I’m going to tell the story, the complete story, of my tournament on the St. Johns River. The idea behind this is to give you a window into my thinking as the event unfolded. Maybe there’ll be something in my story that will help you somewhere along the line.
The St. Johns River isn’t new to me. I’ve fished it before. I thought there would be good fish up in Lake Dexter. The only problem I had with it was that I wasn’t sure that it held the winning bass. The second day of practice settled that question. I knew they were there. The challenge was to catch them.
One thing that I want to get out of the way right away is the question of bed fishing. I’m not against it. I just don’t particularly like to do it. It’s not my thing.
That’s why I didn’t specifically target bedding bass anywhere and I especially didn’t target them on the flats where so many of the guys fished early in the tournament. I decided to take the path less traveled. Basically, that meant targeting prespawn and postspawn bass with the understanding that I wouldn’t pass over a good bed fish. (Just because I don’t particularly like a certain technique doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore an opportunity.)
Fishing, even at the professional level, is a matter of having fun as far as I’m concerned. I like my job. I want to have a good time when I’m out on the water. In my world, that means catching bass.
Anyway, by the second day of practice I’d had enough bites that felt good to believe that Dexter would produce a respectable sack. That decision didn’t look so good after the first day. My sack was a little light. I was still in the running, though, and that sent me right back to Dexter the next morning.
The reason was simple. My light sack the first day was my fault. I was not in my rhythm. I was fishing too fast, trying to hurry everything, and not setting up the right time schedule as I moved from one clump of pads to another.
The second day was historic, my biggest one-day tournament sack ever. I had a lot of weight early on. I actually thought about heading in but changed my mind and kept fishing. I did that for two reasons.
First, I thought I could keep upgrading so it didn’t make any sense to quit. The more weight the better. That proved to be correct when I caught a real giant later in the day.
The other reason was my history in and knowledge of Florida. This is a state that’s capable of producing more than one 35- to 40-pound bag of bass, especially at this time of the year. I figured that if I was getting on the big ones some of the other guys were as well.