- Brian Lynn
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When fantasy baseball, football, basketball and NASCAR owners set their rosters, venues, match-ups and players with a hot hand get top billing.
Football owners may elect to bench a top-tier running back when that back's team faces the league's number one defense. And, as home runs tend to come in bunches, average players in the middle of a power-hitting spree may be left in lineup against a pitcher with the lowest ERA in the land.
However, venue location may be one of the most important aspects of setting a fantasy lineup regardless of the sport. While Barry Bonds is capable of hitting a home run in any park, off any pitcher, for the mere mortal swinging the lumber, knocking a ball into the bleacher seats is an easier feat in Colorado's Coors Field than in Seattle's Safeco Field. Likewise, some athletes just perform better in certain parks or types of playing fields.
In no other sport does the venue play a bigger role than in bass fishing. The playing field is literally the athletes' opponent. Sure, they're competing against other anglers for the victory, but penetrating a lake's, and bass', defenses are the keys to victory.
And while a NASCAR driver may run faster at Talladega Superspeedway or a baseball player may hit for power or higher average at Pac Bell Park, so do anglers perform better on different waters.
This year's CITGO Bassmaster Classic takes place on the Louisiana Delta, and looking at top performers from past tournaments can reveal the anglers that have a knack for plying the waters of this tidal-based fishery.
Kevin VanDam The "Michael Jordan" of bass fishing has one of the best fantasy records on the Delta that an owner could hope to see from an angler.
In the four tournaments held on the Delta, VanDam has fished and finished in the top ten in all four. In the '98 Top 150, he finished fourth and in the same tournament two years later he finished tenth. And most impressively, in both Classics on the Delta, VanDam finished in the top ten. He took eighth in '99 and won the whole thing for his first Classic victory in 2001.
Obviously, if you're looking for an angler that knows how to catch fish on the Delta, VanDam is the man for your roster. With a market value of 15 points, he'll take a chunk of your salary, but plenty of room will remain under your cap to sign other top performers to your roster such as the next two anglers.
Randy Howell A quiet fantasy angler, Howell can easily sneak up and be overlooked by fantasy owners. He places behind only VanDam, from a fantasy perspective, when looking at finishes on the Delta.
While VanDam has four top-ten finishes to his credit, Howell has three top-fifteen finishes. In the Top 150 tournament, Howell took 14th in '98 and 12th in 2000. In the '99 Classic, Howell had his highest finish on the Delta at 11th place.
The one black mark on Howell's Delta record is from the 2001 Classic. The Trussville, Ala., native boated just over 4 pounds of bass on his way to a 42nd-place finish.
Howell's 12.5 salary is a bit steep for finishing the fantasy season in 27th place and his latest performance on the Delta may scare some fantasy owners, but his three top-fifteen finishes on the Delta could make him worthy of a roster spot.
Jay Yelas With the third highest salary (15.5), Yelas will hurt your ability to put more than one or two other quality anglers on your team but his hot hand and history on the Delta may be worth the risk.
Yelas is the defending Classic champ, won the Busch BASS Angler of the Year award and has two top-25 finishes on the Delta to his credit including a second-place finish in the '98 Top 150.
As with Howell, Yelas didn't fair well on the Delta in the 2001 Classic he finished 29th out of a 45-angler field.
By putting Yelas, VanDam and Howell on your fantasy team, you'll have a formidable lineup from three anglers with strong finishes on the temperamental Louisiana Delta. However, by taking those three players from the free agent list, you'll be reduced to spending a measly seven points on your final two anglers which means you'll be welcoming Lee Bailey Jr. of Erie, Penn., and David LeFebre of Amston, Conn. to your team a big liability to say the least.
If, however, you happened to grab VanDam, Yelas or Howell earlier in the season and retained them as their value rose, you should be able to sign higher quality anglers than those from the Great White North.
If you just can't fit those three, historically productive anglers onto your roster or are unwilling to fill-out your roster with Bailey and LeFebre there are other anglers that cost less while performing well on the Delta.
Gary Klein The Weatherford, Texas, angler has two top-ten finishes on the Louisiana tidal waters including a fourth-place finish in the '99 Classic.
With a salary of 13 points, Klein may actually be more attractive to some fantasy owners than the hot-handed Yelas.
Peter Thliveros Thliveros has two top-15 finishes and a top-25 finish. In the '98 Top 150, Peter T. finished in twelfth place and in the 2000 Top 150 he had his lowest finish at 25th. In the '99 Classic, the burly Peter T. finished 13th. As with Howell and Yelas, Thliveros struggled in the 2001 Classic, finishing 35th with only 8 pounds of bass.
A bargain-buy at 11.2 points, especially when compared to the likes of Mark Davis (16.7), Davy Hite (15.8), Yelas (15.5), Timmy Horton (15.1), Roland Martin (15), Kevin Wirth (15) and VanDam (15), Peter T. could easily make the jump from a top-ten bubble angler to a leaderboard front-runner.