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How will the West be won?

By Pete Robbins

I had the right strategy last week at the Delta but didn’t implement it properly. As you may recall, I predicted that the Delta’s vast size, limited fishing time and tidal influence would favor Westerners and river rats.

My mistake was that I picked the wrong Westerners — Skeet Reese did OK, while Jared Lintner and Brett Hite disappointed. Meanwhile, Justin Lucas, Aaron Martens, Dean Rojas, Ish Monroe and Chris Zaldain locked the door on their Top 5 Westerners-only clubhouse, keeping me out.

Read the rest of the article here or below.

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Mix up local anglers and finesse experts on Havasu

By Ronnie Moore

LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. — The California Delta was not a fun place for my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team, and I completely misjudged the importance of local knowledge on a fishery like the Delta.

Like many anglers thought last week at the Delta, they were in areas they could be successful, but they just didn’t make it happen. The same can be said for my team; I had an inkling of what was going to happen, but to the extent I completely whiffed on.

Read the rest of the article here or below.

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It’s about strategy in those top-heavy buckets

By Jesse Heinecke

Quick turnaround this week, guys. The Western swing continues after the Sacramento River event. Congratulations to Justin Lucas on the win. Next up: Lake Havasu.

We have a little history and a few locals for this event as well. Should be another event where you can make up ground or lose a lot of it because a few Elite Series pros with little to no experience on the lake will figure something out and make a run at this thing.

Read the rest of the article here or below.

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Toyota wrap-up: Zaldain was the points winner at Sacramento

By Tyler Wade

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Justin Lucas may have won the Sacramento Bassmaster Elite at the Sacramento River, but Chris Zaldain won the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing points battle this weekend.

Here’s the perfect team:

Bucket A: Chris Zaldain, 365 points

B: Clifford Pirch, 272

C: Timmy Horton, 268

D: Bobby Lane, 276

E: Randy Allen, 248

Total: 1,429

No one came close to a score that high. The highest tally of points was more than 100 points behind at 1,292.

A: Zaldain

If you were among the 5.5 percent of people who chose Chris Zaldain for your team, you benefited from his big bag and big bass on Day 1, along with his leader points from that day. That makes a total of 85 bonus points. (Don’t you wish you’d picked him?)

Bucket A was so stacked. You probably picked a very strong competitor in this bucket because the majority of players chose Zaldain, Justin Lucas, Aaron Martens, Dean Rojas, Ish Monroe and Skeet Reese, all of whom posted 245-plus points.

The players who stacked up on Michael Iaconelli (11.3 percent of you) were disappointed with 139 points — more than 220 points behind Zaldain. But the rest of the heavily favored picks in A put up good points.

Still, anyone looking for a Bass Pro Shops gift card or a boat at the end of the year really wishes they’d had Zaldain.

B: Pirch

It looks like everyone was saving Clifford Pirch for this week’s tournament on Lake Havasu, where he will be a huge favorite. Only 2.7 percent of players picked Pirch, yet he delivered the best performance with 272 points.

Still, you did well if you went with Jason Christie, which 5.4 percent of you did, as he posted 264 points. And Chris Lane pickers, 10.7 percent, earned a stout 254 points. Kevin VanDam believers, 8.6 percent, got 251 points.

The favorites in the bucket, Greg Hackney (17.6 percent) and Brent Ehrler (38.7 percent) did well but were still far behind Pirch with 227 points and 219 points respectively.

Every angler below Ehrler (which was more than half the bucket) had ownership rates of 2 percent or below, so their lack of points didn’t hurt many Fantasy Fishing players.

C: Horton

Timmy Horton had a tiny following — only 0.9 percent! — but those who believed in him earned 268 points. Ken Iyobe was right behind him with 257 points, but only 0.2 percent chose him.

The sheeple picks were Edwin Evers at 18 percent, who only got 165 points, Brett Hite, 44.6 percent and 153 points, and Byron Velvick, 12.4 percent and 67 points.

D: Lane

Bobby Lane may be a Florida boy, but he can rock it in California, too. He was the favorite in the bucket at 23.7 percent, and he posted 276 points for his followers.

He had a nearly 40-point lead over the next-closest angler, Billy McCaghren, who finished with 239 points and only 0.1 percent owners.

The other popular picks were Ott DeFoe, 14.1 percent, 201 points, and Randall Tharp, 17.6 percent and a disappointing 79 points.

E: Allen

The 0.3 percent of people who chose Randy Allen got a points payday with his strong performance at the Sacramento River. He earned 248 points for his owners — more than 30 points above his closest competitor, Cliff Prince, 1.0 percent, 215 points.

All the sheeple flocked to Jared Lintner. Nearly half the players picked him — 44 percent — but he earned a paltry 135 points.

The other popular picks were Brandon Palaniuk, 17.1 percent with 191 points; Casey Ashley, 12.6 percent with 91; and Fred Roumbanis, 8.8 percent with 85 points.

Good luck this week with Havasu! You can set your teams now.

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Pundit picks for Havasu

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How will the West be won?

By Pete Robbins

I had the right strategy last week at the Delta but didn’t implement it properly. As you may recall, I predicted that the Delta’s vast size, limited fishing time and tidal influence would favor Westerners and river rats.

My mistake was that I picked the wrong Westerners — Skeet Reese did OK, while Jared Lintner and Brett Hite disappointed. Meanwhile, Justin Lucas, Aaron Martens, Dean Rojas, Ish Monroe and Chris Zaldain locked the door on their Top 5 Westerners-only clubhouse, keeping me out.

Of my two river rat picks, Greg Hackney did well while Stephen Browning struggled. The result for me was lackluster at best.

You might not be able to guess it from all of the picks below, but I don’t think that being a Westerner, by itself, confers much of an advantage this time around. There’s no tide to consider, and compared to the Delta’s hundreds of miles of sloughs and canals, Havasu is basically a fishbowl. Even though it’s a desert lake, it’s just a lake, and at less than 20,000 acres, no grain of lake bottom sand will go unexplored by the field during the truncated practice period.

In order to turn my season around, I need to find some value picks among the field. Accordingly, I’m going to categorically exclude any angler who has the highest percentage of ownership in his bucket. That means betting against several pre-tournament favorites.

Instead, I’m going to try to make selections based on value, pros with low ownership percentages combined with high probabilities of doing well. While past experience on Havasu will factor into my thinking, you have to remember that this is a vastly changed lake from the previous times that B.A.S.S. has visited. In 1989, 1998 and 2003, it took between 22-10 and 23-13 to WIN over three days. I have a feeling that it’s going to take about that much to make the 50 cut after two days.

With the addition of a healthy smallmouth population, the field should be able to spread out a little, and the addition of a big bite or two each day will be huge. While finesse may play a role, it won’t be just a weenie worm fiesta.

With “value investing” as my mantra, here are my picks:

Bucket A

Popular Pick: Dean Rojas

Tempted to Pick: Aaron Martens

My Pick: Clifford Pirch

The reason for the Rojas swoon is obvious — when in the past has an angler leading the AOY race come to fish a tournament on his home lake? He’s fishing out of his mind right now, but it doesn’t follow my strategy to pick him. The only situation I could see doing that is if he were a lock for a Top 5, and with 43rd- and 20th-place finishes in B.A.S.S.’s Havasu events, I don’t see that.

If I thought it was going to be a grind ’em out game of small ball, Aaron Martens, currently seventh in AOY, would be my choice.

Nevertheless, I can’t pass on Clifford Pirch, who finished second here in 2003, is 10th in the AOY race, and has probably spent more time on the lake in recent years than the other two. At 5.6 percent ownership at the time of this writing, he’s a bargain. By noon on Day 1, I expect Pirch and his Marshal to be munching on elk jerky, telling stories, guarding his best spot.

Bucket B

Popular Pick: Brent Ehrler

Tempted to Pick: Ken Iyobe

My Pick: Todd Faircloth

Brent Ehrler seems to have righted his ship after a tough start to his Elite Series career, but at more than 45 percent, he’s out of my price range.

I love Ken Iyobe’s energy, but except for his burgeoning T-shirt collection, I don’t know much about him.

That leaves Faircloth, who started well at the Sabine but has been going in the wrong direction ever since. I don’t think he’s likely to miss three checks in a row, and he’s adaptable and versatile enough to either figure out something a little different, or else fish in a crowd and do it better than others.

Bucket C

Popular Pick: Brett Hite

Tempted to Pick: Gary Klein

My Pick: Ott DeFoe

At more than 60 percent ownership, fans are betting the farm on Brett Hite to come back. I’m sure he’s deadly close to home, but his tour wins have all come on shallow weedy impoundments.

I’d love to choose Gary Klein, who has spent substantial time on the desert lakes over his lengthy career and is currently a bargain, but I’m guessing that it’s Ott DeFoe’s time to make a charge up the leaderboard. Fifty third place in the AOY race is unfamiliar territory for the East Tennessee Terror. He’s good with smallmouth, good with spinning gear, and can mix together a variety of techniques if no one pattern prevails.

Bucket D

Popular Pick: Brandon Palaniuk

Tempted to Pick: John Murray

My Pick: Josh Bertrand

Brandon Palaniuk may be far down in the AOY standings, but the fans don’t seem to care. He’s not a decisive favorite in his bucket like Rojas or Hite, but he’s locked up a sizable percentage.

John Murray, who has probably spent more hours and won more money on desert lakes than anyone else in the field, is tempting, but he hasn’t challenged for a win in several years, and in fact has only made two Top 10s since 2008. This may be his time to reestablish his legacy, but I’m betting on Josh Bertrand, who has a lower ownership percentage and has probably spent more time on Havasu in recent years.

Bucket E

Popular Pick: Casey Ashley

Tempted to Pick: Rick Clunn

My Pick: Kevin Hawk

It’s not often that you find the Classic winner mired in Bucket E, but Casey Ashley has struggled since winning at Hartwell, earning a low check at the Sabine, then finishing no better than 92nd in three subsequent tournaments (two Elites plus an Open). He could very well break out again, but he’s not a value pick.

I’d love to see former U.S. Open winner Rick Clunn show that he can still get the job done in the Southwest, but at less than 5 percent ownership, drop shotter extraordinaire Kevin Hawk is a bargain. His buddy and neighbor Lucas got it done in Sacramento; now it’s time to double the Elite Series hardware on their Guntersville street.

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Mix up local anglers and finesse experts on Havasu

By Ronnie Moore

LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. — The California Delta was not a fun place for my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team, and I completely misjudged the importance of local knowledge on a fishery like the Delta.

Like many anglers thought last week at the Delta, they were in areas they could be successful, but they just didn’t make it happen. The same can be said for my team; I had an inkling of what was going to happen, but to the extent I completely whiffed on.

This week is almost guaranteed to give me a bounce-back effort from my worst Fantasy performance ever.

Lake Havasu is certainly closer to the finesse side of the spectrum than that of the Cal Delta, although power fishing proved to be a player in a Rayovac event here earlier in the year. These fish should be in postspawn territory and, with the Arizona heat and Havasu’s clear water, fish will be deeper.

Here are my picks:

Bucket A

Conservative pick: Aaron Martens

So you’re telling me that Aaron Martens can come so close to winning the Delta and then turn around and fish a completely opposite fishery and possibly do well? Yeah, he’s just that good. Havasu is deep and clear, two things that Martens excels at. Look for Martens to feel right at home on Havasu and put together a solid enough pattern with only two days of practice to do it in.

Dark Horse pick: Mike Iaconelli

By his words, Mike Iaconelli is mad at the fish and a tad PO’ed at his performance on the California Delta. I think that if someone can find enough fish doing multiple things, it can be Ike. Junking around and catching fish shallow and deep could be a factor this week especially with limited time to find a megaload of fish in one certain area.

Count me in. I’ll go Ike and possibly get some redemption.

Bucket B

Conservative pick: Brent Ehrler

For the same reasons I think Aaron Martens could do well, I believe Ehrler will as well. Fishing offshore on deep, clear reservoirs is what it takes at times during the heated parts of the spring and summer. Ehrler is the guy for that task.

Dark Horse pick: Jeff Kriet

Last season, I asked anglers at the AOY Championship to pick which anglers were the best at doing specific techniques. Kriet came up on multiple occasions as one of the best offshore finesse fishermen. He is a versatile angler and certainly has the patience to drag a shaky head around and milk an area for what it’s worth.

I feel like I need to go with Ehrler on this one, but with 45 percent of people picking him, I’m really not gaining much by going with the crowd. Let’s see how Kriet does.

Bucket C

Conservative pick: Brett Hite

Going conservative here probably means picking the one angler in the bucket who lives close to Havasu. Brett Hite catches them everywhere the Elites go, and he can do it in numerous ways.

Dark horse pick: Micah Frazier

The rookie from Newnan, Ga., has already made a 12-cut in his short Elite career thus far, and I think this event could set up well for him. The rookie qualified for the 2015 Elites through the Northern Opens. Frazier cashed a check at both Douglas Lake and Lake Champlain. He finished fourth in the points and was just behind Ott DeFoe and Aaron Martens. Fishing around lakes like Lanier, West Point and others, I’d say he is more than comfortable fishing deep or figuring out a way on clearer fisheries.

Give me Micah Frazier as a wildcard this week.

Bucket D

Conservative pick: Josh Bertrand

With anglers like Brandon Palaniuk and John Murray in this bucket, people will overlook my pick this week: Josh Bertrand.

Bertrand is an Arizona angler and earlier this year he finished second in a Rayovac on this very body of water. Yes, it was a different time of the year, but when you know a body of water; it shows.

Dark horse pick: Byron Velvick

Man, this one is tempting, but truly a wildcard. Byron Velvick, swimbaits, clear water, postspawn bass. This is really tempting. I think he could do well on this body of water. He resides in Nevada and knows how to catch big bass on a swimbait this time of the year.

I expect Bertrand to light it up and do well in his home state. I will go local with this pick.

Bucket E

Conservative pick: Kevin Hawk

Kevin Hawk is a very underrated finesse angler on the Elite Series. His patience and finesse approach should suit him well here. Really interested to see who the other players from this bucket could be, but if Hawk does well this week, I won’t be surprised.

Dark Horse pick: Steve Kennedy

For the same reasons that I almost picked Byron Velvick are why I will gamble on Steve Kennedy. If you say fish and swimbait in the same sentence, Steve Kennedy’s name isn’t far behind. I expect a bounce-back tournament from how he has started this season. A 91st, 102nd and 49th aren’t really a good representation of  Kennedy, and I think this fishery could get him on the right track.

War Eagle! I’m taking Steve Kennedy, the swimbait-slingin’ angler.

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It’s about strategy in those top-heavy buckets

By Jesse Heinecke

Quick turnaround this week, guys. The Western swing continues after the Sacramento River event. Congratulations to Justin Lucas on the win. Next up: Lake Havasu.

We have a little history and a few locals for this event as well. Should be another event where you can make up ground or lose a lot of it because a few Elite Series pros with little to no experience on the lake will figure something out and make a run at this thing.

I will be making my Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks based off deep, clear water; momentum; history; ownership percentage (in an effort to maximize the ability to gain ground); and the ever-unreliable gut feelings. After the Sacramento event, I went from 84 percent to 88.5 percent, so I’m slowly making up ground.

Bucket A

Dean Rojas and Clifford Pirch have experience and are local to Havasu. Aaron Martens, Ish Monroe and Skeet Reese have been here before as well. Rojas has momentum and local knowledge in spades. He also has about 60 percent ownership.

I don’t doubt for a second Rojas will do well here, but I need to make up ground — and the one guy with a lower percentage and a great chance to win is Cliff Pirch.

Picking: At 6 percent ownership, I’ll take my chances here with Cliff Pirch

Gut says: Rojas, but Martens in a deep, clear lake sounds like a win-win as well.

Maggie says KVD because she has a picture signed by him, and Sam is picking with his heart and taking fan favorite KVD.

Bucket B

Brent Ehrler is garnering about 45 percent of the ownership here. He has had some success here recently, too. Because I am bucking the trend in Bucket A, I think I will do the same in Bucket B and again try to make up ground.

So who can beat Ehrler in this bucket? A few come to mind.

Picking: David Walker. Aside from the Sabine, Walker is having a great season and has some momentum. I can see him doing well here.

Gut says: The crowd might get this right, too, with Ehrler. I would also look for Ken Iyobe to place well.

Sam and Maggie say Todd Faircloth because he is another of their favorites.

Bucket C

The third bucket out of three is going heavy with one angler. This time, Western angler Brett Hite has a clear advantage. The mobs are going heavy on Rojas, Ehrler and Hite, and it is hard to argue with them logically.

Picking: Brett Hite. With three top-heavy buckets, odds are good one or two of these odds-on favorites are going to win their bucket and maybe the event. This bucket offers the biggest advantage of the first three in my opinion.

Gut says: Take Matt Lee. There have been several college events on Havasu. I think the college guys seem to network very well, and I anticipate both Lees doing well.

Maggie says Ott DeFoe because she drew him in her Classic pool and he is a good fisherman. Sam is taking Edwin Evers because he likes the sound of his name.

Bucket D

There is more local flavor in this bucket than B or C. John Murray, Josh Bertrand, Jared Lintner, Brandon Palaniuk and Byron Velvick all are Western anglers. Murray offers the most experience on this water.

Picking: Josh Bertrand at less than 10% and with some success here recently I like his chances to help my chances.

Gut says: A couple great lakes area guys who are used to deep clear water may fare well. Seth Feider, Jonathon VanDam and Chad Pipkens come to mind.

Sam is taking Jonathon VanDam, hoping he does some VanDamage on Havasu, and Maggie says pip Pickens or pick pippens or pink peppers or just pick Pipkens.

Bucket E

This bucket has some anglers who are now starting to feel the pinch of the season. The questions of qualifying for the Classic are likely starting to creep in. I am looking for someone who will not get spun out.

Picking: Stephen Kennedy. He does well in this type of water. He may pick up a swimbait and get to work on them. He is too good an angler to not have some success during the season and I feel this lake sets up well for Kennedy.

Gut says: Rick Clunn. He has fished here before and the stress of the season is likely less pressing to Clunn. I expect him to go fishing, and use his calm demeanor and vast knowledge to figure something out and catch some fish.

Sam is thinking Randall Tharp gets it all back on track this week, and Maggie is sticking with her other favorite, Morizo “Big Momma” Shimizu.

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