We’re within a week of the start of a new Bass Pro Tour season, and all 80 anglers on the 2023 roster have a blank slate and a full schedule of events in front of them. The same can be said for all of the Phoenix Boats Fantasy Fishing managers out there: we’re all tied at zero points and our eyes are focused on both the first individual event and season-long prizes.
There’s hope for everyone (and also a few new wrinkles in the game this year).
New for this season are public groups to compete in, the ability to see other managers’ picks after rosters are locked, and the chance to win a Phoenix 818 Pro bass boat, a 2023 Toyota Tundra Limited and Abu Garcia fishing gear if you select all 10 of the Championship Round anglers in any event.
There’s a lot to be excited about and also some new faces on the roster to choose from. It’s going to be a fun year.
Last season’s overall FantasyFishing.com winner Payton Reynolds shared some of the strategies that helped him rack up over 7,671 pounds, the most important of which included selecting some anglers for every single event.
This approach of picking “sure things” has merit again this season, even with the switch to a five-fish format. Jacob Wheeler, Dustin Connell, and Jordan Lee will undoubtedly have heavy ownership in all leagues, but they’ve been remarkably consistent with top finishes and wins in Bass Pro Tour competition. I have all three on my team to begin the year and don’t plan on taking them off my roster.
You could also include Justin Lucas, Michael Neal, and Dakota Ebare in this group: they fished red-hot last year and will likely ride that momentum into this season.
Florida may not immediately come to mind with any of these six anglers and their fishing styles – which tend to rely heavily on their electronics – but every one of them has proven that they can catch fish anywhere. Plus, Lee has won twice on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes: the first-ever Bass Pro Tour event in 2019 (even though the final day was on Lake Garcia) and the inaugural Heavy Hitters the following year.
Because such a high percentage of Fantasyfishing.com managers will select the anglers listed above and will lean toward proven tournament history on individual lakes, identifying a hidden gem or two is a key way to separate yourself from the pack. Since it’s early in the year in the Sunshine State, I’m leaning toward the flippers and punchers at Stage One.
Expect Fletcher Shryock, Randall Tharp, Cole Floyd and Jared Lintner to stick with the heavy braided line and big rods. The switch from an every-fish-counts format to a five-bass limit may not make a difference in the outcome of some events this season, but it might be massive on the Kissimmee Chain, where plenty of big bass living deep in the matted vegetation. Having to focus on getting just five bites a day this week will surely reinforce the strategy of this group of anglers, and I expect them to fish this way when the season kicks off. The go-for-broke approach will pay for at least one of these guys.
It’s a stout list of 2023 Bass Pro Tour newcomers who qualified via their performance last year on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. FantasyFishing.com rules require you to select at least one angler below 40th in the standings in each group, and because the rookies didn’t compete on the Bass Pro Tour last season, they start Stage One at the bottom of the rankings by default.
This could lead to some steals in this first event, and I’m taking Spencer Shuffield and Nick LeBrun as my picks for Groups A and B.
Shuffield has been on a tear for a few years now and has already gotten a successful taste of the Bass Pro Tour, qualifying for two events in 2021, finishing 11th and 13th. Pretty stout. Ohh yeah, Shuffield also won the 2022 Pro Circuit TITLE and finished third in the in points last season. He’s as accomplished a “rookie” as you’ll find and this may be the only time you can get him as your required 40th and below pick.
Much of the same can be said of LeBrun, who won two times in 2022 on the Pro Circuit (back-to-back to make it more impressive). LeBrun will fit in with the Bass Pro Tour group and should make plenty of fantasy managers happy this season.