Invitationals fantasy champ Kmiecik focused on cut-makers to build winning rosters - Major League Fishing

Invitationals fantasy champ Kmiecik focused on cut-makers to build winning rosters

Wisconsinite wins fishing trip with Phoenix pro Greg Vinson as grand prize
Image for Invitationals fantasy champ Kmiecik focused on cut-makers to build winning rosters
Casey Kmiecik won the Phoenix Fantasy Fishing for the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals.
September 3, 2023 • Kendra Cousineau • Invitationals

Unlike the Bass Pro Tour field of 80 pros, the roster of anglers to choose from in the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals version of Phoenix Fantasy Fishing consisted of 150 competitors throughout the 2023 season. For 36-year-old Casey Kmiecik – the season-long winner with 2,042 pounds, 10 ounces – the key was to identify 10 anglers for his fantasy roster who he felt would make the cut. 

“If I chose anglers I thought would make the (Top 50) cut, they have an extra day of fishing to put on more weight (compared to pros who don’t make the cut),” Kmiecik said. “I would look at the lake at every tournament and sometimes mix in some the local guys from there, which really came into play at La Crosse.”

The Wisconsin native credits Power-Pole Stop 1 at Lake Okeechobee and Mercury Stop 6 at the Mississippi River for his impressive winning total, which propelled him past the second-place finisher by 61 pounds, 12 ounces for the Fantasy Fishing championship on the Invitationals side. 

After finishing first at Okeechobee, Kmiecik decided to look up the prizes and rules for the season, thinking he may have a shot at taking it all. 

“Okeechobee was the first tournament,” he said. “That’s the one I won and the one I did best in, and after that I started paying (more) attention.”

Headed into the last event of the season, Kmiecik knew that a fishing trip with Phoenix pro Greg Vinson was on the line for his prize. 

“I definitely didn’t know for sure I was going to win,” he said. “I think I was leading but obviously I had to have a good tournament. I was pretty happy when I found out. My favorite to watch was (Stop 6) at La Crosse, because I picked some local guys I knew would do good, and I did good enough to hold onto the lead and win.” 

Outside of the locals, there were often familiar names on Kmiecik’s rosters throughout the season. 

“I can’t say for sure that every one of them were on every roster, but Dakota Ebare, Michael Neal and Keith Carson – I believe (Carson) fished all of them, and I took him in most tournaments as well,” he said. 

Kmiecik has been fishing in Wisconsin his whole life. He finished second on the Mississippi River in a College Fishing event in 2009, and has competed in several Phoenix Bass Fishing League events in the Great Lakes Division.

“La Crosse is about a four-hour drive from where I live, so I have stuck to fishing local, smaller tournaments closer to home,” he said. “I tried earlier in my life (to break into bass fishing), fishing as a boater, but now I’m just fishing for fun.” 

One of his favorite anglers to watch and root for is a fellow Wisconsinite. 

“I really like Matt Stefan,” Kmiecik said. “He’s from Wisconsin and I like to watch his YouTube channel. I’ve just met him at tournaments where I’ve fished as a co-angler and he’s a really good dude.” 

As for his reward of a fishing trip with Vinson, he’s excited to learn from a Bass Pro Tour pro, and maybe get to fish new bodies of water.

“I guess I don’t know where we’re going to go for the trip yet,” Kmiecik said. “I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from him and I’m just excited to hang out with him and talk about bass fishing all day.”