Thursday, July 2, 2015

Best5Zach's Best Fantasy College Football Tips: Top 2015 Teammate Double Ups

You can find links to all of my Auburn Realist Blog posts here.
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Best5Zach's Best 5 QBs for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Receivers for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Running Backs for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Tight Ends for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 DSTs for 2015

One of my favorite tricks/tips/strategies in fantasy football, specifically college football fantasy is the teammate double up. While I would quietly discourage anyone from doing this in the NFL, the deeper player pool and overall greater scoring potential of college football allows you to not only get away with this, but potential massacre your opponents. 

In the NFL, it is usually too risky to put your weekly fate in the hands of a single offense, which is essentially what you are doing in most NFL leagues. That is, outside of a few premier teammate double ups, the risk is always there that your QB could struggle in a game....and if he does, obviously your WR will as well. There are a few legitimate teammate double ups out there in NFL land. Manning/Thomas. Luck/Hilton. That's just two off the top of my head. 

Contrary to what many people may think, simply pairing up a high volume passer with one of his teammate WRs doesn't constitute a viable double up. I, myself, have fallen into the trap. For example, Eli Manning to Cruz (pre-OBJ) would sound attractive. The Giants played from behind, causing Manning to throw a hundred times a game. Cruz was/is a playmaker with the ball in his hands. But, Manning spread the ball around a lot and wasn't exactly a point scoring constant. But, Luck and the Colts have zero run game and TY Hilton is a guy who will get the ball in his hands in a dozen different ways...from behind the line tunnel screens, to quick 1st down slants, to field stretching bombs. And, behind TY Hilton (in 2014) there wasn't much in the way of a producer WR (though Moncrief came on strong). 

And, regardless of which of these two combos you choose, the likelihood of the doubleteam working week in and week out is slim. 

Not so in college. 

Unlike the NFL, college kids play through injury. Coaches and players are happy to run up stats for awards. The difference in playing styles and talent levels in college football frequently mean lots of scores and yards. And, there is simply more on the line each week for a college team than an NFL team. 

There are but a few reasons I have at least 1 set of teammate double up options on my fantasy team. 

Let's start from the beginning. How do I draft? 

Well, as I am preparing for the draft,  I write down and rank all the QBs on my radar based upon their potential to score fantasy points. This takes into account their own level of play (talent), the system they play in, their history inside of that system, and their team's schedule.....just to start. Then, I look at where I am going to be drafting. Obviously the highest scoring potential is with the top-flight dual threat guys. With their combination of running, which has a 2:1 advantage over passing yards, and their ability to throw for yards and TDs, they become the first players off the board. These are the Mariota's, Newtons, and Manziels. Each year there are about 5 of these guys, and if I can get one...I'm going to.  In a 20 man league, unless you are at the very top, the chances of you getting one of these guys is slim. It's at this point that a player must decide whether he wants to draft a run-first or pass-happy QB. 

The way I asses risk, I usually go for the latter, despite the fact that a run-first guy gets a 2:1 score advantage on yards AND doesn't share points in the event of a TD. However, these run-first guys are prone to injury (Keeton from Utah State/Reynolds from Navy/Hill from BYU). Therefor, I concentrate on pass-happy QBs, specifically from traditional pass-happy systems. I am also looking for a team that is either lacking a run game, typically will play from behind, or both. 

It's at this point that the most important filter is applied: Who has a WR1 that is a clear number 1 target? Now, these pass-happy guys are going to spread the ball around, and that's fine. But, who is the player that he has a real connection with? 

Last year, I had two different teammate double ups on my Big Board going into draft day. I had Carden/Hardy from ECU and Wallace/Treadwell from Ole Miss. I felt that these were the best low-risk/high upside double ups that I could get. The former pair featured 2 players that were dangerously close to conquering NCAA records. These guys, and their team were the only pair that really checked every box. They were a pass-happy system with no run game. They would beat up on their own level of competition and their coaches would undoubtedly run scores up to promote Carden and Hardy as legitimate NFL-talent. And, though they were over-matched in some games on their schedule, I had  sneaking suspicion that they could either hang with...or beat....some of the tougher team...but it would require 50-60 passes a game. As it turned out, I was right. ECU beat some higher-profile teams like Virginia Tech. 

Wallace and Treadwell didn't finish the season on a high note. Treadwell broke his leg against Auburn and Wallace wilted down the stretch. However, neither were on my team at that point. Why? 

Ole Miss had no run game outside of Wallace, which was a HUGE plus. Treadwell was a underneath pass catching machine his freshman year as Derrick Moncrief (now with Colts) was a field stretcher. Treadwell was the #1 WR out of highschool and already looked the part of a future NFL WR in his freshman year. I felt he was a "can't miss guy." But, I had some reservations on this matchup, which is why I drafted them later in the draft, but much earlier than most people would ever consider. Though Ole Miss exhibited many of features I want, and even added a true dual threat QB, I had seen a trend in Hugh Freeze's offenses that screamed "trade rape" at midseason. The Rebel offense has started on fire since Freeze came to Oxford, but by midseason each of the 3 years it has faltered. 

By week 4, I was already seeking out trades for these 2 guys and I ended up finding exactly what I needed. Weeks 1-4, I started Wallace/Treadwell before trading them and starting Carden/Hardy for the rest of the season, which ended with me being undefeated and league champ. 

Why are we discussing all of this? Consider this: You QB throws for 300/3/1 on average each game, fantasy value of 28 points. Of that, your teammate double up catches 6/75/1 per game, fantasy value of 20.5. That's a total of 50 points for two players....on an AVERAGE day. And, let's be level fantasy QB/WR combos are going to do better. A better picture of the value of this strategy is this: let's say your QB connects with your WR for a 75 yard TD bomb. That's 3.25+6 for your QB and 7.5+6+1 for your WR for a total of nearly 25 points....on a single play. That's the kind of potential you are looking at. 

So, with all of that being said, let's look at some QB/WR1/WR2 teammate doubleups that are worth getting earlier than the sum of their parts. I am not listing these in any order.

Johnson/Williams (AUB)-It's no secret that I am a huge Auburn fan. Williams is likely to be one of the first 5 WRs take overall, most likely a 4th round draft pick in most leagues. He is a consensus #1 WR off the board in next year's NFL draft. He is a "can't miss" prospect. Johnson will be an intriguing prospect to many players. Though everyone knows he has an NFL-arm and he has played well as a backup, many may be hesitant to take him early considering he is a first year starter playing for a system that SEEMS pass happy, but isn't. Why should Johnson be taken early? Consider that Auburn has a very crowded backfield right now. There are 3 players vying for carries, which is going to decimate their fantasy value. While Gus wants to develop a starter and power run game, it won't be until game 5. That's the way it has been in his first 3 years. In the meantime, the run game isn't likely to be fluid...but the pass game will be. Johnson will be playing behind a very good offensive line. While Louisville should be a good game, Atlanta is a home-away-from-home for Auburn. Additionally, Louisville lost a lot of key defensive starters and will be breaking in a lot of talented transfers. If anything, this will be a high-scoring affair. Petrino and Malzahn are not two teams you want to tee off the season against. LSU and Mississippi State defense will be down this year. They get UGA and Bama at home, though one might be wary. In short, their limited time together in 2014 was absolutely electric and word is that Williams and Johnson already have a close bond. Top marks, all around. 

Kiel/Washington(CINCI)- I do throw some caution on this one, as Cinci uses 4 WRs at a time. Washington was the top catching WR last year with 66 catches, which was 22 more than McKay. However, Washington had half (4) the TDs of McKAy (8). Their point margin was 166 to 164 in favor of Washington. However, Washington is closing in on Cinci's all-time record on receptions. Kiel started out on fire before slipping a little down the stretch. However, he still posted 3200/31/13 which is quite amazing. I firmly believe that the former 5 -Star QB went through a sophomore slump at the end of next year and his Jr year is going to be amazing. He is poised to throw the ball all over the field and will certainly rush for more than 1 TD this year. The only potential roadblock is that they play some take-away based defenses such as Houston and Temple.  Their toughest game will be against BYU at Provo, which is one to really watch. 

Boykin/Doctson (TCU)- A Heisman candidate and team spurned in 2014 will be out to crush any and all competition. The 5th best offense is completely loaded and plays a very manageable schedule. Patterson will be out for blood, willing to run the score up to promote his team and his Heisman candidate. The issue is that Boykin is likely to be a top 5 pick....if not THE top pick in your draft. 4,000/33/10 in the air and 700/8 on the ground make him a can't miss must have. I shouldn't have to sell him anymore than that. Doctson had 65/1000/11. Wow. Here is what I would suggest: If you get Boykin, draft Doctson in the 3rd round. Make him be the top WR off the board. In this case, having him is better than a RB2. 

Russell/Coleman (BAYLOR)- Lindy's has Cannon as their top WR from the top offense in the nation. You won't go wrong with either Cannon or Coleman, but Coleman led the team with 63/1100/11 despite missing the first 3 games. Coleman caught a TD in all but 1 game he played in 2014 AND he gets rushing attempts. Russell had a better QBR than Petty, had a higher YPA and even tied him in rushing TDs despite playing less time. These are two more guys that will go early, though caution will be given in both cases as Coleman will share attempts with at least 4-5 other WRs and Russell is a first year starter. Believe in the Briles system, though. 

Doughty/Dangerfield (WKU)-Doughty was 2nd in passing in the nation with over 4,000/49/10. Wow. Of that, Dangerfield led in most categories including the two that mattered: receptions (69) and TDs (11). With the worst defense in college football, expect Doughty to throw 40 times a game. This seems like a can't miss. Doughty WILL be a top 5 QB selected, so, again, be ready to burn an early pick with Dangerfield. It seems hard to go wrong here, though you do have to wonder about Doughty spreading the ball around too much. 

Sneaky Pick
Evans/Lucas (TULSA)- The overall offensive ranks might be deceiving. Tulsa ranked as the 36th best passing and 56th overall offense. But, Coach Montgomery is an Art Briles disciple and his first year may be a thing of offensive beauty. Evans threw for 3,100/23/17 which isn't great, but did so as a sophomore....and I believe in the slump. Lucas snagged 101 passes for 1,200 yards and 11 TDs. Though Evans will probably be a mid-level QB, Lucas will make this work. The Tulsa defense is terrible, ranking sub-100 in every category. So, expect a high volume of passing. Between the new coach, a returning line, and high-volume passing....this could be a later round STEAL. 

Driskel/Taylor (LATECH)- Though he may be one of the biggest recruiting busts in the modern era, Driskel IS talented. Landing at La Tech is probably the best thing that ever happened to him....and it could pay MASSIVE dividends to fantasy owners.He is under the right coach. He has a fantastic cast around him. Driskel has big-play ability all over him with his big arm and physical long-stride running style. Behind him is a real weapon at tailback, Dixon. With defenses keying on Dixon, Driskel can run....or pass to the Bulldogs leading WR, Taylor. Taylor had 64/800/9 with Sokol last year. Believe me, Driskel is every bit the QB Sokol was, and Sokol was a good backup fantasy QB. The Bulldogs do get Kansas State and Mississippi State, so be wary of those starts. I'd still consider starting them in both these games. Driskel's ability to run is what is going to make this work. Expect the zone read to show up for the Bulldogs, but be punctuated with play action passes to Taylor. 

Frohnapfel/Sharpe(UMASS)- A top throwing team in all of football, despite Frohnapfel missing several games. HE still managed to throw for 3,300/23/10. Of that, an amazing 85/1200/7 went to Sharpe. The UMASS defense is terrible, which will be great for fantasy owners. The issue? They play some SOLID teams. But, then again, they did so last year too. There is a certain amount of week-to-week risk with playing tougher teams, but playing from behind is great. There is little chance of Sharpe losing too many attempts. 

Biggest Boom-Or-Bust
Hackenburg/Hamilton (PENNST)- What's not to like here? A James Franklin coached NFL-talent arm with an NFL-talent WR. Hamilton led the conference with 82 catches. The truth is, however, that the Penn State offense was among the worst in the country in 2014, though their defense was one of the very best. Hackenburg was sacked 44 times and he threw 15 INTs in his sophomore year. Again, those slumps....they are real. I have to believe that Franklin will turn this ship around and the only way to do that is to keep Hackenburg clean in the pocket. Both of these guys are going to go high in the draft and the likelihood  of getting them both is slim. However, this is probably the biggest boom-or-bust combo out there and I strongly caution you. I would be extremely cautious of a week 1 start against Temple. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Why You Should Be Playing Fantasy College Football

You can find links to all of my Auburn Realist Blog posts here.
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Best5Zach's Best 5 QBs for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Receivers for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Running Backs for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Tight Ends for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 DSTs for 2015

If I am not mistaken, this will be the 4th or 5th year that I have been in, or run, a fantasy college football league. Most people aren't even aware that there is such a thing. The subject usually comes up when I am talking to people about NFL Fantasy, which I also do. After the initial shock of hearing that there is a fantasy football league for college....and that it is rapidly growing and viable....I usually get the HOW and WHY of college fantasy football.

It's pretty simple, really. I'd like to take a second (or 30 minutes) to educate you on WHY it's fun and WHY you should be doing it...even from an educationalist perspective. 

Let's talk about the number 1 reason I think people will be interested in fantasy college football

The Educational Side of Preparing for an NFL League

So, last year you drafting 6th in your 12 man NFL league. Running backs were at a premium and you faced a conundrum. If you took an RB, you would have to take a mid-level producer, since all the top talent was gone. Or, you could take a top QB and hope that he could put up insane numbers. So, you took Arian Foster. Next round, you were forced again to take a bottom wrung RB or mid-level QB as many were already being taken. You take Nick Foles because of the insane year he had in 2013. While you don't expect him to have as good a year, even 80% would be awesome. And so the doldrums of the mid-level draft sets in and you realize that ended up without a premier player in any positions and you managed to absolutely strike out at WR, managing to get and aging Rodney White from the Falcons, Dewayne Bowe, and  Mike Williams from the Dolphins. Sure, the 2014 draft was loaded with as many first round WR picks as you had seen in years, but you don't know anything about any of them. After all, only 4 months ago they were playing in college. Some are sure to be booms and some are sure to be busts. Since you have never seen them play, it was better to secure SURE THINGS than to take a risk. What happened? The season was done as soon as the final draft pick was in and there had yet to be a down of football played.

There were 3 legitimate WR rookies in the 2014 draft and college fantasy football players KNEW who they were before the preseason even started. Though OBJ was out the first 4 weeks and, as such, wasn't a legitimate pick, previous college fantasy players had seen his capability with the ball in his hands when he was at LSU. Chris Davis may own the rights to Kick 6, but OBJ had one earlier that year in a game (Towson?) that really put him on the map for present and future fantasy owners who got a glimpse into what he was capable of doing. Some owned him. Some owned LSU's DST. All scored mad points that day. So, after the draft was over, many looked at the Giants' roster, noted they were lacking in the run game and had a depleted WR core and slyly added OBJ from the free agent list as a stash. 

Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin were prospects that were can't misses by the standards of college fantasy football and many crossover players were handsomely rewarded. In the case of Benjamin, the trade away of Steve Smith Sr was a clear sign that he was a legitimate WR1. Byrd was the only WR on the Panthers who had recorded a catch in 2013 and Rivera thought highly enough of Benjamin to draft him that high, despite lacking a legitimate all-purpose back.  Same with Mike Evans who would be playing for a team with zero talent left at WR (and QB, really) and a muddled backfield plagued with injuries. His huge frame set him up to be a security blanket for whatever QB took snaps for the Bucs. 

Is Winston or Marriota (or neither) going to be legitimate NFL QBs? Most fantasy college football guys agree on the subject. Do you know? 

Speaking of the Titans, do you avoid any and all QBs they draft? If you were a fantasy college football guy, you already knew that Young, Locker, and Mettenburger weren't legitimate fantasy guys.  

Of the top RBs taken in this draft, will any provide legitimate fantasy value? If so, is there a correlation between Gordon and Gurley at the top as opposed to a Duke Johnson or Cameron Artis-Payne who were selected late? 

Who is going to win the battle between Gurley and Tre Mason in St Louis or is that situation a total wash?

See where I am going?  Wouldn't it be nice to have known then what you know now about these guys? Wouldn't it have been nice to have followed these guys for 12 weeks? Through the good and the bad rather than stats and highlights? 

This reason alone is worth the buy-in price for participating in a fantasy college football league. If you are anything like me, you will find yourself watching far more games than you would ever watch otherwise. And, as you get better, you will start picking apart the game play of the players. Who is for real? Who is overvalued? Who is injury prone? 

When you are watching a running back, you will pay attention to his pad level, his willingness to avoid or take hits, does he have hands, etc. The NFL is head and shoulders above even the best competition in the college ranks and you can tell the guys who are using pure talent to win vs those with the legitimate skills and discipline to make it to the next level and succeed. I know what you are thinking: the NFL scouts know better than we do. Maybe. Maybe not. 

Conversely, wouldn't it be nice to play a game where there was a winning team on the bench every single week? Wouldn't it be cool to know that if you didn't think your studs were going to work this week that you could still win against top competition if you were willing to do some homework? 

That's what is so awesome about this type of fantasy. Drafting goes a long way and I won't say it won't. But, if you don't draft well, you still have just as good a chance at winning as anyone else in the league, if you are willing to put in the time. 

I could go on, but I am digressing. 

The Season Doesn't End at the Draft

I hinted at this earlier, but last year was an absolute nightmare for me in the NFL. Well, that's not entirely true. I drafted ok, but by week 3 I was done and everyone knew it.  The draft didn't go great, but I was able to get some free agents that kept me alive for the season. Ultimately, come play off time, I didn't have the star power to win and it caught up with me. I can trace the undoing directly back to the draft itself. It wasn't that I drafted bad, it just happened that my position, and how the people ahead of me drafted, dictated what level players I could have access to. 

That part was really aggravating because, regardless of how much time I spent researching players and trends, adding and dropping, ultimately I was playing small ball in a home run derby. Like I said, by week 3 it was obvious that I wouldn't find life beyond the regular season, which made it feel (and wit was) futile to continue to play. 

How awesome would it be if there was always a winning combination out there in free agency? There is no worse feeling than knowing that, despite how much work you put it, you are doomed. 

Well, college football is exactly the opposite. Drafting is EXTREMELY important. But, instead of a 32 team player pool when the backups have such a disparity in talent than starters, you get 120+ teams worth of players who all have back ups that have legitimate value at some point. There are so many benefits to this, but here a few. Let's make a very hypothetical situation.  It's week 14, the Packers are playing the Jets. You have Aaron Rodgers and you have to win to make the playoffs. The Packers have already clinched the playoffs. You have Glennon as your backup playing the sack-happy Panthers. Yep. You lose because Rodgers sits and Glennon gets smoked. You had literally ZERO other choices in free agents. All that work you put in all year to be screwed in the end with nothing you could have done. 

That wouldn't happen in college football. You could find a mid-level free agent QB playing a nobody. Or maybe they are playing the statistical worst rushing defense in their conference and your QB is a runner. Maybe you get tricky and play his backup instead, who throws for 300 and 3 TDs in a homecoming special. Maybe a kid has been struggling all year and someone cut him. He is been sitting in the free agent pool for 3 weeks and gets hot. You are the #1 waiver wire guy. Boom! 

Anything can happen and will. Even though you may have drafted some game-breaking guys, there are still league winners out there. Let me give you some examples.

Devin Johnson was listed as a tight end for Marshall in 2014. Rakeem Cato, who ended up #3 in total fantasy points could throw the ball all day, but Marshall struggled inside the red zone. Around the 3rd game of the season, he began taking hand-offs from Cato. The kid became a touchdown machine. I picked him up cheap because he hadn't caught up to the overall TE leaders.....yet. So, he was sneaking under the radar for those simply going by points per game average. He ended the year as one of the top overall point producers.....and from the TE position. This allowed me to essentially start a 4th RB each and every week (RB1, RB2, FLEX). 

My wife and I were watching Toledo on a Thursday night. I think she had a WR playing. In the 1st quarter, the starting QB went out. Next play, the 2nd string QB was out. Rather than use a true freshman QB, Toledo went to a little-used WR named Macon. Macon ran. Macon threw. Macon was listed as a WR. Since he was a free agent, I picked him up and started WR, since that is his listed position. The next week, he started at QB and though he struggled, he still put up QB numbers from a WR position. 

That's just two examples of the flexibility you get with playing in a league. I didn't win the draft. I won the league. In the NFL, those two things are synonymous. Everything in the NFL is pretty much set from the beginning of the season. We know who is going to win the games. We know who will be in the playoffs. We know who is going to lead most categories. So, in fantasy, you pretty much know if you are in the playoffs or not before the first kick off.

Not so in college. Put in the work and win, regardless of how you draft, who gets hurt, and who might sit the next game. It's really the only fantasy sport where you dictate how well you do. Obviously, this type of game gives real value to free agents, where NFL free agents are simply warm bodies on a roster. 

Wide and Varying Playing Styles that Fit Your Personality

Every once in awhile we see something different in the NFL. We saw Rodney Brown run the wildcat. We saw RG3 run the read-option. We saw the Chiefs manage to win games without throwing a single TD to a WR. But, those are outliers that come around once every few years and disappear just as fast as they show up. For the most part, we know who will do what and when. That's why we know what positions will be drafted when, and who the players inside of those positions will be drafted and in what order. To me, that's just boring. The NFL is a pass-happy league. I mean, they don't call it the "pro-style" for nothing. QBs are going to do XXX on a good day. Running backs are going to get YYY touches. Peyton Manning is going to throw 40 times a game. Same for Phillip Rivers. But, other QBs are in a run-first system. Cam Newton isn't going to throw 20 times. And, you know this going into the season. There is a reason why scores are always between 75-105 every single week, and league wide. 

What if it doesn't have to be that way? 

One of my favorite things about fantasy college football is the ability to tailor your own styles and strategies into the game....not letting the game define your style. It's probably better that I use an example. 

There are QBs out there that throw from 300-500 yards per game for anywhere up to 5,6 or even 7 TDs in a single game. They may also throw 3 or 4 picks along the way and take sacks for massive amounts of yardage and/or fumble the ball. Some people love those QBs. They make that a priority. They understand the risk and they know when to play them and when not to. Conversely, some people see the risk in that kind of player and decide that they want a running QB for completely different reasons. This type player recognizes there is a 2:1 advantage in rushing/passing yards and would rather a QB run for 150 rather than throw for 300 with the chances at those picks. Maybe a player doesn't want to share points with a receiver, so he picks a run-first guy. Shane Carden from ECU averaged over 300 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT a game, but took a lot of sacks and scored 30 fantasy points a game. If your opponent had Hardy, his leading receiver, you had to share.  Conversely, a guy like Keenan Reynolds only has to run for 150 yards 2 TDs and throw for 20 yards to tie Carden. 

Because of the deep player pool, you can do some really cool things like teammate double ups. You could have had Bo Wallace from Ole Miss, and though you maybe couldn't get Treadwell, maybe you could get Core...the #2 receiver on the team. For every yard and point they score together, you get double. The chances of getting Thomas and Manning together....or any of the Bronco's receivers alongside Manning, is slim to none. So, Wallace and Core hookup on a 70 yard TD bomb. 10.5 to Wallace. 14 to Core. A 24.5 point play to you. 

In the NFL, DSTs are selected almost entirely on their PPG average. Fantasy college football gives you a lot of options. You could chose a total shutdown D like Alabama, who didn't have a lot of turnovers last year, but held opponents under 20 points on average.  Conversely, you could have had Houston, who allowed massive yards and points, but was one of the top turnover DSTs in all of college football. Though the Bama D is obviously better on the field, the two would be equal in fantasy. Or, maybe you went with Utah State because they were statistically sounds as it was, but featured a return game that could win you a week when you needed it most? 

Unlike the NFL, punt returners are usually defensive players or specialist. They are rarely skill position players. Because a TD return counts for the DST AND an offensive player, selecting a RB/returner who may be a 3rd tier guy on offense but a top level returner bumps this guy into a must-have. 

What it comes down to is this: across the 120+ teams, the style of play is widely varying. We have triple option. We have air-raid. We have spread. We have smashmouth. And, every one of these teams has player with serious fantasy value. Like I said earlier, you know how many passing attempts a QB will have. You know the majority of your WR points are from PPR. RBs are going to share carries and many won't even be on the field on 3rd down. The college game exhibits few, if  any, of these trends.  It allows fantasy players to develop their own style and risk posture, where as NFL fantasy is largely set in stone.

You may be asking, what is BFZ's style? Well, I will go into depth in a later post.....

I really like having a teammate double up. I will sacrifice a little bit of overall performance on both a QB and WR in order to get a pair of players on the same team. For a QB, I want someone on a team with little to zero run game. For a WR, I want to avoid a spread attack that uses more than 3 WRs. For example, TAMU could pass to as many as 12 different guys in a single game. I want a QB who has limited targets. I really wanted Shane Carden from ECU. He had 3 very productive guys, but Hardy was an NFL talent on the verge of breaking NCAA records. He was a security blanket. Hardy was the first WR off the board, which made me fall back to Wallace. Bo Wallace had 2 legitimate fantasy QRs and 1 top level TE. I owned one of those WRs and the TE. In both situations, the offenses in question had ZERO run game. 

I also avoid gunslingers. Connor Halliday was on the board and I could have had him. Though he will throw up to 60 times per game and can weekly average 450+ yards, he also throws a lot of picks. I like stability. I'd take a 30 attempt /300 yard/ 3 TD/o INT guy any day over a potential 60/500/4TD/3 INT/2 sack guy. Why? Because a bad day for the former won't be NEARLY as bad as a bad day for the later. 

I want a running back who is a 3 down back. But, I will sacrifice 5-10 total handoffs for 2/3 receptions per game as well. That is, I would rather have a 17 attempts for 90 yard 2 TD with 2 receptions for 25 yards over a guy who has 25 attempts for 150 yards and 2 TDs. Injuries for high workload backs are a reality. Also, guys like Ameer Abdullah can blow a matchup wide open with a game winning 70 TD reception....something that I had been waiting for from him, as he was great at catching balls out of the backfield. 

Tight ends are always a wildcard. Again, I want stability at a position. I can't afford to have a guy who catches a TD every other game when I can have a guy who catches 4 passes every week but only has 2 total TDs. Guys like that are eventually going to have a 2 TD game where as a guy who gets 1 attempt a game for a TD in the redzone are eventually going to get blackballed. Additionally, I don't want an in-line guy. I want a more athletic guy who sometimes stands in the slot. 

DSTs are always tricky. I stick with takeaway based DSTs. Why? At some point, even the very best defense is going to get trounced by an offense (Bama vs Auburn). If they don't have takeaways, you get a gooseegg. With a takeaway based DST, you may zero out of points allowed points, but you can reasonably hope for sacks and takeaways. 

When it comes to WRs, it's hard to go wrong with a PPR guy. While much of the focus is always on guys like Devin Smith, Kenny Bell, or Sammie Coates....guys who are and are going to score from anywhere on the field, they can also be completely shut out. Instead, guys like Treadwell, Hardy, etc are guys I go after....guys with 10-12 catch per game ability. Again, stability is the word. We aren't trying to win it all in one week. We need to win the league. 

For WR2, I really consider anyone who has the ability to rush. A guy like Quan Bray from Auburn is a perfect example. Not only was he at low level produced from WR, he also took end-arounds and returned kicks, which gave him a lot of value. WR2 is a position where you can go out on a limb and try some things. 

Everyone uses their FLEX differently. To me, a 20 carry 3 down back is hard to beat. You can take a 3rd tier RB with great stability and use him week to week extremely efficiently. DJ Foster from ASU is a prime example. Though he didn't excel at any one position, the coaching staff was determined to get him 15 touches every game. Despite what type of defense they faced, he got those touches...through the air or on the ground. 

Overall, I am all about stability. I may win some in the regular season. I may lose some in the regular season. But, I want to make the post season. That's the name of the game. The worst thing you can do is go all-in on some high ceiling/low floor guys in the first round of the playoffs and get freight-trained. It may hurt to lose by 10 in the finals because your high-confidence guys didn't blow up right when you needed it, but remember....2nd pays too. 

High Scoring Fun

Though my paragraphs above are drawn from figures and facts, this paragraph is slightly subjective. There is something fun about playing in a league where you are going to need anywhere from 100-230 points to win week to week. Even using the same scoring system as the NFL, proper starts/sits/free agents can net you mindblowing scores. Like I said earlier, you have your 15 players in the NFL and you can reasonably expect anywhere from 70-120 points without the possibility of much beyond that. A running back who goes over 100 yards in a half is likely going to get taken out, in an NFL game. In college, you are more likely to have a coach who wants to set a single game record (Samaje Perine from OU) and go for 400 yards. Unlike the NFL fantasy, where a single player who is a healthy scratch is almost certainly damning, you can have a guy in college fantasy get sat, but another player go for 60 fantasy points and win you a match. Oh, you had Mark Ingram get scratched against the worst rushing defense with a great defensive backfield? Someone already handcuffed you with Robinson? Whoops. Week over. Not so in this game. Nothing is over until it's over. 

And, I have to mention, it gives value to all 50 of the other college games each weekend that you aren't watching. Did you use to ignore that West Virginia vs Maryland Thursday night game and watch Cops reruns? Now you won't. 

Sports are so much more fun when something is on the line.

In conclusion, I hope I have made a good argument for why you should be participating in this game, or at least educating you on refraining on sticking your nose up at those who play. 

If you are looking for a league, have questions, then drop me a comment below! 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Best5Zach's Basics to Frog Fishing

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First off, I don't want anyone to take this the wrong way. I'm not a pro. I never will be. And I'll never claim to be a good fisherman. I have my strengths and my weaknesses and I am not going to try and convince you that froggin' is one of either of those. 

I have a good friend of mine that is getting into fishing and has spent his first few trips on Guntersville.  After our last tournament, he wanted to know the how, when, and where associated with our 5 fish limit.  We caught almost all of our fish in our last tournament on frogs and my friend was very curious and excited to learn to frog fish. As I started to talk it, I realized that it was a little more in depth to explain than I had time for, yet wasn't as complicated as many make it. You can read about our last tournament and see the vid here:

Up until that day, Josh and I had coached him up while playing softball. I have done my best to get him some cheap plastics from PTL that I have had success with since I get such a deep discount on them. However, plastics can be a particularly daunting technique from July and later on Guntersville because of the grass. Newbies will struggle with plastics for a few reasons. Chiefly among those reasons are: it's hard to feel bites when you are constantly "haulin' grass" AND "haulin' grass" can be tiring.

These are just a few of the technical reasons that frog fishing becomes paramount in the summertime on grassy lakes. 

Of course, frog fishing is also a favorite to fisherman because of the excitement it provides from of the devastating blow ups.

But, there are many other reasons that many people don't usually consider.

Chiefly among those reasons why I like frog fishing are: 
  • Ability to cast incredible distances
  • Ability to cover water quickly
  • Ability to eliminate many of the variable associated with sub-surface fishing (depth, fall rate, subtle presentation, etc)
  • Ability to get repeat strikes (the fish may miss the bait, or you miss the fish, but you can convince the fish to come back for another hit)
  • Ability to cast to specific areas based on visual clues
  • Slightly more impervious than other topwater grass techniques
This isn't to say that frogs are the only technique that will work, just the easiest. As the last bullet alluded to, there are others. One of my favorites can be found in this article:

Yet, there are some drawbacks to frog fishing in grassy lakes. Hook up ratio is usually exceedingly inefficient. I would venture a guess that the average fisherman will hover around a 30% hook up ratio. The bass have an inherent advantage on the fisherman with their ability to get in the grass and "bulldog" you. That is, to use the grass to take the tension off of them and allow them to shake the hooks.  

Again, I am no pro at frog fishing. It is simply a technique that is a tool to me. There are many fishermen who use this technique far more than I could ever use the point of exclusivity. These guys will read this article and will undoubtedly see it as a very crude representation on a very fine-tuned technique. But, that's why I am going to entitle it "Basics." This is meant to be an 098 know....intro to college math. I am not going to get into a ton of specifics on each aspect of it because 1) I'm not a pro and I am still learning 2)I don't believe in absolutes, ESPECIALLY with fishing.

There are a few subsections to address: equipment, bait selection, targeting and retrieve, hookset and finishing

This one is actually pretty easy. Starting with a rod: a 7" length to 7"6 is my preferred length. Length contributes to the physics of the cast. It creates a longer moment arm, which means more force at the release of the bait. Translation: the bait goes farther. Additionally, on the opposite end of the cast,  the length will help you with the force needed to set the hook, get the bait on top, and hoist it in. I like as balanced rod, but I do not like long handles. I have short T-Red arms and a long handle will constantly bump into my ribs or my forearm as I retrieve the bait. On hook sets, I can bruise my ribs up if the handle is too long. A heavy power is the bare minimum. If you ca, get an extra heavy, do so. If you do it right, you will be setting the hook after the fish is aready back in the water and in the grass, so you will need a super stiff rod to deliver the hook set needed. Additionally, you will have to haul that fish back to the top with your hook set and drag it in, sometimes with 15 pounds of grass. So, you need a rod that can deliver every ounce of energy you put into it. No flex. If I can get a rod with microguides, I will. This will drastically enhance your accuracy of your casts. One of my very favorites for the money is the H20 XPRESS Ethos rod, which is the house brand from Academy. It has every bit of the things I have listed and has it under $100. You can read my review here:

Product Review for Academy Sports H2O XPRESS Ethos Rods

Everybody has their own favorite brand for everything and reels are no exception. The basics for selecting reels for frogging are that you want a reel with extreme casting ability, as quick a ratio as you can get (to get ahead of the fish) while not sacrificing gear breakage from the higher ratio. Those higher ratios can have gear breakage because of the mechanical advantage. You want a reel which you can really tighten down that drag You REALLY don't want a reel that needs constant work with breaks and line tension, as I have found on some brands like Lews. I really like the Shimano Citica D and E models. The 6.3:1 ratio is about the perfect balance between quickness and reliability. I have only worn out one carbon drag after years and years and hundreds of frog fish. Most importantly, to me, is that the reel holds settings extremely well. Other than adjusting for some really nasty headwinds, I don't have to work on the settings....ever. The brakes have been set since I initially set it up. I don't have to thumb this reel. You may have your own brand, and that's fine, but reel setup is critical. Again, you want to be able to make consistent long casts, have a gearset that allows you to get ahead of the fish without breaking, have a drag that puts up with the hooksets and 20 pounds of grass, and can cast the same despite the conditions. 

Like the reels, lines are usually preference based. You must use braid in the grass, period. Not only do you need the strength to fish the grass, but the braid cuts through the grass, which is just as important. You want a brand that lives up to your desired performance requirements. You just need to find the medium between strength and line diameter. The higher the strength, the higher the diameter. The higher diameter doesn't cast as well and you can't get as much on the spool. I like the Suffix 832 braid in 50 pound test. I have never broken off with it, I can safely use it all year (trimming where needed, of course), and the small diameter lets me pack a lot on my reel. 

Bait Selection
Again, this is a preference based can of worms. So, I will just tell yall what I told my buddy. I have had the most experience with only two brands of frogs. That doesn't mean I haven't tried more, because I have. There are just the two that I have gravitated towards: Spro and Snagproof.  

The size of the frog doesn't really interest me. Again, I am no pro and so I don't have experience to say otherwise. The larger frogs may weigh more and allow you to cast further in windless days, but any wind will cause your bait to drift during cast. The smaller frogs won't experience such drift, though they may not go QUITE as far. But, I can compensate easily enough. I want the frog to go where I want it to go. 

The brighter the day, the darker the frog I am going to throw. As good as companies have become at mimicking forage, we still don't know what fish really want. The more sun there is, the better the fish can see what they are about to attack....or pass up on. They won't know if they are seeing a baits shadow or the bait itself when it's dark. I'd rather leave it to ambiguity. Conversely, the darker the skies, the lighter the color. I might even go pretty wild on frog selection. I am thinking primarily of an all white bait, or one of Snagproof's "tweetie", a half white, half yellow bait. 

As far as the color combinations, there may be some merit if you are fishing them in open water, where the fish can see the sides...but....and this is important....take a look at each and every frog from the underside. The sides and top will have all the detail, but the underneath is almost always a uniform color. Ironically, this is all the fish see in grass, anyway. So, you don't need a black frog with every combination of spots. Just pick one and go. Even in the scenario where you are fishing open water, the sides and top of the bait is never in the water (unless you weight it down, which is more of a 201 course), so I still caution about filling up box after box of frogs. 

The most important thing I told my friend involved the selection of frogs between these two different companies. As a beginner, his hook up ratio was going to be poor. He could offset that by using Snagproof, which is a softer plastic and a design that compresses in the fishes mouth very easily. However, the Snagproof doesn't last very long.....5-10 fish is usually a max for me. After that, the frog can rip or simply sink because of all the holes that the bait's hooks have put into it. Additionally, I don't think that the Snagproof makes you a better fisherman. Catching fish is catching fish, but the lessons you can learn from using the following brand can, and will, pay dividends in your games. 

Spro, on the other hand, is harder for a novice to use. The plastic is tougher and doesn't compress nearly as easily. Due to that, a beginners hook up ratio can be nonexistent. However, it is a much more hearty bait. I don't think I have ever had to toss one from overuse. Because the plastic is thicker, it is more buoyant and it will float, even filled with water. The hooks on the Spro are superior to the Snagproofs, however. The are passivated and won't rust and are also a much heavier gauge wire. Lastly, the hookset skill you learn while using a Spro can be monumental in other areas. With a Spro, you will have to be a lot more patient upon the strike. That will carry over elsewhere in your game. 

You may have guessed that I lean more towards the Spros, which is true. That doesn't mean that I won't throw a Snagproof. Truth be told, Spro doesn't have a light colored lure I like. And, if I am missing hooksets, I will tie a Snagproof on in a hurry. 

Many people augment their baits. Again, that's something for another day. I will say that setting your baits in the front window of your car for a week is one of the best things you can do. Soften up that plastic! Additionally, I like to trim my silicone tails so I shorten the bait overall. I want to pull the fish as far forward on the bait as I can. 

Targeting and Retrieve
Again, a wide-ranging topic that I won't go more than skin deep into. Every lake is different. Some lakes are best to target cover. Guntersville isn't that way, for me at least. Here are some very simple things I do.

I avoid drag lines, places where someone has caught a frog fish already (usually that day). I target dips and curves in the grass lines. I will spend a ton of time around transitions between two different grass types or stages of growth.  I concentrate on blow up holes where a fish has surfaced. 

Around those blow up holes, or even irregular openings from stumps, I will loiter the frog. Many times I will use the reel to twitch the bait in place. This is a great thing to do around those areas where you know fish are or have been....but also the perfect thing to do after a miss.

Speaking of misses....they are going to happen and happen often. After the initial strike, never automatically set the hook. Wait until you feel the fish. Make sure the bait doesn't bob to the surface. I know it's hard to do....but you have to. The worst thing you can do is either jerk the bait out of the fishes mouth or pull it out of the strike zone if the fish missed it. The latter happens a lot more than the former. After all, the fish is attacking a bait on the surface of the grass. But, after it's strike, it has created a blow hole. If you are patient and smart, you have left your bait in the perfect spot! Give it a twitch and watch the fish come back. I would venture a guess that 25% of misses will have a follow up strike, if played correctly. 

There is no answer to retrieve speed and cadence. Fish want something different each and everyday. However, I find that the best way to get a hit is to quit paying attention. Seriously, stay with me. Most of us will vary speed and we might vary cadence....occasionally. But, when we aren't getting bites, we will go into autopilot. That's when I get a ton of my strikes. Why? I think it's because even my irregular cadence isn't irregular enough on tough days. It isn't what a frog would really do. However, as I look at an eagle flying or I start talking, I am being for sporadic with the retrieve, which is a lot closer to what a real frog would do. Basically, fishermen are insane. We will do the same thing over and over all day without a change in result. Mix it up. Deadstick that frog. Throw on the brakes randomly. Burn it across the grass. Just do something different. 

Hookset and Finishing
This one is easy. I kinda hinted at it above. It is imperative that you wait until you don't see the frog resurface AND you feel the weight of the fish. If either of these things don't happen, just sit. The fish (or maybe another fish adjacent) will likely come back. 

Now, when you DO have these two qualifiers.....HIT 'EM HARD. Seriously. You can't hookset hard enough...unless you fall overboard or break your rod. I am not a huge proponent of monster hooksets, but it is important to know that you aren't just setting the hook into the fish. You are fighting all that grass between you and the fish.

Perhaps the most important part of the hard hookset is to get the fish on top of the grass. You will lose most every time if you let the fish get back in the grass after a strike. Not only does it give the fish the ability to pop those hooks loose, but it may get buried up so tight that you can't get to it at all. 

Finishing a hookset is just as important. Many fisherman allow a slight moment of slack after a hookset. The pressure of the moment seems to be off after they know they have the hooks in the fish. However, a great hookset can easily be outdone by allowing the fish back in the grass. You have to perform what we call "surfing." Get the fish on top with a brutal hook set and immediately hit the turbo button on your retrieve (that's a game term) and keep that fish on top.  We call it surfing because the fish skates on top of the water. Not only does this prevent the fish from getting into the grass, but also keeps the fishes head up. That keeps tension on the hooks and prevents the fish from being able to shake its head. 

Again, don't take this article the wrong way. I don't expect it to educate guys who have been doing this for 20 years. I'm certainly not trying to sound like an authority on the subject. There isn't much here in the way of techniques, just the basics. But, I hope that it gets people started down the path of a very versatile and fun technique.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Best5Zach Garden 2014

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I have really been slackin' on updates on the garden. No worries. No one reads them anyway! And it's a shame, because I usually include some yummy meal ideas with these updates.

So, everything is up and running (literally) in the garden. We ended up with just short of 20 tomato plants, a single row of corn, single row of okra, 6 cucumber plants, 9 zucchini and  6 crookneck squash. 

I have done my best to keep the garden weeded, but I am facing some trials with that. I was gone for a week on vacation to Jamaica (tough life) before coming home. Then it rained for 3 days straight. I finally got caught up on weeding, but now I am finding that my chickens are eating everything in sight. I don't want to keep them in their pens all day, but I can't have them eating the whole garden, either. 

My grandmother just told me and my wife yesterday that you never plant a single row of corn because it won't get pollinated. If anyone knows, it's her. I guess we will see. I have done single rows of okra and they don't have a problem. In fact, I had more than I could deal with last year. Anyway, if the corn doesn't turn out, I guess we will know why.

The cucumber plants are just starting to run and I have done my best to redirect them to run along the rows instead of across the rows. Though they were small, I did pick 3 small cucumbers last night....I just couldn't help myself. More on them later.

Zucchini has been producing bit by bit for the last week. I have averaged about 1 a day. But, many have been picked early because of the rain. I would rather pick them too early than let them blow up because they absorbed too much rain. They simply lose flavor. Also, the baby has a bad habit of picking them on his own and doing this:

Yesterday was the first crookneck squash was ready to be picked. 

Final count was 2 zucchini, 1 squash, and 3 small cucumbers. If I added a nice bowl of soup to that, I figured it would be a nice meal.

So, I started with the zucchini and squash first. I preheated a pan with a mixture of olive oil and butter. You don't want too much of it won't fry. Instead, it would be rather limp and won't have the perfect amount of char on the outside. While I cooked it in 3 separate batches, I seasoned each finished batch with some basic rosemary/garlic seasoning with a slight bit of salt and cracked black pepper. When all 3 batches were cooked at least 80%, I dumped the oil and butter solution and threw all of the slices back in the pan for just a few seconds while letting them sear. 

I sliced the baby cucumbers up and put them in a small amount of apple cider vinegar. I added chopped white onion (just big enough to use a fork) along with some fresh herbs from my raised herb garden, which I recently completed. The herbs I used, specifically, were fresh minced mixture of dill and sweet basil. I dumped half of this mixture in the cukes.  Another bit of salt and fresh cracked pepper. You can read about my herb garden below. 

On another eye, I started a plain can of tomato soup. Now, doctoring up tomato soup has been a favorite hobby of mine since I was probably 10 years old.  Instead of using a whole can of water, I use a half water/half milk solution. When the soup is simmering, I add the other half of the dill/basil mix, plus about 10 minced leaves of rosemary and a clove of garlic. You can then salt and pepper as you desire. To top the soup off, I cut 3 chunks of mozzarella up and place in the center. 

Talk about a fine meal! 


Fishing Report for Guntersville 6/27/15

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And the struggle....continues. Seriously, I don't really understand why the "best bass fishing lake in the country" continues to be so hard for me to succeed on. I mean, I suck. I get it. But, I have had drastic growth on every other lake in 2015. Guntersville? Nah. The backslide continues. No, I am for real. I am regressing on this lake. The past 3 years have been absolutely dreadful. 

I guess it's time to reevaluate some things. But, yall don't want to hear about that. 

So, we had a club tournament out of Bucky Howe park in Guntersville this past weekend.  I was pretty excited about it, all things considered, because it meant ledge fishing. Between the ability to understand what we are seeing (we think...) on our graphs, dedication to off shore fishing, and a little luck, we (both Josh, Brad, and I) have built a solid amount of confidence in ledge fishing, whether that means cranking them as fast as we can, or throwing magnum shaky heads on a slow day. Now, most of that we can directly attribute to learning how to use our units (uh-huh-huh-huh). After all, it's easy to have confidence in techniques when you KNOW you are around fish. You can read about that here:

After all, magnum shaky head fishing has been my go-to technique this year...a little something that many people don't do...and with a bait no one around here is using. You can read about that below.

Magnum Shaky Heads: The Answer to Finesse Fishing in High Wind and Current

You may recall that it was only last year that we made the dedication to fish the ledges, and it began to pay off for us...netting us our first 20 pound bag during a tournament. 

Having built that confidence, we have put those skills to work on every other TVA lake we have fished in 2015 and you can see some of the payout in these fishing reports from earlier this year.

Ok, had enough clicking yet? Let's talk about the tournament. 

The weather was setting up simply PERFECT for this tournament. The water temps on Friday before the tournament had reached 90 degrees and there hadn't been rain in awhile. Friday night and Saturday morning brought a wealth of rain. We expected the water to be chilled off significantly and for TVA to run some current. The weather reports said that after morning showers, the clouds would be gone and replaced by sunshine. As far as we were concerned, we SHOULD be able to hit topwater early and scare up a limit before pushing to the ledges once the sun came up. The cool water and current should fire up the lethargic fish. The water temps at blast off was 84. 

At blast off, we ran into Allreds to a small pocket in the back that we had found a lot of success with fish in number on topwater. This pocket featured a winding creek channel that skirted a small island before cutting behind the island and running to the back. Off of that cut was a nice grassy flat. That flat, specifically the 6 foot edge, has held fish the last few years. With a creek channel that was probably holding fish in the hot weather, the flat offered a great place for the fish to push up to once the water cooled. And, we knew there were always fish on the flat already.

So, we went to work with a variety of topwater or subsurface baits. We worked the middle of the flat without a hit before following the flat to where it met the bank on the opposite side of the creek channel. I went to work with two baits. Around the edges I used a Lucky Craft Sammy and on the grass (even to the edge), a Spro Frog. The Sammy is and has been a solid produced for me each and every year, whereas the frog is a technique that is among my favs, but hasn't produced in the last year. 

While popping a Spro frog over scattered grass, I set the hook into a fish. Now, typically, if the fish doesn't completely miss it or if I set the hook and the frog doesn't automatically come to the surface, that fish is mine. After a brief fight, the fish made a terrific jump and managed to toss the hooks. The fish wasn't huge, but it was clearly measuring and would have been a terrific start to the day.

Upon retrieving, I noticed that I had made a great hook set, to the point that the plastic frog had been pulled all the way up the line and off the hooks. That fish was either very smart or very lucky.

Though I didn't get that fish in, it triggered a quick flurry on Josh's next cast. As he retrieved his spinnerbait, he saw he had 4 bass following it. Making another cast and a slight adjustment to the retrieve netted a keeper fish. 

I followed that with two more 14.5 inch fish on the same Spro frog before he bookended it with another keeper fish on the spinnerbait. After 45 minutes, we had 2 measuring fish...should have had 1 more....and 2 shorts. That wasn't a bad start.

The spot went quiet. We figured we would let the spot sit and we hopped over to a hump just a short drive away. 

The hump was covered with busting fish and we were graphing a ton of bait. Upon closer inspection (and about 100 futile casts with a Sammy), we figured out that we were seeing skipjack. 

After fishing that hump out, we went back to the spot where we had caught our first fish. Nothing. Not a nibble...even when we slowed down with plastics.

That's about the the time the bottom dropped out...again. Boy, am I thankful I bought a nice rainsuit. I purchased the H20 XPRESS setup earlier this year. You can read my review of it here:

And, I wasn't just thankful for it's rain proof abilities....cause it seemed that every time I put it on, the rain stopped! 

Looking around for answers, I remembered that there was a spot on an adjacent bank about 100 yards away where I have an on-going feud with a monster bass. For the last 2 years, there is a big momma that likes to live by this one laydown tree that hates a Lucky Craft Sammy. I mean...HATES it. She hits it so hard that it flies about 20 feet in the air (it seems). This has happened no less than 3 times.

I was determined to get her today, especially now that it has become a trend.

I would make as accurate a cast up to the shore line as I could, avoiding the grass (which the Sammy ALWAYS finds) and worked it slowly parallel to the lay down.

Then, I did the one thing you do to make SURE you get bit on topwater.

I looked away.

Only out of the corner of my eye did I see the fish explode on the Sammy. In my defense, this fish wasn't a bass. How do I know, if I wasn't watching? Well, because it was long and thick.
A monstrous fish.  And, I can't catch big fish this it was obviously a carp. Don't tell me otherwise, it will just hurt my feelings.

After that, we tried the first spot for the 3rd time...again with no results. Odd. We were pretty certain there were more fish there, but decided it was best to push to the ledges. After all, it was nearing lunchtime.

We ran from Allreds to the 430 bridge. Found some fish on the ledges there. The only thing I caught was the marker buoy, which I am not a perfect 3/3. If the marker buoy goes in the water, I will catch it. Be warned.

We moved up towards Seibold and graphed ledges we had marked the night before during some map study. Plenty of ledges. Plenty of bait balls. No structure and nothing that looked like bass. Eventually we found two spots, each about 50 yards from the other, which looked extremely promising. What I mean is, structure on the ledges, bait in the channel, and fish either laying on the bottom at the ledge transition. However, none of them were in a stacked "attack" formation, which, in retrospect, should have been caused to keep moving. But, we had 2 total measuring fish and only about 3 hours before weigh in time and we hadn't had a bite in about an hour. So, out came the cranks and C-rigs.


We moved to the next ledge which looked even more promising.


Considering that we had hit 3 ledges which exhibited all the things we THOUGHT we needed for a ledge bite without so much as a sniff, we made the decision to go back shallow....this time in Seibold. Similar to the story about the big momma, I have another local fish or two in the back of Seibold that all seem to be in the exact same place, year to year.

Lo and behold, someone else was already fishing it! NO WAY!

Luckily, they were beating the grass next to the bank instead of the floating duckweed/grass mix, which has been where I have found fish with a frog and flipping. And, as luck would have it, they were also leaving.

So, we pulled in and began a mix of presentations. On the approach, I would cast the Sammy around the edges. As we got closer, I would throw the frog. And, when we got on top of one, Josh would flip it while I began casting at the next mound of duckweed.

The typical areas that I have caught fish are the weed edges on either side of a drainage ditch. Nothing. At the hour mark, we had to make a decision: hope that topwater would land us a few stragglers, or start hitting the ledges again and hope to find a school.

While discussing this, I started badmouthing the lake and how much I hated it. I was retrieving my frog around the back edge of a weed bed when a fish choked the frog. I didn't quite see it...cause I was bust cussing the lake. But, the explosion couldn't be missed. No issue with getting this one. She hammered it. I swung it aboard. It easily measured, but it wasn't a giant....nor even a fish that we could hope to build a good limit with. But, it was fish #3.

Josh noted that the lake must like the dirty talk. No problem there. I have plenty of bad words for this lake. So, I laid back into her. And, critical to the process, I quit looking at the bait.

Boom. #4.

Still not a fish we needed. But, by this point, we knew that we weren't going to win. We just wanted to weigh in a limit.

A little tangent here, but that's one of the things I really wanted to work on this year. In the past, I have been able to catch big fish but unable to catch a limit. I want to get more consistent at weighing in 5 fish, even if it means losing. You will always be in contention if you are catching numbers (BFZ's opinion, of course).

So, since we had 2 fish from this spot and another flipping bite that nearly resulted in me getting brained by a 1-ounce weight, we went back through the spot. Not a bite.

We figured out that topwater was obviously the key bait....but the real key was fresh water. We had never had 2 bites in the same place. So, we packed up and headed to the very back of Seibold where we caught fish one time (that seems to be a growing trend on this lake).

About the time Josh made the comment that fresh water MUST be the key, he set the hook on a decent fish. And, like the key to fresh water, the other key was to not be paying attention. He had heard the splash, but assumed it was from the popping frog. It was only when he felt the tug and saw his line darting to the side that he realized he might need to set the hook. By then, the cash was out of the water and throwing the frog at the boat.

I was sure that was our last chance to get a limit, considering it was 12:48 and weigh in was 5 miles away and in 22 minutes.

But, we put the first key to work. The trolling motor went on high and we covered a lot of water really fast.

It paid off! Josh bagged #5 and we hit it hard.

On the homestretch before the 431 bridge, we were cruising as fast as the Bullet would go when my raincoat went out of my hands and into the drink! We made a U-turn and managed to recover it. But, as I stretched over the side of the boat with my T-Rex arms, I felt something pop in my side and an amazing amount of pain.

It's not a rib, I am pretty sure...but it sure hurts...still!

Weigh in was pretty much what I expected. It had been tough on everyone, but everyone had caught fish. There were only 3 limits weighed in, ours being one of them. But, at wasn't going to beat anything...much less a 4 fish bag caught by John and his son (whom I fish with a lot) that featured a nice 5 and a half pound kicker. The 4 edged us out of 3rd by 0.30 pounds. Second was 11.0X and the winning bag was 16 pounds.

While talking to the winners, we discussed how we had just KNOWN the ledge bite would be key. But, the lack of sun most of the day must have kept them inactive, as well as the overall lack of current. In fact, they had let in 10,000 CFS through Nickajack while not letting out a single drop from Guntersville. Volume goes up, velocity goes fluid dynamics tells me.

That being said, the winners HAD made the ledge bite work for them, but it turned on after 12...about the time the sun finally peaked out....and about the time we had considered going back to the ledges, but had instead stayed with the shallow bite.

The winners had plugged away at the ledges all day with no results, only to catch the limit in the final minutes of the day.

John had 1 fish until 12 as well, but a shallow bite had turned on for them just as it had for us. Except they had found a kicker.

I hate losing, but we did manage to make it work and get a limit. At least we are thinking analytically. In the past, we probably would have fished shallow...but for the wrong reasons. We probably wouldn't have figured out the clean water key. But, then again, we probably wouldn't have spent hours fishing who knows.

The silver lining on this day was that I was 5-6 on fish that hit the frog. As many of you know, frog fishing has a very high miss probability. I would venture to say that it is typically around 50% for an experienced frog fisherman and closer to 25% for everyone else. Being able to get hooks into every fish that hit the frog AND boat 5 of the 6 was probably an all-time high. It's probably even more impressive considering that 2014 was the worst frog year for me and, according to my Fish of 2014 Page, I only caught a single fish all year on a frog. That isn't because of misses, but because they wouldn't hit it.

On the downside, this is the first time that I haven't placed in 2 consecutive club tournaments....ever. And that hurts.