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Pundit picks for the St. Lawrence River

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Not quite desperation, but close

By Pete Robbins

After an eight-week break from Elite Series competition, the Elite field will head to smallmouth country at the end of July, looking for big brown bass and — for some — a chance to turn their seasons around. There are still three regular-season events left, so there’s still room for major shuffling in the standings.

This is a tournament where everybody should catch fish or else be threatened with the loss of their tour card. When the Elites were in Waddington in 2013, 17 pounds a day over the first two days didn’t get you paid, and 15 pounds a day was good for only 80th place. I don’t believe that anyone will match winner Brandon Palaniuk’s winning weight of 88-12, largely because Lake Ontario is off limits. If anything, that restriction will pack the weights even closer together. Every ounce is going to be critical.

Read the rest of the article here or below.

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Who Edwin Evers would choose for the St. Lawrence

By Tyler Wade

WADDINGTON, N.Y. — If you’re going to listen to anyone about who to pick for the St. Lawrence, listen to the guy who’s been the best Fantasy Fishing pick in the last two tournaments.

Edwin Evers was the best choice for BASSfest and for Havasu. While that doesn’t necessarily mean he knows how to play Fantasy Fishing (he doesn’t play it, by the way), it does mean he can smash ’em when it counts, and he might have insight into who else can, as well.

Read the rest of the article here or below.

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Opt for top smallie guys on the St. Lawrence

By Ronnie Moore

Tackling the St. Lawrence River is easier said than done, but two years ago Brandon Palaniuk made it look quite simple. This time around, Lake Ontario isn’t in the playing field and Palaniuk’s honey hole isn’t in play.

The St. Lawrence River should show out once again at how strong of a smallmouth fishery it truly is. Here are my early Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks for the summertime smallmouth smashfest.

Read the rest of the article here or below.

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Toyota wrap-up: You should have chosen Evers (again)

By Tyler Wade

PARIS, Tenn. — The very last event, on Havasu, the final Fantasy Fishing story was called You Should Have Chosen Evers.

For BASSfest, the title is the same because, once again, you should have.

Edwin Evers not only won Zippo BASSfest presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps, he also earned a total of four bonuses — three 5-point bonuses for being the daily leader and one 40-point bonus for weighing in the biggest bass.

Read the rest of the article here or below.

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Full articles

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Not quite desperation, but close

By Pete Robbins

After an eight-week break from Elite Series competition, the Elite field will head to smallmouth country at the end of July, looking for big brown bass and — for some — a chance to turn their seasons around. There are still three regular-season events left, so there’s still room for major shuffling in the standings.

This is a tournament where everybody should catch fish or else be threatened with the loss of their tour card. When the Elites were in Waddington in 2013, 17 pounds a day over the first two days didn’t get you paid, and 15 pounds a day was good for only 80th place. I don’t believe that anyone will match winner Brandon Palaniuk’s winning weight of 88-12, largely because Lake Ontario is off limits. If anything, that restriction will pack the weights even closer together. Every ounce is going to be critical.

With the season sliding toward its eventual end, those of us who need to make a move in Bassmaster Fantasy Fishingwill have to take some risks just like the anglers will. After a disastrous set of picks at Kentucky Lake, I slid back to somewhere in the 80th percentile. Accordingly, I’m going to bet on those with something to prove — and a track record of being able to do it.

Bucket A: DeFoe

Popular Pick: Aaron Martens

It’s tough to go against Aaron Martens on a venue where drop shotting is likely to play a major role, and unlike the two guys ahead of him in the AOY race, he’s won the title before. But at nearly 30 percent ownership at the time of this writing, picking him won’t help me make a move.

Almost Picked: Edwin Evers

I have no idea if Edwin Evers’ Kentucky Lake momentum will be sapped by an eight-week layoff, and he’s a proven stud on the smallmouth factories, so it’s tough to let Evers slide, especially since he finished 25th here last time.

My Pick: Ott DeFoe

After a dismal start to the season at the Sabine and Guntersville, the Talented Mr. DeFoe has slid up to 15th place in the AOY standings. With a low ownership percentage, a penchant for smallmouth, exceptional versatility and a third-place finish here in 2013, expect him to excel.

Bucket B: Schultz

Popular Pick: Mike Iaconelli

Mike Iaconelli and Northern smallmouth present an obvious synergy not lost on many fans, but he finished 63rd here last time. He’s a threat from coast to coast, but his high ownership percentage makes him a tough sell for someone like me who needs to make up ground.

Almost Picked: Jonathon VanDam

Jonathon VanDam is currently a Classic bubble boy after missing the big show last year for the first time since 2012. He finished second here to Palaniuk in 2013 and was raised on a diet of brown fish.

My Pick: Bernie Schultz

The Florida veteran’s success with smallmouth from faraway latitudes is well-documented, yet few Fantasy Fishing players seem prepared to bet on Bernie Schultz. Take the risk and hope he turns in a characteristic performance. Three of his last four Elite Series Top 12s have been in smallmouth territory, and another one could help him get to his ninth Classic appearance and first since 2009.

Bucket C: Bertrand

Popular Pick: Brandon Palaniuk

No surprise that Wonder is taking in huge swaths of Fantasy Fishing voters, but the waters Palaniuk fished last time around will be off limits. That doesn’t mean he won’t do well, but even if he does, it’s not the type of pick that’ll separate you from the pack.

Almost Picked: Brett Hite

Brett Hite whacked ’em at Hartwell, Guntersville and Kentucky Lake, but it has nevertheless been an under-the-radar season for the Arizona pro, largely because it hasn’t included a win or two like last year’s campaign.

My Pick: Josh Bertrand

The young Arizona pro earned his last Sunday appearance here in 2013. He’s had two bombs and three good showings this season, but as we move into the drop shot portion of the campaign (is that roughly equivalent to the talent portion of Miss America?), expect him to have at least one high finish — and I’m betting that this will be the one.

Bucket D: Faircloth

Popular Pick: Casey Ashley

Classic winner Casey Ashley is gathering large numbers of votes, despite the fact that he’s not known primarily as a smallmouth guru. Also, he finished 79th here in 2013.

Almost Picked: Jared Lintner

Jared Lintner’s five finishes this year all have a different number at the front of them, and four of them are on the wrong side of 50, yet he’s shown the ability to go on hot streaks over the course of the year, as he did last year when he strung together 13th-, 18th-, 12th- and 11th-place finishes. He finished 32nd here in 2013, and if he wants to get back to the Classic in 2015, he’ll have to finish there or better to position himself for that to happen.

My Pick: Todd Faircloth

Despite a comparatively high ownership percentage, I consider Todd Faircloth a value pick any time he appears in the next-to-last bucket. He’s currently in 76th in the AOY race, in genuine danger of missing the Classic for the first time since 2006. With a proven track record on smallmouth (despite a 59th-place finish here in 2013), I expect him to at least make a run at keeping his streak alive.

Bucket E: Hawk

Popular Pick: Paul Mueller

Rookie Paul Mueller has found the Elite Series to be an unforgiving environment, with only one finish better than 50th place. Lots of fans are betting on his Northern smallmouth expertise to come into play as he tries to show that he can compete week in, week out at this level.

Almost Picked: Chad Pipkens

Chad Pipkens finished 10th here last time, with three Top 12s (one Elite, two Opens) since then, all north of the Mason-Dixon line. Two of them were on the Great Lakes, including a win. This season has been a disaster, though, as he’s yet to better the 41st-place finish he earned in February’s Hartwell Classic.

My Pick: Kevin Hawk

Kevin Hawk may be looking forward to this one more than anyone else in the field. The former Forrest Wood Cup winner struggled on his new home lake of Guntersville earlier this season, but he finished ninth here in 2013. He hasn’t earned a check in Elite Series competition yet this year. If he’s going to turn the season around and ensure a spot in the 2016 Elite Series, it’s likely to happen on a venue that features quality fish in deep, clear water.

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Who Edwin Evers would choose for the St. Lawrence

By Tyler Wade

WADDINGTON, N.Y. — If you’re going to listen to anyone about who to pick for the St. Lawrence, listen to the guy who’s been the best Fantasy Fishing pick in the last two tournaments.

Edwin Evers was the best choice for BASSfest and for Havasu. While that doesn’t necessarily mean he knows how to play Fantasy Fishing (he doesn’t play it, by the way), it does mean he can smash ’em when it counts, and he might have insight into who else can, as well.

We’ll start with the tiebreaker first, which is the winner’s weight.

“Well, the Canadian Bass Open will be going on at the same time,” said Evers, “and that’s 100 boats, so there will be lots of people on the water then. I’m going to go with 81 pounds, 12 ounces as the winning weight.”

And here are his picks, bucket by bucket.

Bucket A: Evers

Edwin Evers didn’t lead with picking himself. In fact, he chose five other pros before he said anything about himself. But he’s a competitor and he doesn’t ever bet on himself losing.

“I learned a lot there last time. I’d be putting my money on myself, of course,” said Evers, “but if I had to pick other guys, those are the ones I’d go for.”

The “those” he’s referring to are the following: Aaron Martens, Clifford Pirch, Jason Christie, Brent Ehrler and Kevin VanDam.

“Martens is going to do good,” said Evers. “He did really well there last time, and he’s a great drop shotter.

“Pirch also did well there last time, with a Top 10, I think, and he’s also a great drop shotter.

“Christie got in the Top 20 last time, had good bags, and he and Kevin VanDam were fishing the same water.

“And Kevin VanDam, how do you not pick him?”

Bucket B: Kriet

Evers first looked at Jonathon VanDam, Bernie Schultz, Tim Horton and Ken Iyobe as good options for Bucket B. “Iyobe seems to be catching ’em everywhere we go,” he said.

But he settled on Jeff Kriet.

“He’s trying super hard to get to the Classic with it being on Grand Lake. He’s a great smallmouth fisherman, he’s a great light-line fisherman, just a grinder. He’s always the best at fishing the fish and fishing a pattern.”

Bucket C: Klein

Want Evers’ sympathy on trying to pick from this bucket? You’ve got it.

“This is a lot tougher bucket than the others,” he said.

But a few bright stars in C are Josh Bertrand, Steve Kennedy and John Murray.

“Bertrand did well there last time, and Kennedy had the biggest bag. Murray did good, but he caught largemouth.”

Ultimately, Gary Klein was his pick.

“He’s a great, well-rounded angler,” said Evers. “He’s a great drop shotter, he’s great with electronics. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

Bucket D: Faircloth

Evers was immediately struck that Todd Faircloth was in Bucket D. (Anglers are assigned to buckets based on their standing in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.)

“I can’t believe Todd’s that low,” said Evers. “He’s one of the best anglers all around. I’ve gotta go with him. He’ll turn it around.”

Alternate picks are Andy Montgomery and Cliff Prince.

“Montgomery is having a good season,” he said. “I’ve gotta think he’s gonna catch ’em fairly well.

“Prince always seems to be around ’em, and he can catch ’em.”

Bucket E: Mueller

Evers picked three guys in Bucket E, but he settled on rookie Paul Mueller.

“Yusuke Miyazaki would be a good one,” said Evers. “I think he caught them really well last time we were there.

“Chad Pipkens is another. He did well there last time, and he’s good on smallies.

“It would be a toss-up for me between Pipkens and Mueller, but I’d lean toward Paul. He’s from up that way, and he probably has had a lot of time on that water.”

Set your team now for the Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmaster Elite at the St. Lawrence River!

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Opt for top smallie guys on the St. Lawrence

By Ronnie Moore

Tackling the St. Lawrence River is easier said than done, but two years ago Brandon Palaniuk made it look quite simple. This time around, Lake Ontario isn’t in the playing field and Palaniuk’s honey hole isn’t in play.

The St. Lawrence River should show out once again at how strong of a smallmouth fishery it truly is. Here are my earlyBassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks for the summertime smallmouth smashfest.

Bucket A: Zaldain

Conservative pick: Ott DeFoe

Ott DeFoe has a reputation for being a consistent angler no matter where the Elites travel. A third-place finish on the St. Lawrence River makes this pick even sweeter. His ownership isn’t too high, which is something I shy away from, so DeFoe is still a worthwhile pick from what I see.

Dark horse pick: Chris Zaldain

Chris Zaldain is one of the best anglers on the Bassmaster Elite Series when it comes to landing fish with light line and a spinning setup, and when it comes to smallmouth he is near the top once again.

Pairing his skill set with a good first half of the season, I could see “Zaldaingerous” exceling on the waters of the St. Lawrence River. Not to mention that the California Kid has less than 1 percent ownership sweetens the deal even more. I like to call it a low-risk, high-reward situation.

I’ll take Zaldain when brown fish and light line are in the mix.

Bucket B: Walker

Conservative pick: Jonathon VanDam

Jonathon VanDam is one of the best smallmouth fishermen on the Elite Series, and he has proven it the last few years. He finished second at this event in 2013 and has also done well in Michigan when smallmouth are involved. Conservatively, he is one of your best bets, but his ownership percentage makes me shy away.

Dark horse pick: David Walker

David Walker has had a pretty good season with some ups and downs so far, and for some reason I think he could do well here. In 2013 he finished 40th, but he was just one solid keeper from being in the Top 20.

I think he will take the lessons he learned at Guntersville and slow down enough to separate himself and find those bigger bags. Walker also finished 12th at Bays de Noc for the AOY Championship, so whether it is finesse fishing or power fishing for smallies, I think Walker will do just fine.

I’m going with Walker because it’s hard to find that consistent of an angler with that little ownership percentage. I could see another Top 12 in Walker’s future here.

Bucket C: Murray

Conservative pick: John Murray

John Murray is one of those Western anglers who excels in clear water and fishing deep at times. Last time they visited the St. Lawrence River, Murray was fishing on the final day. Murray isn’t going to be an angler picked first for some events, but for me he is one angler I am watching for this event.

Dark horse pick: Brett Hite or Mark Davis

I am torn between two anglers that could go under the radar at the St. Lawrence River. So instead of giving you one perspective, here are the benefits of Mark Davis and Brett Hite, both of whom have shown to be fantastic finesse fishermen in their own right.

Davis probably has the most patience of any angler and also has an uncanny ability to squeeze as much as possible out of a given area. Hite brings the west-coast flair to his finesse tactics. When anglers can’t get a bite, they often fall back on a drop shot. Hite starts with it and excels from the get-go. This leads me to believe that this could line up to be a derby made for Hite.

While Murray may slip under the radar for many Fantasy Fishing players, he will certainly be on my radar and is my Bucket C choice for the St. Lawrence River.

Bucket D: Faircloth

Conservative pick: Todd Faircloth

Since cashing a check at the Sabine River, Todd Faircloth has underperformed from what many people expect from him. I completely expect the Texas angler to bounce back and put together a good tournament here. This pick is strictly based on playing the numbers and the turnaround of Todd Faircloth’s season.

Dark Horse pick: Seth Feider

Rookie Seth Feider is a Minnesota resident and undoubtedly has a handle on slaying smallmouth up North. Although New York is far from Minnesota, they are still smallmouth, and Feider knows all about those creatures. I expect Feider to put together his best finish of the season and possibly break out at the St. Lawrence River.

I’m going with a hunch here. Faircloth is my choice because he can’t continue this cold streak for much longer. He has proven himself as one of the best anglers for the last few seasons and these hiccups are going to end soon. It’s early, but Faircloth is my pick.

Bucket E: Wellman

Conservative pick: Paul Mueller

Paul Mueller has to love the challenge of diverse fisheries that the Elite Series pros face throughout the season, but coming close to home will be a welcomed sight. Although he had a rocky start to the season and a tough break at the California Delta, Mueller has cashed a check at Havasu and at Kentucky Lake via the Second Chance event. Heading back to smallmouth waters could be the shot in the arm that this rookie needs.

Dark Horse pick: Nate Wellman

Being a smallmouth guide and a Northern angler is a natural translation, no matter where the Elites travel for smallmouth events. Only 4 percent of Fantasy Fishing players are picking Wellman, and that is also because of unexpected selections that accompany him in Bucket E. With Chad Pipkens, Cliff Pace, Mueller and numerous other finesse anglers in this bucket, players get to pick from a good selection of fishermen.

I tend to lean toward anglers with lower ownership to gain an advantage even if it is ever so slightly. I’m going with Wellman for his smallmouth knowledge and low ownership percentage. Bucket E could be an interesting category with the sticks in that group.

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Toyota wrap-up: You should have chosen Evers (again)

By Tyler Wade

PARIS, Tenn. — The very last event, on Havasu, the final Fantasy Fishing story was called You Should Have Chosen Evers.

For BASSfest, the title is the same because, once again, you should have.

Edwin Evers not only won Zippo BASSfest presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps, he also earned a total of four bonuses — three 5-point bonuses for being the daily leader and one 40-point bonus for weighing in the biggest bass.

Here is the perfect team:

Bucket A: Kevin VanDam, 295 points

B: Edwin Evers, 355

C: Timmy Horton, 285

D: Derek Remitz, 312

E: Fred Roumbanis, 280

The total score for a perfect team was 1,527, and — in very unusual fashion — two players achieved it.

Bucket A: VanDam

Kevin VanDam was heavily favored for the Kentucky Lake event, and for good reason. He’s never finished outside of the Top 3 in an Elite Series event on this body of water.

But if you let VanDam’s high ownership (35.4 percent) or the fact that he hasn’t been the top pick in a Fantasy Fishing bucket in a long time scare you off, then you’re probably kicking yourself right now.

The closest you could have gotten to VanDam’s score was picking Aaron Martens. He ended with 251 points, which is solid, but it’s almost 50 points behind VanDam’s score of 295. As it happens, Martens was the second-most picked angler in the bucket with 13.7 percent. And the three next-highest anglers in ownership — Brent Ehrler, Keith Combs and Jason Christie — were also the three next-highest points scorers.

What that means is most people didn’t lose much ground in Bucket A, even if they didn’t pick VanDam. Obviously, VanDam gave his fans a 44-plus-point boost, but there weren’t many 200-plus-point losses in Bucket A.

The only exception is the worst pick of the bucket, which was Mike Iaconelli. At 5.2 percent ownership, he finished last with 91 points. And as you can see, that’s a big drop from the top for his owners.

Bucket B: Evers

Edwin Evers dominated on Kentucky Lake, and likewise, his owners dominated in Fantasy Fishing.

Evers’ 55 bonus points on top of his win gave him a very healthy 355 points. The 25.6 percent of people who picked him are happy they did.

The closest you could have gotten to Evers in B was by choosing Micah Frazier. He earned 276 points, which is very high, and yet it’s still 79 points back of Evers. No matter, though, because only 0.3 percent of people picked him.

The next-closest you could have gotten was Brandon Lester, who delivered 264 points for his 4.6 percent of fans. Behind him was Ott DeFoe, the second-most favorite of the bucket. His 17.3 percent of fans earned 250 points.

Other popular picks in the bucket didn’t fare as well. Bobby Lane and Greg Hackney, both with around 12 percent ownership, were almost 200 points behind Evers at 175 and 157 points, respectively.

The worst pick of the bucket was David Williams at 0.3 percent, who earned 59 points. That is a 300-point swing.

Bucket C: Horton

Timmy Horton was by far the best pick of Bucket C at 285 points. The 11 percent of players who owned him got at least 50 points more than any other player, and they got more than 150 points than most of the other players.

The reason is that most of the high-ownership picks fared poorly. Casey Ashley, Mark Menendez and Todd Faircloth each were owned by around 16 percent of players, and each of them posted only 123, 121 and 97 points, respectively.

The closest you could have gotten to Horton was to pick Brandon Coulter, 235 points, or Ken Iyobe, 221 points, but almost no one did. Coulter was owned by 1 percent, and Iyobe by 0.4 percent.

The worst pick of the bucket was Kevin Short, owned by 1.2 percent of players. He earned only 55 points, and even his re-qualification for the tournament through the Second Chance event didn’t boost his Fantasy points at all because he zeroed on Kentucky Lake on Day 4. (It did, however, benefit his pocketbook because he earned a $10,000 payday.)

Bucket D: Remitz

Derek Remitz didn’t finish highest in his bucket, but his 40-point bonus for biggest bag of the tournament boosted him to the top.

Remitz, who was chosen by 7.6 percent of players, earned 312 points by virtue of his seventh-place finish and his bonus points. The next-closest angler was third-place finisher Brett Hite, who scored 290 points for his 13.5 percent of fans.

The most popular pick was Takahiro Omori with 29.9 percent ownership, but he ended with only 117 points, a 200-point loss in the bucket for his owners versus Remitz’s. The next-most popular was Randall Tharp at 16.7 percent. He posted 227 points for his players.

The worst pick of the bucket was Carl Jocumsen with 63 points. He was owned by 0.9 percent of players.

Bucket E: Roumbanis

Fred Roumbanis was the best pick of Bucket E, but not by far.

Roumbanis, who was owned by 7.2 percent of players, earned 280 points with his fifth-place finish. But just behind him in eighth place were Brandon Card and Andy Montgomery. Card earned 268 points for his 15.5 percent of owners, and Montgomery earned 257 for his 12.3 percent.

If you chose either of those three, you fared well in Bucket E.

The most popular pick in E was Paul Mueller with 19.5 percent of the vote. Even with his Second Chance Top 10 and subsequent reentry into the tournament, he ended with only 75 points. That’s nearly 200 points behind the Big 3 of Bucket E.

The worst pick of the bucket was Charlie Hartley, who didn’t manage to weigh a fish and therefore earned zero points. That’s a tough break for him, of course, and put his 0.4 percent of owners at least 57 points behind everyone (the next-lowest scorer was Stephen Longobardi with 57 points) and more than 200 points behind most.

Rosters for the next tournament, on the St. Lawrence River, are open now, and you’ve got so much time to decide on your roster. It doesn’t take place until July 30, so that’s just shy of two months for you to pick the perfect team.

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