A perfect storm on the St. Johns

PALATKA, Fla. – If you weren’t convinced by the big bags weighed the first two days, you should be after what was caught on the St. Johns River on Day 3 of the Power-Pole Bassmaster Elite: three bags over 30 pounds, three more over 26 pounds and a total of 14 over 20 pounds in the 35-angler semifinal round. Saturday was a perfect storm for bass fishing on the St. Johns River.

“There was no dew on the boat this morning,” said 24-year-old rookie Patrick Walters, who had a 32-pound, 15-ounce bag to move into second place with 70-5. “Something pulled the fish up late last night. In all the spawning areas all the females were there. And with the front blowing through, they just chomped. It was a perfect storm.”

Veteran Rick Clunn, who is 8th with 64-0, noticed the same thing, saying, “The fish moved shallower. They had been on the ends of the docks. I didn’t catch anything on the ends today. They’re back behind the docks now.”

Clifford Pirch’s monster bag of 34 pounds, 9 ounces, came so shallow that he employed a push-pole to move his boat off some of the skinny water he was fishing.

Saturday may well have been the pinnacle of this four-day event. Several of today’s Top 10 finalists predicted as much. We’ll see.

Here’s what you can see in the chart below comparing Day 3 this year with Day 3 in 2016, the last time the Elite Series came to Palatka, Fla. As has been consistent in comparisons on the first two days, the top weights in the standings this year are unprecedented. That may simply be the result of this tournament being six weeks earlier – early February vs. mid March – than in 2016, plus the perfect timing this week of a warm front sending the first big wave of spawning female bass to the banks.

“We’re getting the first big wave of the year,” Clunn said. “We’re catching mostly healthy pre-spawn fish.”

They’re healthy all right. The average weight of the bass that hit the scales yesterday was almost a pound heavier than it was on Day 3 in 2016.

The following is a Day 3 comparison of the last two Elite Series tournaments held on the St. Johns River:

Day 3                    2/9/19    3/19/16

1st place                75-13     62-15

5th place                68-9       55-0

10th place              58-10     53-8

25th place              45-12     47-1

35th place              34-14     45-0

Big bass                 9-6         9-6

# of limits               28/35     47/51

% of limits             80%        92%

Ave. bass wt.       3.84 lbs.   2.94 lbs.