Fantasy sports can be frustrating. Unpredictability makes playing fantasy sports entertaining and exciting, but it also makes winning season-long contests extremely difficult.
Luckily for 31-year-old Texas native Cody Weems, bass fishing is a lot more predictable than some other fantasy sports.
Weems is the winner of the 2023 Phoenix Fantasy Fishing Bass Pro Tour game with a final weight of 4,995 pounds, 9 ounces. He used his knowledge of fisheries and anglers’ strengths to make his winning roster decisions, and although he’s played for the past three years, it was the format change to a five-fish limit that he thinks was the key to his success. He asked himself who would be most consistent on specific bodies of water.
“It’s just a different strategy,” Weems said. “Some anglers are able to identify the schools of fish while others catch the larger ones.”
You wouldn’t have a fantasy football roster without a quarterback, just as you shouldn’t have a bass fishing roster without Jacob Wheeler. Wheeler competed in every tournament, including REDCREST 2023 and General Tire Heavy Hitters, and only missed one Knockout Round the entire season.
“That dude is too good not to have on your roster,” Weems said.
Wheeler was the baseline for Weems, but he still had some research to do from tournament to tournament. For instance, he wasn’t sure about how Lake Murray would fish, and he always wanted to make sure to pair the right anglers with the right fisheries.
Working in oil fields and having a newborn at home, Weems didn’t have a chance to watch every tournament, so he had to make sure his roster was ready to go well before each event.
“If (MLF) was headed up north, I needed to make sure I had smallmouth hammers on my roster – or at least guys who have done really well up there,” he explained.
Weems wouldn’t have won or been in contention if it wasn’t for Stage One at Kissimmee Chain. He found himself in 49th place after the event and decided to pay even closer attention to what he needed to do to make a run at winning.
“If I hadn’t had been in Top 250 after Kissimmee, I probably wouldn’t have focused (as much),” Weems admitted. “I’m not sure on the math, but if you’re so far out of a certain number of spots then you’re just trying to win single tournaments at that point.”
A few months later, heading into Stage Seven at Saginaw Bay, Weems knew he would probably end up winning the whole thing, unless another player had a blowout performance and stacked up over 100 pounds. Weems ended up winning by 137 pounds, 6 ounces over second place and now has an opportunity of a lifetime coming up by winning a fishing trip with Randall Tharp, courtesy of Phoenix Boats.
He’s looking forward to his time with Tharp to learn as much as he can.
“I’m excited about that because I’m excited to learn,” Weems said. “I’ve been with one or two guides in my life, but I’ve mostly learned from watching YouTube. My brother went out with a pro once and just from being on the water with him for a couple hours, he learned a lot.”
Sometimes, all you can do is trust your gut.
For 46-year-old Kevin Pennington, that’s exactly what helped him win the 2023 Abu Garcia Predictor Game Presented by Mercury by just a single point.
“I did go by gut,” Pennington admitted. “A lot of people don’t know that you have a whole day (to enter) after the tournament starts, so you can watch Day 1 and Day 2 and see who’s doing good, who was on them, and how many 4- or 5-pounders were being caught.”
For Pennington, Stage Six at Lake St. Clair was the hardest, but there was one familiar name who saved him – and possibly his season.
“I was expecting over 40 5-pounders, and there were only 19,” Pennington said. “If (Jacob) Wheeler is an option, though, click on him and you’re going to win.
“I was one point behind going into the last tournament, but when I saw (that I had won), I was very excited; I looked at it 10 times and said, ‘this can’t be right.’”
With 26 points, Pennington won a fishing trip with Brent Ehrler courtesy of Mercury Marine, beating out eight other players who tied for second place by a single point.
Pennington’s favorite angler is Scott Suggs, another Arkansas native, but he also really respects Mark Rose.
“The Sunday testimony (Rose) does on the water is awesome, and that’s what I love about MLF,” he said.
As for winning a fishing trip with Ehrler, Pennington is excited to fish somewhere different and learn a new technique. He said he’s never used or owned a spinning rod in his life, so the chance to learn something new has him eager to cash in on his prize.