BASS Elite Series #2 - St. Johns River, FL
Off to a great start… I enter the third event of 2014 cashing 2 checks in the first 2 events! It had been 10 years since I fished the St. Johns River in Forida. and I was going to keep to my game plan of fishing a smaller specific area of a tournament venue to keep my practice simple. I was ready to make it 3 checks in a row! It is worth noting that Florida fishing in the spring time has been a major nemesis of mine throughout my entire career. I have cashed a few checks and had good events in Florida during the fall season… but this year I was determined to do the same in the spring.
March 20-23, St. Johns River, Palatka, FL – BASS Elite Series #2
I determined long before I arrived at the St. Johns River that I would spend the entire practice period in Lake George. It’s about a 40 minute boat ride from the Palatka, FL launch ramp to Lake George for the tournament. Many events had been won in Lake George and it would help concentrate me in a specific area to figure out the fish in these short 2 ½ day Elite Series practice periods. I was so committed to fishing that area of the River that I stayed in Welaka, FL during the event… which was very close to Lake George.
It was a great move as I could spend more time fishing every day rather than traveling to/from the fishing area on practice days. Day 1 of practice was rainy… I mean like ‘frog drowner’ rainy! I caught a few decent bass swimming a worm through eel grass but really didn’t find any specific areas I felt comfortable with. I tried a lot of different techniques and really thought topwater would play a role for me but it just wasn’t happening. On day 2 I continued fishing around the grassy banks of Lake George and started seeing a few bedding bass in one section of the lake and caught a few fish fan casting but due to my lack of success I was beginning to second guess my choice to spend my entire practice in Lake George.
I decided to fish several creeks that connect to Lake George later that afternoon but still found nothing in terms of locating a good group of fish that I felt I could capitalize on during the competition days. On Day 3 I finally located an area of the lake that had what seemed to be an endless supply of spawning fish, but so did the rest of the field. The water was very clear compared to the rest of the lake and you could really see the fish well bedding on the sandy bottom. This area was located on the south end of the Lake George and it was just unbelievable the boat traffic in the area from other competitors… but it was all I had and I was going to commit to fishing the area for tournament. I spent about 3 hours looking for some larger fish on beds on the big expansive clear water flat. I found a few 5-lbers that were fairly close to each other and I hoped I could get to them first thing in the morning to get a quick start and then work through the fish and the boats to upgrade throughout the rest of the day. I felt pretty comfortable but knew it was a risky proposition.
Event Day 1: 5 Bass / 8lbs 15oz – 91st place of 108
I had a decent boat draw so I was confident I would get the couple of larger fish I found in practice first. I ran right to the area with those two 5-lbers and both were gone… bummed out but not feeling stressed as I knew there were plenty of other fish. I started catching any keeper sized bass I saw and had a limit quickly… I thought that was a good strategy but then realized I was needing some bigger fish and quick because all the boat traffic from other competitors was starting to make it a little difficult to move around freely to find some of the bigger fish on the flat.
It seemed that if I moved right someone else would locate a big fish to the left of me and if I moved left someone else would locate a big fish to the right of me. I just couldn’t catch a break. I did find one big one on a bed, but it was very skittish and I couldn’t get her to settle down on a bed. I had to pass her up and look for a fish more willing to commit to their spawning nest. Time would pass and I would cull once or twice for just ounces throughout the day. I clearly ended up with the short end of the stick.
Event Day 2: 5 Bass / 12lbs 14oz – 79th place of 108
I decided I would go back to the spawning flat again on Day 2 and work a little smarter. Only stopping on 2lb+ fish, (I should’ve made that 3lb+ fish), I got off to a quick start with a few fair sized keepers but still managed to zig when I should have zagged as I watched the tournament leader catch an 8-lber right in front of me. Frustrating, but I just knew my time to locate a big’un was going to come. I worked the flat all day and managed a better bag on Day 2 than Day 1 to move me up 12 places in the standings but still far from enough to make the top 50 cut to fish Day 3.
Event Total - 10 Bass / 21lbs 13oz / 79th place of 108.
In 4 years of fishing the Elite Series this is the first ‘sight’ fishing event I didn’t manage to hang with the top half of the field and make a check. Several anglers made the top 50 cut from the area I chose to fish but I got my butt whooped. No excuses here, just a good old fashion beat down! Still unable to break my Florida trend of difficult spring events, it’s frustrating, but I’m gonna break it next time I am down in Florida for a tournament, no doubt!
I am off to practice a few days at Toledo Bend and get a few administrative items accomplished along the way. With one week off before our next event at Table Rock, I gotta put this behind me quickly and re-focus to get back on track!
Next blog… Bassmaster Elite Series Event #3, Table Rock Lake, Branson, MO – April 3-6
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