You might be wondering what credentials I have to be a Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing pundit. I’m not an angler — couldn’t even tell you the diff
You might be wondering what credentials I have to be a Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing pundit. I’m not an angler — couldn’t even tell you the difference between a spinnerbait or a buzzbait — but, I’ve worked at B.A.S.S. for 17 years, and I am an avid Fantasy Fishing fan.
In the B.A.S.S. office, Fantasy Fishing is very competitive and there is quite a bit of trash talk that comes along with it. In the past, I’ve been one of those players who occasionally played, forgot to set a roster once and then just gave up. When I moved over to the Digital department in 2018, I had to switch desks. I learned quickly with that move I would also have to bring a tough skin — your feelings will get hurt real quick sitting with the Digital and Editorial teams when it comes to Fantasy Fishing if you don’t. You make a bad choice one week and you will get roasted until the next event. But, it goes the same way when you win.
I came in 10th place overall (out of 100,000 participants … ok, maybe only 40,000, but still) for the 2020 St. Johns event, and I have yet to stop talking about it. I placed second in our inner-office player of the year race in 2020, won two events last year and am looking for a few more wins of note this year.
What is behind my success? Mostly, I study the data. That includes past performance on the same fisheries, and even past performance during certain months of the year. I’m a big believer in momentum, and I read every story about every Elite angler on Bassmaster.com.
So 2022, let’s go! Kicking off the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series season will be the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River, Feb. 10-13. Weather usually plays a part in this event, but how will that affect the fishing? Your guess is as good as mine! All it tells me is if I need to pack a rain jacket or not — but, let’s give it a go.
BUCKET A: HACKNEY
Greg Hackney is good pick for Bucket A. He’s had a lot of Top 10 and Top 15 finishes at the St. Johns River, as well as two second places. It’s time for a win. It was exciting to see him make his return to the Elites last year at the St. Johns River where he finished in second place.
BUCKET B: BENTON
Can we pick two out of Bucket A? I’m going with Drew Benton from Bucket B. He’s been pretty consistent at this body of water with one Top 10 finish and other finishes in the 20s. I’m betting on reliability for this one.
BUCKET C: HUFF
Bryan New might be an obvious choice for Bucket C, but I’m going with rookie Cody Huff. In a previous article on Bassmaster.com, Cody Huff talked about how he looked up to Rick Clunn. Maybe he’s paid attention to Clunn’s previous wins here and some of that knowledge will have passed on to Huff.
BUCKET D: PRINCE
I’ve picked Cliff Prince the last three years for this event, and I’m not changing this year. I usually shy away from home lake advantages, but Prince is my one exception to the rule.
BUCKET E: WONG
I just realized I have two rookies … yikes! Matty Wong has been bringing a little bit of buzz and excitement with him since his win at the 2021 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, so why not see if that can continue this week. I don’t really have a strong pull to pick anybody else from Bucket E so I’ll roll the dice with this one.
Drain the Lake Challenge
Last year Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge seemed tricky to pick, and we only had half the schedule to play. This year, trying to fill the complete schedule, it took a while to sort out which anglers I wanted for each event. Reminder: For Drain the Lake there are no buckets and you pick eight anglers. The trick is, once you’ve picked an angler you can’t use him again for the rest of the year. For Drain the Lake you actually need to save certain anglers for specific events.
1. Cliff Prince – I’ve picked him every year for this body of water, sticking with it.
2. Patrick Walters – I didn’t pick him in Bucket A and probably should save him for a different event, but St. Johns River was his highest average finish out of all the stops on the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament Trail.
3. Matt Arey – Why not? Arey has had decent finishes at St. Johns River.
4. Bryan Schmitt – Again, Schmitt has had decent finishes in the past.
5. KJ Queen – Last year, Queen finished in the Top 30. Hopefully he will finish a little higher this year.
6. Bryan New – I don’t envision him going back-to-back here, but he’s been successful in Florida, so I will use him for the first event.
7. Buddy Gross – Out of all the bodies of water the Elite Series anglers will be visiting in 2022, Gross’ best average finishes are Pickwick Lake and St. Johns River. I already had my Pickwick lineup completed so I’m taking Gross here.
8. Justin Hamner – After coming so close to getting Rookie of the Year last year I’d like to think he has a little bit of fire and momentum going into the start of 2022.
Not sure if B.A.S.S. is scraping the bottom of the barrel here or maybe I’m a secret Fantasy Fishing genius. We will see how the year goes. This is going to be tough — I usually set my team and then make last minute adjustments based on posts I see on social media from practice, or chatter I hear in the office.
Now I have to not only set my team and keep it, but I have to reveal my top-secret tactics for how I make my selections. Does eye color, facial hair or what college team they cheer for matter to you? Because all of those factor into my choices, as I think they should. Good luck to you all — I hope we all get blue ribbons!