida Lake. Kennedy claims three Top 20 finishes in the last four Elite Series events on Oneida with a 30th place in 2006, second in 2007, 19th in 2008, and sixth in 2009. Kennedy’s average finish on Oneida is 14.25. If it was not for a 4-ounce penalty for a dead fish in 2007, Kennedy would have walked away from Oneida with a $250,000 check for the Major that year.

Stephen Kennedy is sitting 30th in the AOY standings. I expect Kennedy, like Iaconelli, to hold onto his Classic spot with a good finish this weekend. Another reason I like Kennedy is only 7 percent of Fantasy players have him picked at this point. Gives a good margin to make up some points overall for the Fantasy season.

Other strong contenders for this bucket include:

  • Tommy Biffle won the 2006 event on Oneida Lake.
  • Jared Lintner has only missed one check in the last four Elite Series events on Oneida.

Bucket D: Ishama Monroe

Ishama Monroe does not have a great history on Oneida Lake, but he does have some recent success there. Ish’s average finish is 45.2 with finishes of 97th in 2006, 47th in 2007, 43rd in 2008, 38th in 2009, and first in the 2011 Northern Open. Monroe has made three checks in these five events on Oneida. The win in the most recent event there is the main reason I am picking Monroe for this bucket.

Monroe is sitting 43rd in the AOY and luckily already qualified for the Classic with his win back on Lake Okeechobee. This lets Monroe fish more free because he does not have to worry about points. He can take more chances to win than someone worried about points toward the Classic.

With his win here last year, this will give him added confidence. Monroe is the second-most owned angler in this bucket, but only 15 percent of Fantasy players are choosing him right now. Another important thing to look at is he is the highest ranked player for this group at 25th in Fantasy points.

Other strong contenders for this bucket include:

  • Fletcher Shryock, who finished ninth in the 2011 Northern Open on Oneida Lake.
  • Brandon Palaniuk, who is the 28th-ranked angler in Fantasy points.

Bucket E: Bernie Schultz

Bernie Schultz has the best average finishes of anyone in this bucket. Schultz has finishes that include an eighth in 2006, 10th in 2008, 11th in 2009, and 70th in the 2011 Northern Open. His average finish on Oneida is 24.75. If you take out the 70th in the Northern Open, Schultz’s average finish ranks right up there with Rojas and Kennedy for best average finish on Oneida Lake.

Schultz is way down in 85th in the AOY standings and would need a win to qualify for his ninth Classic appearance. Schultz did have a ninth-place finish at Green Bay and I hope to see him continue that momentum to end his Elite Season strong.

Only 2 percent of Fantasy players have picked Schultz so far for this event. This seems extremely low for the history he has at Oneida Lake. I expect him to surprise a lot of people at this event and have his best finish of the season. If he does this, I will gain a lot of points over other fantasy players.

Other strong contenders for this bucket include:

  • Chad Griffin, who won the 2009 event on Oneida.
  • Charlie Hartley, who has made a check in three of his last four events on Oneida.

I am excited to see how this event unfolds. Expect to see a mix of largemouth and smallmouth to come across the weigh-in stage. I think the winner will be mainly fishing for largemouth, but watch for guys that find a big school of smallies to have a great finish.

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