Palatka: They do it right

The St. Johns River was a bust for me. Let’s get that out of the way first. I didn’t get on the bed fish and paid the price. It’s really that simple. Although, in my defense, the second day I went for broke. It didn’t work but it was a conscious choice. It wasn’t like I just screwed up.

On the positive side, however, I had a great time in Palatka. That place is something else. We — Fred Roumbanis and J. Todd Tucker, two of the finest men on Planet Earth — stayed in a house on one of the canals that connects with the river. The owner, Jim McCartney, let us stay there and is it ever beautiful. In fact, the whole place is beautiful.

And I learned what it means to take your weekends seriously while I was there. Come Friday night, they do it right. Back in my younger days, I thought I knew how to party. I was wrong. At least I was wrong by Palatka, Fla., standards. Let me tell you, they set the standard to which the rest of us aspire.

It all started with a big neighborhood dinner. They smoked everything imaginable and cooked a ton of local food. It’s the first time I ever ate collard greens and tomato pie. They’re good, though. I really enjoyed it, very different from the chain restaurant food we frequently eat. Maybe next year they’ll invite us back. (If you’re reading this folks, that’s a hint.)

Later in the evening they celebrated with fireworks. I’m not talking about the skinny, 3-inch ones we toss around in Ohio that go bang and then fizzle out. No. I’m talking real fireworks. Some of that stuff looked like mortar shells when it exploded. I loved it!

I ran into another kind of wildlife — actually wild life — on the river, too. It was spring break weekend. The river is lined with small bars, hangouts, party houses and motels. The bikers were there. Every time we (any of the anglers) went up or down the river, they’d come over to the bank and cheer us on. It was really cool.

A lot of you may not know this but we have a huge number of biker fans. We see them all over the country. I’m not really sure why but I think it has something to do with our traveling all the time and living off the fat of the land. You know what I’m trying to say. We’re of a kindred spirit or soul kind of thing. I’d like to think that, anyway. It would make us almost as cool as they are.

Congratulations to Alton Jones. He did a heck of a job out there. But now it’s on to Lake Okeechobee. I think you’ll see some serious weights later this week, and I don’t think they’ll all be bedding females. From what I’ve seen yesterday and today (Tuesday), we’re going to fish this one. I hope so. I’d like to have a better result this time.

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