2012 Elite Series St. Johns River Showdown St. Johns River - Palatka, FL, Mar 15 - 18, 2012

Pre-practice pandemonium

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Brandon Card

Brandon Card

Tennessee’s Brandon Card, who competed for the University of Kentucky, is the first Bassmaster College Series angler to qualify for the Elite Series.

Some fishing trips go smoothly, and others … not so much. For the past five days, I have tried to practice on the St. Johns River. Key word in that sentence is “tried.” I have been spinning my wheels ever since I got here.

Day One

I woke up a little later than had planned, and scrambled to get my stuff ready and headed to the tackle shop to get a map. The tackle shop was out of maps and so was Wal-mart. I finally found a map at another shop and was on the water by 11 a.m. I ran into Crescent Lake; before I could hardly wet a line, I spotted these two guys in a walleye boat stuck on a sand bar, so I went over to help. A fish and wildlife officer was there and tried to help them, but he bailed after a short while claiming that he was going to get his boat stuck. I didn’t want to leave them stranded, so I stayed to help.

After awhile, I finally got them freed and I started fishing. Not too long after, I realized that I didn’t put gas in the boat and was on empty. I drove around and couldn’t find a marina, so I was forced to put my boat on the bank and get gas by foot. I walked around aimlessly looking for a gas station; after a mile or two, I finally found one. After buying an overpriced gas tank and 5 gallons of gas, I was good to go. Thankfully, I hitched a ride back to the ramp in the bed of a truck with a bunch of farm workers. I fueled up and finished what was left of my day.

Day Two

I got an early start and headed to Lake George. I wanted to look for spawning areas, \\ but the wind was so brutal that I couldn’t do much. After a half day of fishing, my boat engine (I was in my old boat) shut down. I did everything I could, but it would not start. A boat towed me to the nearest ramp on the south end of Lake George. Only problem, was that I launched 15 or 20 miles north. I called my cousin who lives in Palatka, and he drove down to help me out. It took him an hour to get there, 45 minutes for us to get to my truck and trailer, 45 minutes to get back to the boat, and an hour to get back to his house. We got home pretty late.

Day Three

I took my boat to a mechanic, and he told me that it would take $660 to get it running again. I gave him the go-ahead, and at 2 p.m., it was finished. I went back over to the river and launched my boat to test it out. It wouldn’t run. I called the mechanic and he came down to the river and did another diagnostic. He said that the part that he installed was working properly but other filters and seals needed to be replaced. He said he could replace those tomorrow, and it would cost an additional $700. I was kind of desperate, so I agreed.

Day Four

I woke up early and took my boat back to the mechanic’s shop. At 1 p.m. he called and said that he had an emergency come up and could not work on my boat. He suggested that I just come and pick it up. I went and got the boat and then shifted my focus to finding a boat to borrow. I asked a bunch of people; thankfully, I found someone that was generous enough to loan me his boat. It was a 20-year-old, 17-foot bass boat with a 60-horse engine. I took it out for a couple hours to test drive it – 35 mph top end speed … not bad at all.

Day Five

Everything went smoothly for the first half of the day on the St. Johns River. After lunch, I decided to trailer up and head over to Rodman Reservoir. After arriving there, I realized that Rodman is not the place you want to take a borrowed boat. That place has more stumps than I have ever seen in my life. I cautiously drove around the lake at first. After an hour or so, I thought I knew where I could run and where I couldn’t. I got brave enough to run down the channel full speed, and a few minutes later I heard a loud bam! I slowed down to looked at the propeller, and to my unpleasant surprise two of the three ears were cut in half.

I thought, what a great way to end a crazy trip! I moved up to the front to turn the boat around with the trolling motor. I put the trolling motor on high to whip the boat around, when I heard another bam! I hit another stump, lost my balance and fell overboard! I fell right in a grassbed that basically swallowed me. I had hydrilla around my neck! I finally swam myself out of the grass and climbed back on the boat.

I couldn’t help but laugh, because I knew that really was the perfect way to end this bizarre week! I am going shopping for a propeller tomorrow and driving back home. It has been a good three weeks down here in Florida, but after this week, I will be glad to be back home.

Remember to chase your dreams!

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