Revisiting the St. Johns River

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The season will start once again in Palatka, Fla., with an event at the St. Johns River on Feb. 6-9.

The season will start once again in Palatka, Fla., with an event at the St. Johns River on Feb. 6-9.

I’m looking forward to early next month when we fish the 2020 AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River, our first tournament of the season. It’s being held at the same time as last year’s event on the St. Johns, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be the same tournament.  

One of the reasons I’m looking forward to going back is because I was disappointed in my performance in 2019. I finished 47th. The worst part of it is that I have no one to blame but myself. I fished like an idiot and paid the price for doing that. 

The weather was warming leading up to the tournament. Everyone knows that when it warms in Florida the bass move up. That’s the way things go down there. Despite knowing that I spent most of the day looking for bedding bass. Note that I said looking, not catching. 

On the second day I spent my time looking for bass that had moved up. To get right to the point I looked for, and found, some eel grass. That took some time because the hurricane destroyed a lot of it. Nevertheless, I found some, and it paid off. I had a pretty good sack at the end of the day even though I lost two big fish. 

I’m telling you this because there’s a lesson in it for all of us who bass fish. Don’t ignore historical trends. They happen year after year given similar conditions. There’s a reason for that. Savvy anglers don’t try to outsmart the bass. They fish with them.

When I say that I’m not talking about going back to the same lake or river and fishing the same spots with the same lures that you always have. That’s a losing game. What I am talking about is following historical trends that are dictated by Mother Nature and by the fish.

Like I said before, we all know that when the water warms after a cold winter the bass will move up shallow. That’s the case anywhere in the country. It’s crazy to ignore that. The same thing is true about rising and falling water. Falling water pushes the fish out. Rising water pushes them in. It’s equally crazy to ignore that.

I know that somebody out there can give me an example of when one of those things didn’t happen, and they’re probably telling the truth. There’s an exception to everything. But fishing is a percentage game. And the percentages are with you when you follow history.

So, my thinking for this year will be to pay close attention to the weather and then when I go fishing in practice I’ll run around looking for a whole bunch of different spots, structure and cover. It’ll be about getting to know all I can about the river. Then, when the tournament starts, I’ll be able to adapt to the weather and to fish according to what the bass have done historically.

The historical thing isn’t easy. It takes a lot of research and reading. Frankly, I’ve already started doing that although I admit it’s not my favorite thing to do. However, the alternative is to waste a whole day fishing like an idiot. That’s not going to happen again. 

Think about all of this before your next fishing trip. You don’t want to make a mistake like I did.

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