We’re nearing the end of the 2023 Bass Pro Tour season, and the Bally Bet Angler of the Year and FantasyFishing.com standings are getting interesting. The Bass Pro Tour field is fighting for top spots like fantasy managers battling to win their leagues and year-end prizes. There’s a lot on the line as the tour heads into Michigan’s Lake St. Clair for the General Tire Stage Six Presented by John Deere Utility Vehicles.
For this event, I’m relying on the smallmouth specialists, wildcards overdue for a good finish and a handful of guys on hot streaks that show no signs of slowing down.
I might as well copy some of this from my last few FantasyFishing.com articles, but I’m again sticking with Dakota Ebare and Jacob Wheeler. They’re both fishing exceptionally right now and are excellent smallmouth anglers who should find plenty of Top-10 quality fish again at this event. With both still in contention in the AOY race, Ebare and Wheeler might be pushing harder this week and both should do well.
Two others who are fishing great right now – and both fresh off Top 10 finishes on Cayuga – are Alton Jones Jr. and Adrian Avena. They’re solid picks in the Top 10 in points and both are looking to move up even further in Michigan.
Another you can add to that group is Michael Neal, who continues to catch fish everywhere, no matter the species or fishery type. Neal also won at St. Clair the last time the Bass Pro Tour stopped by in 2021 (Junior finished second in that one and Avena was fourth, by the way).
It’d be hard to bet against either of the VanDams in their home state. Both Kevin and Jonathon should be popular picks among fantasy managers. Even though Uncle Kevin will get most of the attention here, Jonathon has been fishing extremely well the past few seasons. If I were to pick just one Kalamazoo angler here, it’d be “Jonny,” as he’ll likely fly under the radar for some other managers. But it’d be hard to argue against picking both this week.
One angler who qualifies as both a smallmouth specialist and a wildcard would be Washington’s Luke Clausen. He did well here in the 2021 stop, making the Knockout Round, and is due for a good finish. He’s been just below average this season, missing the Knockout Round cut by a place or two a handful of times. He’s due to turn it around and knows smallmouth like the best of them.
Another wildcard (who shouldn’t be because he’s 27th in AOY points) is Arkansas’ Dylan Hays. He’s had some great finishes this year and may fly under the radar for some fantasy managers. The reason I added him for Stage Six is his past success on St. Clair during a 2018 FLW Tour stop that was just a few days later in the calendar than this year’s event. In that event, Hays sacked up over 95 pounds of smallmouth over four days and finished second. If not for Chad Grigsby’s insane 97-8 that week, Hays would have taken home the trophy. Those consistent bags that Hays posted in the 22- to 26-pound range that week will be critical to advance and contend for the win this year.