Typically, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Lent and all things therefore associated passes me by in February/March without much notice. I'm too old, tired and sane to try any type of trip to Louisiana for parades, and while I appreciate the religious aspects of the event, my relationship with the Catholic Liturgical calendar is rocky at best.
But last night I went my 2-year-old son's Fat Tuesday celebration at the Episcopal day care he attends, and am suddenly embracing all things Mardi Gras.
Some parts of the party were expected, like balloon animals, kids hammering cotton candy and running over each other in bounce houses, and a constant mix of crying and laughter. Some things were not expected like the beer and wine table for adults, the crazy costumes, fantastic gumbo and a 65-year-old lady wearing a sign on her back that said "The Devil made me do it."
I was expecting the typical meet and greet with parents, where we talk about kids and where I end up feeling bad because I don't actually know their child's name, but I ran into a real life party. And it was good for all ages.
So I've decided to carry that Mardi Gras momentum into the Sunshine Showdown Fantasy Fishing preview. Be sure and fill out your roster. Your team was wiped clean after the Classic, so even if you had a crew full of Elite anglers, the groups have changed, the stage has changed and your team needs to change.
Fat Tuesday: Since that day is all about indulging, I'm presenting my five-man team if there were no restrictions. Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese, Bobby Lane, Terry Scroggins and Mike Iaconelli. I want guys that have been there before -- guys who know how to fish for wins and points at the same time. And anytime I'm in Florida, I want Lane on my team. He's good everywhere, but is a beast in his home state.
If you found this information to be totally useless since you can't have these five guys, first I say lighten up -- it's Fat Tuesday and we're just having a good time -- and second I confess, the devil made me do it.
Ash Wednesday: Welcome to Lent folks. It's time for some self discipline. Without using any of the five guys from Fat Tuesday, here is my five man roster: Edwin Evers, Mike McClelland, Mark Davis, Aaron Martens and Todd Faircloth.
Again, capable pros who have enjoyed continued success. The first tournament is tough on rookies because they have a lot to figure out. And this year just has the feel of a 10-man scramble to the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
VanDam has set the tone and seems almost unbeatable, but if you put a rabbit in front of a pack of dogs, they're going to give chase. At some point these guys are going to get tired of hearing -- and talking about -- how good KVD is. I think it starts in Florida where besides one freakish win, VanDam has not been great.
Lent: Here's a list of guys who seem tempting, but I would stay away from.
Brian Snowden: He's burnt from the last time the Elites were on the Harris Chain. He had that tournament completely won and zeroed on the final day. That won't be easy to come back from.
Peter Thliveros: He's a former winner on the Harris Chain, and he's a Florida boy, which really seems to make a difference in that state. Problem is, he hasn't exactly been on fire the last couple of years and when he fished this same tournament on the Elites in 2008, he finished 79th. Very tempting in Group D but not as good a choice as Chris Lane.
Jonathon VanDam: There's a lot of excitement around JVD but with excitement comes pressure and I'm guessing that he feels it. The good news is nobody gets a pass into the Elites because of their name. He earned it and is surely a stick. I think he has a good season, but there's too much going on in this first event so I would avoid him, even in Group E.
Brandon Palaniuk: Popular choice right now considering the Classic show he put on, but I'm guessing there's a letdown for an event or two until he gets a feel for life as an Elite Series pro.
Easter: I'm not sure what Easter has to do with my actual five-man team -- in fact I know that it has absolutely nothing to do with it -- but it finished the progression nicely. Here's the team I'll be riding into Florida with:
Skeet Reese: Give me consistency and a chip on his shoulder because VanDam has officially pulled away as the best angler on the planet.
Bobby Lane: I don't have a choice. He's been good almost every single Florida tournament he's entered with B.A.S.S. If I get burnt here by Terry Scroggins or a few others, I can live with that. Lane is the best choice going in.
Rick Clunn: I just wasn't enamored with anyone in this group. Clunn is probably me taking the experience thing too far, but with VanDam recently matching his Classic record and the post-spawn confusing way this tournament seems to be setting up, I like him to do well.
Chris Lane: He hasn't had as good a record as his brother in Florida, but it's been pretty solid. As mentioned above, I like him better than Thliveros in Group D.
Andy Montgomery: Remember all that stuff about rookies having a tough start because of the stage, pressure, blah, blah, blah? Sometimes you have to go with your gut, so that's what I am doing with Montgomery. He's fished high-level stuff before, so he's kind of a non-rookie rookie.