Even though it’s not a typical Florida fishery with lots of matted grass, which I consider my strong suit, I was still excited to go to the St. Johns River. I’d done well in our last Elite Series visit there, finding a little deal in the eel grass that I had all to myself and I was hopeful that it would work again. Unfortunately, when we returned this year the eel grass that I’d been banking on had all disappeared as the result of high, muddy water.
I knew that Lake George would be a player in the outcome of the event but I wasn’t looking forward to fishing there because it always draws a huge crowd, so I started off the practice period trying other things, like the main river and various backwaters. I caught plenty of fish, but there was no quality, so on the last day I caved and went into George to join the party.
It wasn’t hard to find the three or four main areas where the majority of the fish were bedding because they were all packed with other competitors’ boats. Instead of fishing, I mainly looked for fish, and I managed to put enough together that I felt I could be competitive.
On Day One of the tournament I had no choice but to head to Lake George. I made a beeline for what I thought was the most productive area and even though I doubted it could withstand four days of pressure I was going to milk it for all it was worth. It was a good decision because I caught five pretty quickly by sight fishing. Even when I couldn’t see the beds, if I pitched into the holes in the eel grass it was likely there’d be a fish in there. After culling a couple of times up to a little over 13 pounds, I tried to break away and look for a kicker, but the weather did me in. It got exceptionally windy and it absolutely poured and I was never able to upgrade.
On Day Two I had a better boat number but a shorter day, so I had to make the most of the opportunity. I went back to where I’d done my damage on Thursday, but the bad weather had muddied it up and that’s a nightmare with Florida strain fish. I bailed on that pretty quickly and started prefishing all over again, looking at new areas in George. Unfortunately, none of them paid off so I went to my secondary pattern, fishing holes in the eel grass on the main river.
It took all day but eventually I captured five bass. They weighed less than 7 pounds combined and I dropped over 20 places. It was a frustrating tournament because I never really got into any sort of comfort zone, and never generated any big bites. All you can do after one like that is pack up and move ahead.
My main technique at the St. Johns was deadsticking a Zoom Trick Worm behind a 3/16 ounce Reins Tungsten weight. I fished in on a 7’3” Lew’s Custom Lite and a matching BB1 Pro spooled with 14 lb. test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon. My back up deal was a Missile Baits Baby D Stroyer fished on a Reins Punch Shot in colors that imitated bluegills. For that rig I upsized to a Lew’s Custom Lite 7’11” extra-heavy rod paired with a Super Duty reel spooled with 50 lb. Gamma Torque Braid.
I have to offer up a big congratulations to one of my all-time idols Rick Clunn on his historic victory. We were all very glad for him.
Looking back on this event, I wish would’ve taken the time to fish more rather than looking for spawning fish. That’s how Rick won, and it showed that a lot of times we get focused on the fish we can see, and in doing so overlook how many fish are truly there and how many are still to come.
92nd Place; 10 fish, 20-02