It's that time time to dust off your fantasy thinking caps and get ready for Fantasy Fishing 2010. We here on the BASS Web team are already gearing up, taking a hard look at the Bassmaster Classic field and honing our trash talk. Whether you buy into our thinking or take a path that's uniquely your own, we hope you enjoy the ride. Fantasy Fishing begins with the Classic!
Ken Duke (Bass Geek and Web editor): Last year (the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series season) was the year of the superstar, and I think the 2010 Classic is going to continue that trend. I don't expect any of the lesser names who qualified to really challenge for the title in February.
David Hunter Jones (Staff Writer, BASS Publications): Thanks for playing it safe, Geek. That opens up the underdogs for the rest of us. Don't think a Federation or Opens guy can make it happen? For starters, 2010 will be the second Classic for three of the Federation anglers, and four of the six Opens qualifiers have fished at the Elite level (same level, different name). As far as Federation qualifiers and the Classic go, Bryan Kerchal is the storybook tale. Not to mention several of the current top pros emerged from the ranks of the FedNat. That said, if I were a betting man (why else would I be in this?) I'd bank on the 'Bama boys in February.
Althea Cabarrao (Associate Editor, a.k.a. Lady Luck, 2009 BASS Publications' Fantasy team winner): The Classic is completely different than any other professional fishing event. The idea that an amateur can win has been proved, but only once in 39 years. The chance of a repeat is slim given the current level of competition. Save your "lucky" bets for a 1-day tournament. The heavy hitters of the sport are evolving at such a pace that those with less finely-tuned skills hardly stand a chance at emerging victorious given the field of competitors they're facing. I'm a 'Bama girl myself and would love to see a repeat of Boyd Duckett's 2007 home-state Classic win; I'll be watching Randy Howell, as well. That said, it's the single-name celebs of our sport that deliver consistently KVD, Alton, Skeet, Ike.
Nathan Benson (Audio/Video Web dude): Well I'm a Florida guy, and while this state obviously produces superior football programs the Alabama boys will indeed have a leg up fishing their home water (Russ Lane, in particular, will be out to avenge a disappointing '07 showing). But when this thing is all said and done, I think most of the home-field favorites may very well be buried below names from all over the map namely Michigan's Kevin VanDam, Texas' Gary Klein and Florida's Terry Scroggins. But one other name to look for will be California's Skeet Reese, who should be coming into this event hungrier than anyone. After just barely losing to Boyd Duckett on the Birmingham Classic stage in '07, and then suffering a gut-wrenching AOY loss to KVD this past postseason, Reese is going to have a roaring fire under him to become only the second person ever to win two Classics in a row.
Duke: If I had five picks for the 2010 Classic, I really wouldn't stray very far from what Nathan just said. (This actually makes me second-guess my selections more than a little!) I'd go with Reese, VanDam, Duckett, Iaconelli and (my sentimental favorite) Aaron Martens. It's time for Aaron to get that second-place monkey off his back. Those other guys already have their own Classic trophy (or two). And if I had one more pick, it would probably be Russ Lane; he's an Alabama guy with lots of experience on Lay Lake, and I don't think the pressure will affect him.
Jones: Since we've started name-calling, I'll keep it short and oh-so-sweet: Randy Howell, Alton Jones, Aaron Martens, Steve Kennedy and Kelly Jordon. Look out for Alton; he'll scour that river more than a lot of locals will. He's also one of several contestants who will be fishing his fourth Classic there.
Cabarrao: Alton could definitely do it! He's on my short list of top finishers. However, given the Fantasy format, I'd splurge on KVD, Skeet or Ike. KVD because he's the master, plus he's already cleared a space in the trophy case. Skeet for momentum, and because it would be very cool to have a repeat Classic winner. Ike because he's focused and overdue for some time in the spotlight. Now for some bargain shopping; I do love a good deal! I would snap up Matt Herren in a heartbeat. It's only his second Classic but he had a solid performance in the 2009 points race, and he's got local flavor advantage. Who else?!? I guess I'm going to have to extend my line of credit at Fantasy and put Mr. Boyd Duckett on layaway. He's got charisma, home team advantage, undeniable talent and let's not forget, he's bested the field once before.
Benson: I'm going to go out on a limb here and call the winner of the 2010 Bassmaster Classic right now: KVD. (OK, so it's not a very long limb.) I think the two-time Classic winner comes into this event with momentum after an impressive come-from-behind run in the postseason, and VanDam and momentum are a dangerous combination. Plus he's finished no worse than sixth in two out of the three previous Classics held on Lay Lake. He hasn't won a Classic since '05 in Pittsburgh, and while that's no drought for 99 percent of the field, for VanDam it's like Tiger Woods going more than a couple years without winning The Masters or the British Open he's just due. Rounding out the top six will be Terry Scroggins, Aaron Martens, Randy Howell, Skeet Reese and Russ Lane.
Duke: It's tough to go against the big names they know how to handle the pressure and the boat traffic but I'm going to pick one dark horse for the Classic, and that's Kevin Wirth. He's always done well on Lay, and he's a tougher Classic competitor than most people realize. The former Kentucky Derby jockey has four Top 10 Classic finishes in his career. Who better to ride the dark horse to the winner's circle than an ex-jockey? I can't wait for February!
Jones: Big names (for the most part) be deviled. 2010 is the year of the lesser names. I pick Randy Howell to win. He's one of the most consistent anglers there is and if he finds some fish he'll bring quality stringers to the scales all three days. Hot on his heels will be Alton Jones (no relation). That first win in 2008 has left a fire burning in him only another Classic will satisfy (then stoke and burn hotter). Behind Jones is the affable Auburn native Steve Kennedy. He finished 8th in the '07 Lay Classic and has all the tools to get the job done. Martens and KJ should also be competitive. I should have enough fantasy "cash" left over to get a six-pack of champagne and a funnel for my victory celebration.
Cabarrao: Champagne in a 6-pack? You must be referring to the champagne of beers Miller High Life. Sign me up for that victory party! I'll bring the caviar. Hold on, I just had a flashback to the 2007 Classic on Lay Lake. Let's not forget that fan favorite and Alabama native Gerald Swindle began Day 2 of that Classic in an impressive 9th place before being disqualified for unsafe boating. Overall, his Classic track record is strong; he's finished in the top 5 twice in just nine Classics. He also had an impressive '09 season in the Elites, qualifying for the inaugural postseason. I'm thinking the G-man could be whistling Redemption Song come Feb. 21.
Benson: Redemption Song? I think the G-Man will more likely be whistling Dixie trying to win this event. Yes, he had a strong season in '09 and even made the exclusive Toyota 12. But let's not forget one glaring fact: Swindle has never won a single BASS event in his career, and I'd be a little surprised if he changed that on the biggest stage in professional fishing. As for the "champagne" after-party, sign me up as well I'll even chip in on the caviar with some of my fantasy winnings.
There you have it, the BASS Web group with their picks for the 2010 Classic and kick-off to the upcoming Fantasy Fishing season. We hope you'll get involved, too, with your own league.
Let the gloating and trash talk begin! Sign up for Fantasy Fishing today.