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Fantasy: The Klein factor

7/14/2005

In football, basketball, baseball and every other stick-and-ball sport, there are actions and reactions that cause fantasy owners to reassess their lineup, team or even strategy. Influences that may cause anything from a ripple to a tidal wave of movement in fantasy circles can be as mundane as a one-game suspension to something as fantastic as a blockbuster trade.

Rarely do things happen in fishing that have much of an impact on the fantasy fishing world. However, the 2005 Bassmaster Classic in Pittsburgh, Pa., has just encountered such an ordeal. In a stunning turn of events, BASS announced that Gary Klein is now eligible for the 2005 and 2006 Classic.

While the announcement is big news in and of itself, it has a far greater impact on the owners of fantasy fishing teams. Let's take a look at what role Klein will play in fantasy fishing during the Classic and on into 2006.

As qualifying chance after qualifying chance slipped by Klein, the man who had been to 22 Bassmaster Classics had to face the reality that he wasn't going to make the 2005 party. As hard as it was to believe, the first truly professional angler in history just didn't make the cut this year.

When you look at Klein's year, it was a disappointment by the standards laid forth by the Texas pro. He had only one top-six finish (5th on Lake Dardanelle) and one top-20 finish (18th on Lake Lewisville). Not a good year for one of the sport's elite anglers. However, the Lake Wissota, Wis., tournament provided Klein with a get-out-of-jail-free card. Due to ambiguity in the scoring of the Elite-50 on days Three and Four, Klein's 22nd finish in the land of cheese gave him enough points to get added to the Classic's dance card.

Fantasy impact

Simply put, for fantasy owners looking to the Classic, Klein is a wild card. The man is one of the Greatest Anglers of all time. He can challenge and win any tournament that he enters. The Texan is especially adept at making a showing in the Classic. While he's never won a Classic, he has been to 22 of them and has finished in the top five at the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing on five separate occasions (including second place in 2003).

For all intents and purposes, Klein can be considered one of the "dark horses" of the '05 Classic. Owners looking for a solid angler that probably won't make a whole lot of rosters should consider Klein. His off year will keep many owners from selecting him, but his experience always makes him dangerous. At any rate, he's a much better bet than any of the Federation guys making the big dance, and they may actually make many rosters as cheap longshots that fill out that last, salary-cap-breaking spot.

Impact on 2006

This ambiguous-points ruling has more of impact than just this year on the Three Rivers. Because of the format change of the Bassmaster Tournament Trail, the 2006 Classic will be the first event of the next season and all '05 competitors will automatically receive a bid to Lake Toho in '06.

Looking ahead (and back at the same time), Klein would have to be considered a dark horse (if not a longshot) for next year's Classic as well. His best finish on Florida's Lake Toho is 37th in 1980. Most of is other finishes are ranked somewhere in the forgettable 80s. But, like this year, you never know when Klein will challenge for a win or make a run at the Classic crown.

And that pretty much sums Klein up: Too dangerous to count out.