February 3, 2016 by Kyle Wood
It’s almost time to kick off the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour season with the opener presented by Ranger to take place at Lake Okeechobee Feb. 4-7.
Like the competitors, FLW Fantasy Fishing players also have a shot at cashing in on some great prizes this season. At each event of the Tour season – six regular-season tournaments and the Forrest Wood Cup – more than $7,000 in cash and prizes will be 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.
This year, the Big O is giving the 169-boat field a different look than they’ve seen in past years in the form of high, dirty water. The odds could favor the locals more than in years past, though the caliber of skill among the entire field is over the top. Really, it could be anyone’s tournament.
To help provide some clues regarding who might have some advantages in the tournament – especially if you need to finalize your Fantasy Fishing team – here are five pros to watch when competition starts Thursday.
If you haven’t picked your FLW Fantasy Fishing team, keep these anglers in mind when you head over to FantasyFishing.com and make your picks.
1. Stetson Blaylock – The Benton, Ark., pro is entering his eighth year on Tour has become a model of consistency on nearly every body of water he’s fished. Blaylock’s versatility is one of his most noticeable traits and as he’s not afraid to run and gun until he finds a pattern that works. Blaylock has also started the last two Florida-opener tournaments with top-10 finishes – something pretty remarkable when you consider how feast-or-famine the state’s waters can be for the pros. Whether it’s flipping, swimming a jig or winding a crankbait, Blaylock is at home with it all. The unique conditions should play well into the hands of the Arkansas pro to rack up another great start in Florida.
Fantasy Verdict: At $33, Blaylock is a great pick if you don’t want to pluck from the top of the list, yet hope to make a good return on your investment.
2. Scott Martin – Obviously Martin is a logical pick for this tournament considering it’s literally right in his backyard. Not only does the South Florida pro have the momentum from his Angler of the Year season in 2015 and top-10 Forrest Wood Cup finish on his side, but he also gets to start things off in a very familiar setting. Martin is also one of the few anglers who have fished the lake long enough to have experienced similar conditions to what’s going on now at Okeechobee. Knowing what areas normally hold clean water, where the good mats grow and key spawning areas throughout the lake will be a major benefit to Martin this week. The local curse doesn’t seem to affect him on this pond as he holds seven top 10s on Okeechobee over his career. He’s eager to make another run at the AOY title and that road starts with a strong finish on the Big O. Martin couldn’t be happier with that.
Fantasy Verdict: Martin is tied for the most expensive Fantasy Fishing angler at $37, and is a perfect starting point to build a team around.
3. Cody Meyer – Meyer falls into the category of anglers who have a love-hate relationship with the Big O. He has tasted defeat, with finishes down in the triple digits, and success with a top 10 back in 2014. Either way, Meyer has learned from each experience. In 2014 Meyer had one of the best seasons ever recorded on the FLW Tour when he finished second to Andy Morgan for AOY. Being that this season closely resembles 2014, a lot of eyes will be on Meyer. He’s known for his expertise in finesse fishing, but he certainly can handle a big rod and braid. Flipping a Senko is something Meyer likes to do and you can bet he’ll snatch a few fish on that this week. Look for this California kid to make a statement on the Big O.
Fantasy Verdict: Meyer goes for $33, which may be a little steep, but considering his consistency at cashing checks and catching limits, it makes it an easy sell.
4. Joe Holland – This guy is a newcomer to the Tour. He’s from Jefferson, Maine and you’re probably thinking – “Maine? That’s a long way from Florida.” While that’s true, Holland actually has spent more time on Okeechobee than a lot of the other guys in the field. Holland has two top 10s in his FLW career – both of which came on Okeechobee. He’s a very proficient grass fisherman and flipped and punched his way to a top 10 in 2015 during a Costa FLW Series event. Aside from that, Holland basically lives on the lake all winter so he has learned over the past few years how to adapt to different situations. This tournament is a perfect platform for a breakout performance by the guy from Up East.
Fantasy Verdict: Even if you are on the fence about Holland, he’s a bargain at $5. That’s right, $5. With his experience on the lake, it’s almost a no-brainer pick.
5. Glenn Browne – Flipping and punching heavy cover on Okeechobee is almost a given during any tournament. So why not look at a guy like Glenn Browne, who is back on Tour after a two-year hiatus. Browne is known as one of the best flippers in the game and has already how good he is by punching his way to second in the Costa Series event on Okeechobee in early January. Browne holds five other top 10s on Okeechobee dating back to 1999 – showing that he has no lack of experience on the Big O. Past knowledge should help guide Browne to areas of the lake with clean water and ample cover. He might not connect with numbers of fish, but expect above-average quality in his weigh-in sack.
Fantasy Verdict: For only $28 you are getting way more angler than the asking price indicates. He’s definitely one of the best buys under $30.