Jesse Schultz’s Picks – April 2012
1. Chris Lane – Lanes’ hot streak puts him at the top of my list. In 2012 alone he has already racked up two wins (one being the Bassmaster’s Classic) and a second-place finish. Enough said.
2. Anthony Gagliardi – Gagliardi leads the FLW Tour Angler of the Year race after fifth- and sixth-place finishes at the first two stops on the tour. It seems the hardest thing to do in fishing is to find your groove before it’s too late. Needless to say, he is in his groove.
3. Skeet Reese – Reese took it to the hoop strong in Florida, finishing third and fifth in the last two events to land high on my list. We have seen Reese make runs like this before in the past, but somehow he falls apart at the end of the season. Can’t wait to see how this year plays out.
4. Brent Chapman – If you don’t know who Chapman is put his name in the memory bank right … now. Chapman’s resume has two top-5 finishes in the Bassmaster Classic and he is taking the Elite Series by storm in 2012.
5. Dan Morehead – Morehead continues to impress me year after year. He finished last year with a win at the Everstart Championship on Kentucky Lake. Yes, it was his home water, and yes, he was throwing the Alabama Rig. But so was EVERYONE else. It couldn’t have been a more equalizing tournament when everyone is throwing the same bait. Looks like he carried over the momentum to 2012 and snagged a seventh- and 11th-place finish at the first two FLW Tour events. I wonder if the A-Rig keeps him locked in this position.
6. Todd Faircloth – Faircloth flipped his way to sixth on my list with a ninth-place in the Classic, a second at the St. Johns River, and an 11th at Okeechobee. I’m sure he wishes all the tournaments had shallow-water grass. Unfortunately, they don’t, which means Faircloth is really going to have to step up his game in the upcoming events to stay in the top 10 on my list.
7. Kevin VanDam – KVD may be the best angler in the world, but if we are just looking at his recent finishes he sits at a respectable seventh on my list. I have heard many anglers say if KVD survives Florida he will win AOY. Well, he definitely “survived” Florida with a 24th and an eighth-place finish. Look out guys, here he comes!
8. Tom Monsoor – Monsoor is an incredible fisherman that is known for throwing the swim jig. If you haven’t ever thrown one, start taking notes on his last two finishes on Hartwell and Table Rock. This guy knows how to catch fish the way he wants them to bite. No need to teach this old dog new tricks. Just keep swimming Tom … and swimming, and swimming …
9. Travis Fox – Travis surprised everyone by jumping into our Majors One-Year World Ranking at the No. 1 spot, even above KVD. With two top-30 finishes on the FLW Tour, Travis is looking to hold his ground as KVD tries to rip it out from under him.
10. Edwin Evers – Evers has been moving up our rankings for the last few months and is going head-to-head with VanDam for the right to be called the best. With three solid finishes in the last three events he is making it known that he wants the coveted No. 1 spot!
11. Keith Combs – Combs won the 2011 PAA Toyota Texas Bass Classic, edging out Mike Iaconelli. He continues to strut his stuff on the Elite Series and had a great finish in this year’s Classic. Combs is one who could be moving up on my list.
12. Ott Defoe – Defoe has shown he can compete in all the above: PAA, FLW Tour and now BASS Elite Series. How about we call him Mr. Consistent? Defoe will be a tough contender for angler of the year once again in 2012.
13. Brent Ehrler – Ehrler started the FLW Tour Majors with a win on Lake Hartwell. However, he struggled on both Lake Okeechobee and Table Rock. This is a Media Poll, and we get to take into consideration any tournaments the anglers have fished in the recent year. Brent was the only FLW Angler in the Major League Fishing tournament and he won, which says something to me. Ehrler is truly a terrific angler that will bounce back from his recent struggle.
14. Cliff Crochet – Crochet did well in Florida, and I expect him to continue his run up north. In the last two years he has proven himself to be a versatile angler. Let’s see how he fairs with the rest of the schedule this year.
15. Jason Christie – Christie had a break-out season in 2011 and continues to be a force in 2012. He really seems to be dialing into his A Game, and I can bet we will see Christiee holding up yet another trophy this year.
16. Blake Nick – If you don’t know Nick yet, checkout his profile on BassRankings.com. He is in his second year with the FLW Tour and making a swing at winning a major event here soon. I have personally fished with Nick, seen the way he fishes and how he makes decisions. This guy knows his stuff!
17. Terry Scroggins – Scroggins tore through Florida like a freaking manbeast looking for more meat on the grill. I don’t think I will ever take Scroggins off my fantasy team ever again when the Elites are fishing in the Sunshine State. However, Scroggins has a tough road ahead of him. No more shallow grass for a while. I hate to think he will struggle but, well, we will just have to wait and see.
18. Gerald Swindle – The funniest man on tour is also one of the best anglers in the world. The way Swindle is fishing right now, he is probably making jokes at all the other competitors that are behind him. You wonder how the G-man can even catch a fish with all the things that go through his head, but he always seems to put the pieces together a little bit quicker than most people. Someone once said that Swindle could see a leave fall and know exactly what the fish are doing. So far he seems to be well in tune with his surroundings.
19. Todd Auten – I’m not sure there isn’t a day that goes by that Auten isn’t fishing a tournament. He fishes the FLW Tour, PAA and BASS Opens. How does he keep his schedule straight? At the end of 2011 he finished the year with a sixth-place at the FLW Cup and third-place at the PAA Classic. So why not start the year with a 16th and a fourth on the FLW Tour? That’s right, Auten might spend more time on the road then on the water, but he knows how to manage his time and find the bass fast.
20. Jay Yelas – Some of these picks may be a little off the wall, and you might say I left some of the greats off this list. But there are only 20 spots to fill, and I did the best I could. To round out the top 20, I choose Jay Yelas. Yelas has seen just about everything come through the fishing industry. He competed on all ends of the spectrum and still kicks butt! As the No.9-ranked angler in the world, Yelas doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. With a great start to 2012, we are just seeing the start to Yelas’ reign.