PALATKA, Fla. -- At the docks Friday morning, Day One leader Alton Jones said that his first stop will be at a spawning area, but he won't be sight fishing.
When he gets there, the sun would not be up enough to actually see individual fish on a bed, he explained. That's why his first stop will be at beds in deeper water.
"It's too deep to see them on the beds there even after the sun comes up," he said. "I caught a really nice 4 1/2-pounder yesterday before I could see. I was casting, 'just fishing.' It's what I call blind fishing. If I can get one of those decent bites before I start sight fishing, it really helps."
Alton Jones and other pros might have changed game plans after they motored out to the main river. A fog bank rolled in soon after the 99 boats were away from the Palatka dock and on the main river.
Check out live video of the fog this morning. The usual 30- to 40-minute trip to the spawning areas most anglers are fishing might have taken longer. With the sun stronger on the beds when anglers arrived, they could have gone straight to the shallower beds.
Lane's OK after 360s
Thursday afternoon, running full-out on the St. Johns River on his way back to Palatka, Chris Lane's boat collided with floating river debris, spun 360 degrees and his boat filled with water.
"We did a couple 360s — the whole back of the boat went forward, and we ended up completely under the water, then popped back up and we were sitting in nothing but water all the way up to our chests. The boat slowly came back up, started pumping, and Butcher picked me up," Lane said.
His good Samaritan was fellow competitor Terry Butcher. Butcher appeared within "two seconds," of the incident, Lane said, and three or four other competitors stopped, too. Such courtesies, regardless of what's on the line — $100,000 in this tournament — are common on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
"You couldn't miss it," he said. "We probably threw water 20 feet into the air, a solid wall of water."
Lane left the boat tied to a river buoy, and all the boats continued on their run back to Palatka. They beat the 4 p.m. deadline. There's a 1-pound penalty for every minute past check-in time, and all credit is lost after an angler is 15 minutes late.Thanks to Butcher, Lane got full credit for his day's catch of 9 pounds, 6 ounces.
Lane does not know what he hit.
"I didn't feel anything, but obviously I hit something with the way the impact was, and the problems that we saw," Lane said Friday morning. "The most important thing is that we (he and his official Marshal) were safe. Thank God for Legend boats."
After he got his boat towed in, the Mercury service crew patched up his motor Thursday evening. Lane was ready to go Friday morning.
Action every hour
Bassmaster.com is presenting the Power-Pole Citrus Slam from cover-to-cover.
One of the new features to online coverage of all Bassmaster Elite Series events is Hooked Up! every hour from the Toyota Trucks stage at the water's edge.
Hosted by Bassmaster emcee Dave Mercer, the updates will begin at 9 a.m. ET Saturday and continue through Sunday afternoon. The updates include video of anglers competing that day on the water, as well as live interviews with pros and unique content, such as show-and-tell of baits being used on the water in the competition.
Fans onsite can be part of the audience as the show is produced and shown live on Bassmaster.com.
The updates began last weekend at the season opener on the Harris Chain of Lakes, which Shaw Grigsby of Gainesville, Fla., won.
"I thought it was cool that we were able to show the bait that Shaw was using," said Bassmaster weigh-in emcee Dave Mercer, who also emcees the updates.
BASSCam takes you to it
At Bassmaster.com, fans can watch anglers on the St. Johns fishery via BASSCam video reports that are posted within minutes of being recorded.
Thursday morning reports include a trip through the fog, shots of anglers hand-poling and using their Power-Poles, and up-close views of the eelgrass flats that Elite anglers are combing.
Music to my ear
Immediately after the weigh-in Friday, the group The Impediments will present a free concert at the Riverfront Park Amphitheater.
Squishy, slimy, sticky green (but not fish) stuff.
Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, a local host of the Power-Pole Citrus Slam, is inviting people to an unusual kind of party.
They're calling it the Jello Jump. It's a contest, and it's just what the name suggests: Contestants jump into a pool of gelatin. It will happen beginning Saturday after the weigh-in concludes, about 5:30 p.m.
Sponsored by Georgia-Pacific Railroad, the contest challenges fishing fans to leap feet first into a swimming pool of gelatin. Then they must fish around in the quivering mass and grab one of the keys. The trick is to select the one and only key in the pool that fits the ignition of the prize, a Yamaha Rhino ATV.
Dana Jones, Chamber president, said that 7,000 gallons of gelatin are being brewed to fill the pool.
Who made all that gelatin?
"Our wonderful volunteers led by Ginny Robbins pre-made some of it in 5-gallon jugs. It's being kept on site in a cooler. More will be made tonight (Friday) in the pool with 4,000 pounds of ice. When the sun comes up and starts warming it, it will gel," Jones said as they worked on site early Friday morning.
The pool is 4 feet deep.
"Unless you have an extremely long arm, you're going to have to go under to reach a key," she said.
Here's the skinny to get in on the jump: No preregistration is required. Only contestants 18 years of age or older can participate. There's no cost to jump, and no purchase is necessary. There's an outdoor shower next to the pool. Full rules are available onsite.
Said sacks his biggest bass ever
Though it wasn't the Berkley Big Bass of the day, Ryan Said caught the biggest bass of his lifetime Thursday. He saw the 7-pound, 10-ounce fish during practice and left it alone, hoping it would be there come tournament time.
"I figured someone else had caught it when I went for it," he said. "It had been there for two or three days, so I knew it was locked on there."
When he returned to the bed where he last saw the fish, it appeared to be empty. He pitched a plastic craw, and saw a shadow follow it across the bed. He then felt a tick in his line, set the hook, but missed. On his third pitch, the bass ate the craw and the fight was on.
"I felt her surge, and then when I saw that head come out of the water, it was like 'oh my gosh,'" he said. "That was really cool."
Kriet's advice to KVD
Jeff Kriet, Kevin VanDam and Jami Fralick were all fishing the same 40-yard stretch of water on Thursday, but none of them were having success. Each knew what sort of fish the other was on, and they ranged from 4 to 6 pounds. VanDam was the first to get bit, and when he did, Kriet offered the following advice, in jest.
"Hey, Kevin, why don't you take your 1.5 and fish somewhere else?"
Kriet was jokingly referring to VanDam's Strike King KVD 1.5, the lure he used to win the 2011 Bassmaster Classic and to place fourth at last week's Elite season opener, March 10-13 on Florida's Harris Chain of Lakes.
Local fave Peter T has a tough day
Thursday, Peter Thliveros started out on two spots he located in practice and found the fish in a completely different mood.
"I got to my best spot and there was nobody there," he said. "And the fish were gone too. You know you're not in a good area in a tournament like this when you've got it to yourself. There are no secret hiding places here."
Looking to get something going, he hit two more spots a bit farther north, where he landed a 3-pounder and a 5 1/2-pounder.
"I am a little surprised because it's kind of the reverse of what I thought the day should be like. I really thought I wouldn't be fishing there until tomorrow, kind of as a backup. Worked out to where it ended up being a lifesaver, so to speak," he said.
With 14-15, he was in 26th place going into Friday's competition.
Now living in St. Augustine, Thliveros grew up fishing the St. Johns. He has won two Bassmaster events on the river: an Open in 2008 and the Florida Top 100 in 1992. — MJD
Berkley Big Bass
At the end of the tournament, the Berkley Big Bass bonus of $500 will go to the angler with the largest bass over four days.
After Day One, the bar was set at 10 pounds, 3 ounces, by Jason Williamson.
"That was the second biggest fish I ever caught in my life," he said. "I actually lost one today (Thursday) that was a little bigger than she was, so I look forward to tomorrow. I think I'll have a good chance to catch her."
"Oh, yeah! That kinda makes the day worth it." — Peter Thliveros as he pulled in a 5 1/2-pounder at 3:46 p.m. ET Thursday
"Before I could see them, I was blind casting to holes in the grass." — Todd Faircloth (3rd, 23-10)
"I think the key is getting off of them, and not looking at them. If you back off and make enough casts to that area, you can catch them." — Tim Horton (5th, 22-4) on skittish spawners
"I caught one just casting. Then sight fishing, it happened quick. I had four in the first 10 minutes. Two were in back-to-back flips. And then they were gone for the day." — Keith Combs (12th, 19-8)
"I'm sure there is, but I haven't found it. I haven't looked for it." — Alton Jones (1st, 26-9), when asked if there was a pattern at the Citrus Slam that didn't revolve around sight fishing.