2011 Elite Series - Power-Pole Citrus Slam St. Johns River - Palatka, FL, Mar 17 - 20, 2011

Rare lunar event could play big for some anglers

Peter Thliveros
Peter Thliveros

PALATKA, Fla. -- Shaw Grigsby has not stopped moving since he won the season opener on the Harris Chain of Lakes last Sunday.

"It's been pretty exciting," he said Wednesday afternoon. "The phone keeps blowing up. The first day, Monday, it didn't sit more than a minute before I got another call or text message. Friends, family, fans -- all congratulating me, and it's still happening. I'm honored."

The momentum is carrying him into the Power-Pole Citrus Slam, Thursday-Sunday on the St. Johns River out of Palatka -- like last week's event, not far from his Gainesville, Fla., home.

He said he doesn't feel like people expect him to turn in back-to-back victories in his home state.

"In reality, it's so hard to win one, you don't think about it (winning two in a row). You just think about doing the best you can," he said.

Grigsby won on Harris by sight fishing, the technique he's most noted for. By most accounts, the sight bite will be a key pattern on the St. Johns, too.

Grigsby said his practice days were "nothing like I was hoping."

"There are a lot of boats in the areas I want to fish, so it will be a matter of banging out some fish and hopefully I can stay competitive," he said.

Made-to-order conditions

Peter Thliveros says his home water of the St. Johns and adjacent lakes will show their stuff during the Citrus Slam.

"I think it's probably going to be the best tournament B.A.S.S. has had here since I've been fishing," he said. "We're hitting it at the right time. Moon phase is perfect (see "Supermoon" at Bassmaster.com), we're right in the middle of the spawn, and we're going to see some big weights tomorrow."

It's fielder's choice for the spawner bite, he said.

"You can go any direction you want to go in right now. You can go north and catch spawning fish, you can go south and catch spawning fish, and you can go to Rodman for spawning and post-spawn fish," he said.

Northern light

After three days of practice, another home-state Citrus Slam competitor, Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, noted that the St. Johns River water level was down.

"Normally there is another foot of water on these fish and eel grass beds," he said.

The tide becomes much more of a factor the closer one gets to the mouth of the river.

"I went north today, and the tide came in strong. Grass beds I saw in the morning that were a foot deep were 2 1/2 feet deep. Tides could make a big difference for the angler who goes north (from Palatka)," he said.

Scroggins then and now

It is not amazing that Terry Scroggins, a native of the Palatka area, fished his first two pro-level Bassmaster events in his own backyard, the St. Johns River. What angler doesn't start at home?

It is certainly noteworthy that Scroggins won the second of those tournaments, the 2001 Florida Eastern Open. The field was 328 anglers. His prize was $16,000 and a $35,000 boat.

"That was the tournament that launched my career," Scroggins said.

It led to a Classic berth and qualification to compete at the top level, now the Bassmaster Elite Series.

Roy vs. Crochet

Bradley Roy and Cliff Crochet have a friendly competition on the side under a mutual sponsor's setup.

Fuel additive Biobor EB, a new sponsor for both of the Bassmaster Elite Series young pros, is inviting fans to pick which one will outfish the other, and how many gallons of gasoline they'll need to do it.

Fans can vote at www.biobor.com up until noon on the first tournament day, beginning with the March 17-20 Power-Pole Citrus Slam. The winning guesser will get a case of Biobor EB, a pair of Rugged Shark shoes, and lures from Taylor man and Bill Lewis Lures.

In 2010, Roy was the Bassmaster Rookie of the Year and Crochet was the runner-up. Age 20, Roy is the youngest pro on the tour. Crochet, 27, is among the season's young guns.

Going up?

The St. Johns River flows from the south to the north. The seemingly illogical direction of the water flow makes no difference to the anglers' strategies in the Power-Pole Citrus Slam. But they do have to explain to onlookers that "downriver" is to the north, "upriver" is to the south.

Stable weather

The weather forecast is a treat for Bassmaster Elite Series pros in the Power-Pole Citrus Slam. It's not so much the moderate temperatures or the lack of rain that's so pleasing -- any condition Mother Nature can dish out is just part of the game. No, the treat lies in that the prediction is for four days of almost identical conditions.

For Slam anglers, the steady weather means not having to start over with a new pattern when air temps plummet overnight, or the wind kicks up, like what happened in the March 10-13 Elite event on the Harris Chain.

According to the National Weather Service, the sun is supposed to shine all four days, but with come-and-go cloud cover. No rain. High temperatures are expected to be in the high 70s to low 80s; lows are predicted for the high 40s to high 50s. Winds are expected to be just enough to cool a brow -- and hopefully not enough to wreck anyone's sight bite.

Elite inspiration

Larry Cahan of East Palatka, Fla., says the Elite event across the St. Johns River in Palatka this week is an inspiration to his own fishing career.

Cahan fishes as a pro in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open, which will stop on Lake Norman next week. He'd like to end the Open season with enough points to qualify for the Elite Series in 2012.

"Seeing the Elite tournament here will get me motivated for doing well at Norman," he said. "I already know some of the Elite guys through the Opens."

One is Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., just down the road from East Palatka. Because the St. Johns River is his home water, Scroggins is a favorite to win the Elite event.

"I've known him since he first fished as a pro," Cahan said. "I fished as an amateur a year and a half with him when he was getting started as a pro; I was 21, 22 then -- I'm 31 now. I learned a lot doing that."

When he was offered his current job running a fishing lodge owned by the Norfolk Southern Railroad, Cahan stopped being Scroggins' travel buddy. Cahan gets to guide some of the railroad's guests, but mostly he works long hours on shore. He knows it's a good job that some people might envy, but he would like to sample the life of an Elite angler.

"I'd have to make sure my ducks are in a row before I ventured out into the Elite Series, but I'd like to see some kind of way into fishing the Elites, that's for sure," he said.

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