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

St. Johns: Pushing with all you have

Brandon Card sight fishing during practice on the St. Johns River.

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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.

At long last my first Elite Series event has arrived. This week I had the privilege of having an outdoor writer with me on one day of practice on the St. Johns River. He asked if he could write down a few of his thoughts for the blog this week. Here’s what he had to say:

My plans were to get a first-hand view of an Elite Series angler displaying his expertise at lure selection, casting, working lures, locating fish and catching fish. I had hoped Brandon would then hold the biggest ones up for my camera. I secretly planned to make notes for my own future fishing trips.

We did SEE plenty of nice fish but never made the least bit of effort to catch any of them. What I witnessed was Olympic training on a sweltering day in the Florida sun. I was exhausted just by watching it all. And, yes, we were on the lake. And, no, we did not forget to take fishing rods or baits.

Today I learned about “sight fishing.”

Brandon taught me that stealth was the biggest key for effective sight fishing. Florida fish at this stage in the spawning season tend to be skittish when boats move into their selected area. Serious effort must be made to be stealthy. I witnessed an amazing amount of effort that more closely resembled pole vault training than it did fishing.

A push pole is basically 20 or so feet of specialized fiberglass that is planted into the bottom of the lake. The angler then gives a full-body lean-and-shove to push the boat slowly forward at an angle. Then, like paddling a canoe, the angler switches the pole to the other side of the boat and repeats the process. It felt like we were pole vaulting in molasses. I noted that Brandon pushed an average of 6 times per minute. At a conservative estimate of 7 hours of pushing per day that totals over 7,500 pushes in a three-day practice period.

Brandon indicated that the workout did get his heart racing, but quickly noted his heart beat even faster when he found a big bass that didn’t spook when he got within sight of it. I will admit it was exciting, even in practice, while only hunting for fish. I can only imagine how exciting it is during the actual event when the catching happens.

At one point in his efforts to locate spawning fish Brandon pushed the boat forward so hard it got stuck on the bottom. The next 5 minutes of exertion nearly exhausted the young pro. Finally, he stepped into the water and physically pushed the boat off the bottom. I did my best to help by taking his picture.

After zero fish catches and well over 2,000 pole vaults, Brandon called the day a success. I made a note to start working out before trying my hand at sight fishing.

Good luck to you, Brandon. May you clear the bar this week.

Remember to chase your dreams!

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