June 4, 2014 by Kyle Wood
The end is in sight for the 2014 Walmart FLW Tour as the field prepares for event No. 5 on Pickwick Lake this week. At this point in the season, anglers near the top 35 of the AOY standings are focusing on earning enough points to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray Aug. 14-17. The rest are chasing checks.
FLW Fantasy Fishing players also have a shot at cashing in on great prizes this week. At each event of the Tour season - six regular-season tournaments and the Forrest Wood Cup - more than $7,000 in cash and prizes are awarded to the top 50 Fantasy Fishing teams. There will even be cash prizes awarded to the top 10 teams at the end of the season based on cumulative point totals, including a $10,000 top prize.
It's summertime on the Tennessee River, and that can only mean one thing - ledge fishing. That's all the hype around this event. Pickwick is known to give up some tremendous smallmouth and largemouth opportunities from its offshore structure. While the TVA impoundment stands at an impressive 43,000 acres and sprawls 53 miles, it will most likely fish small for the majority of anglers who will scour the ledges for "mega schools" of bass. There might be some pros probing the shallow grass present on Pickwick, which could lead to some big bags over the first few days. However, it's yet to be seen whether or not that pattern can hold up for the entire competition. With that in mind, below are five pros that bear monitoring as competition begins Thursday.
If you haven't finalized your Fantasy Fishing team, do so now at FantasyFishing.com.
1. Randy Haynes - By now, if you don't know who this ledge-fishing guru is, then you better crawl out from under your rock. He most recently made headlines by winning the Rayovac FLW Series event on Kentucky Lake last week, which wasn't his first time bringing home the top hardware. Flash back to last year when Haynes won the Rayovac event on Pickwick doing what he does best - cranking ledges. He crushed more than 79 pounds of bass in three days of fishing, including a 33-pound bag on the first day. Haynes then rolled that momentum into his first Tour win on Lake Eufaula two weeks later, again in dominating fashion by fishing offshore. The Counce, Tenn., pro has four top 10s on Pickwick - three of which are victories.
In terms of Fantasy Fishing, Haynes carries a hefty price tag at $55. Despite the large cost, he is a good bet for a solid return on the investment.
2. Brandon Hunter - This Benton, Ky., native might be a rookie on the FLW Tour this year, but he is far from it when it comes to tracking down big bass offshore. This final leg of the season is what he has been waiting for all year. He is coming off a solid fifth-place showing at the Kentucky Lake Rayovac tournament last week where he hung with some of the big dogs of the ledge game. He has spent the last few years learning from one of the best in the game - Brent Ehrler - and is proving to be a quick study. These last two events will surely be the ultimate test for Hunter, and you can bet he is up for the challenge.
Hunter is a Fantasy Fishing steal at only $11. If you need someone to help round out your team then Hunter is your man.
3. Jay Yelas - It's not too often that a legend like Jay Yelas gets mentioned as a dark horse for an event, but when it's summer on the Tennessee River his abilities often go overlooked. If you're wondering how he fared the last time the Tour stopped on Pickwick back in 2011, the answer is not good - placing 83rd. But here's the thing: Yelas loves to fish the way he is most comfortable, which is flipping shallow cover. And in an event where the vast majority of the field will be looking at their electronics out deep, it could leave a window of opportunity open for one of the best shallow anglers around. Make no doubt about it, the shallow grass sprawling the backwaters holds bass in the 6- to 10-pound class that haven't really been pressured since back during the spawn. Despite much of the dock talk saying the backwaters can't sustain pressure throughout the event, Yelas is the man that can prove that theory wrong.
As far as his Fantasy Fishing price is concerned, he sits at the $42 price. It is a little steep for an outside pick, but when Yelas gets room to work that is when he is his most dangerous.
4. Andy Morgan - The reigning Kellogg's Angler of the Year is poised to make another run at the title this year as he leads the point race going into Pickwick. Sure, the Tennessee River system can be considered his home water, but that doesn't necessarily give him an advantage over the field. With today's electronics there are no more secrets on the water. So what gives Morgan an edge if his years of experience don't? It's simple: versatility. The guy is an absolute animal when it comes to fishing off instinct - one of the main reasons he has the most top 10s on the Tour. In a tournament like this, Morgan is just as likely to pound the bank one day and jump out on the ledges the next. He took 40th on Pickwick back in 2011, but this time around is a new game. He is riding a phenomenal hot streak, and it's as if he can't do wrong.
At $52, Morgan is heavily favored to have a solid showing. If you play the numbers, then chances are good he will place high enough to earn some valuable points in Fantasy Fishing. To be honest, there really isn't a bad tournament to pick this Tennessee pro.
5. Casey Martin - In his sophomore season, Martin is experiencing the traditional slump. He currently sits 114th in the points, but lucky for him the final two tournaments take place on lakes that fit in his comfort zone. Martin had his breakthrough performance last year when he won the final Tour event of the season on Lake Chickamauga. Yes, he won that tournament on an umbrella rig, which is no longer allowed on Tour, but that doesn't mean he doesn't know how to entice bass from TVA impoundments on standard baits. Martin spends much of his free time guiding on Guntersville, so you can bet he has been practicing for hypothetical situations he could see on Pickwick - he did the same prior to his Chickamauga victory. The Keystone Light pro placed 30th in a Rayovac event on Pickwick before and also took eighth on nearby Wheeler Lake in an FLW Tour Open. He is very proficient with deep-diving crankbaits and swimbaits and is equally as savvy with his electronics. This is the tournament for Martin to earn some serious cash.
Martin is the perfect pick for Fantasy Fishing players on a budget. He's available for just $22 and holds all the tools one needs to succeed in this tournament.