South end of Drayton Island

Patrick Walters and Lee Livesay have both landed on the south end of Drayton Island, just at the mouth of Lake George. 

Both have fished here all week. And the area really showed out on Day 3 for Walters with over 30 pounds of bass. 

Most of those came well into the day. It’s slow right now. The heavy clouds and front are possibly having an impact on the bite this morning. Walters has had several swings and misses. But none of the big ones have latched on. 

The wind is borderline gassing. And we are all bobbing in the waves. It’s not terrible yet, but with a constant NE wind it could get bumpier as the day progresses. 

Traditional fishing wisdom would say cloudy, windy spring days are what you want. But I got a feeling these guys would like just a little more sun and warmth to keep up the pounding they had going yesterday. 

It’s still early, though. Lot of things can happen. We are just hoping for it to happen sooner than later. 

You would have to believe there are adjustments coming if it doesn’t happen soon. That’s when we see the true nature of this game and the players in it. 

Near misses plaguing Cory Johnston

We’ve been watching Cory Johnston work the inside of a grass line for a while now - and we know he’s on fish. But for the moment, his livewell is still empty.

He’s set the hook three times and come up empty each time. He seemed to finally get a hook in the last one, with his rod doubling over for a few seconds. But the fish came unbuttoned.

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.

Johnston back on top with a 7

Just when you think you've seen all the fireworks one day can hold, Chris Johnston just lit another bottle rocket — a 7-pound largemouth bass that rocketed him back into first place.

Stay tuned. There's an hour left until the first flight checks in, and Johnston leads with 72-14 followed by Mark Menendez with 70-2, unofficially.

Menendez from 9th to 1st

Mark Menendez had gradually dropped down the BASSTrakk standings today after starting in third place. In one more example of the explosive nature of this tournament, Menendez has gone from 9th to 1st in three minutes. He caught a 5-pounder at 2:12 and a 6-pounder at 2:15. Unofficially, Menendez now has 70-2. 

Top 10 cut weight 60 lbs.?

Remember, in this new 75-man Elite Series field, only the top 10 will fish on Sunday, rather than the top 12 in the previous format. And, believe it or not, it may take three days of 20 pounds a day to make the top 10. Twenty pounds per day sounded like a first-place formula before this slugfest began Thursday.

Scott Canterbury is currently 8th with 60-1 and Mark Menendez is 9th on BASSTrakk with 59-2. Kelly Jaye is 10th with 55-9. With all the big bass and big bags being recorded today, it wouldn't take much this afternoon for another angler or two or three to top 60 pounds in the final hours this afternoon.

Pirch jerking giants!

Clifford "The Golden Ram" Pirch is jerking some g-g-g-g-giant bass from the St. Johns River today. After Day 2, when he caught 20-5 and moved into 22nd place, Pirch indicated he was on some good ones. He's proved that today.

Pirch landed a 6-8 at 12:30 to give him 31 pounds, 12 ounces today. His other four fish weigh 8-0, 6-4, 6-0 and 5-0.

Cory Johnston closing gap

We’ve moved across the lake to check on Cory Johnston, who sits in second behind his brother Chris.

Soon after arriving Cory landed a 4-12 bass, giving him 26 pounds so far today, and closing the gap to 1-12 behind his brother. The smallest fish in Cory’s livewell is now 4-4.

The brothers Johnston certainly enjoy giving each other a hard time. We told Chris we were leaving him to check on his brother. “You better take a wide angle lens,” he said with a smile. Cory may be a tad stouter than his younger brother.

Johnston vs. Johnston

Are we about to see the very first head-to-head championship battle between two brothers in the 50 years of B.A.S.S. competition? It sure looks like it. And it’s going to be fun to watch.

Chris Johnston and Cory Johnston are going back and forth on the BASSTrakk leaderboard. It’s already documented the two brothers work together and have since beginning to compete in tournaments.

“I’d like to see him win,” Chris said in a behind the scenes video interview.

“It could be either one of us and that’s what counts,” added Cory in a separate interview.

There is still sibling rivalry blood between the two talented Canadians. The question was then asked about whether or not the two anglers really want to beat each other. Do they really go all in on sharing info and water?

“Well, sometimes I’ll flip him the bird if he gets on my spot,” admitted Chris.

There will be none of that this week. The brothers are sharing what Chris said is “the best two spawning areas in the lake.”

“There are prespawners everywhere and we just hope they keep moving up.”

Moving up is an understatement. Some already have. All it takes is looking at the weights of the two brothers.

No matter what, and even if neither wins, it’s going to be fun to watch.

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