I’m sharing the B.A.S.S. Media Center trailer with Gettys Brannon, a former University of South Carolina teammate of Patrick Walters. Gettys said he and Walters frequently fished the St. Johns River in collegiate events, oftentimes choosing the river channel for its consistency.
This morning Walters told me he planned to key on big bass this morning and hang with that bite as long as he can.
“The wind is not going to affect me because I’m not looking at them,” he told me. Which means he is not sight fishing but targeting bedding fish.
Gettys told me Walters is likely using tactics that are familiar to them both from fishing on the Santee Cooper Lakes, which are laden with cypress trees and random cover.
“What we learned to do well was literally pick apart and dial into the angle being used by the bass to hold on a particular piece of cover.” Gettys explained that the Santee Cooper way of flipping involves analyzing each lure target and placing the bait where the bass are likely to be. Once an angle is dialed in it becomes a pattern.
“He’s likely treating the grass like we do cypress trees, which the bass spawn on and around at Santee,” continued Gettys. “He’ll position his boat so he can make that presentation at the ideal angle."
If you’re a fisherman who enjoys fishing docks, you can’t help but be mesmerized by watching Rick Clunn do it.
He’s quick, but methodical. He’s precise, but he never lets the grass grow under his feet before he moves on.
He seems to know the exact section of water he wants to hit before he casts, and it leads to very little wasted time or energy.
We haven’t seen him catch his third fish yet, but we did get our first signal to back off a ways. You just don’t feel like you’ve actually covered Clunn if you don’t get one of those.
Day 1 leader Robbie Latuso stumbled yesterday, weighing 13-15 — more than 11 pounds below his first-day stringer. He spent all day yesterday flipping docks, even though the bass didn’t show any interest.
“That’s being stubborn,” Latuso said prior to today’s blast-off. But he was planning to broaden his offerings today.
“I have a deck full of rods today,” he chuckled. “I’m not going to be so stubborn.”
He has a hill to climb to get back to the top, starting today in ninth with a two-day total of 39-1. Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Chris Johnston is leading with 47 pounds.
Mark Menendez caught one decent bass to start his day from the first dock he came to. Very thoroughly, he worked a crankbait, a jig and something else carefully past every dock piling that he could.
He did dodge a bullet however, as he fired the big motor to head to the next spot. It sounded off with far too many rpms, an obvious problem.
After removing the cowling and talking to a motor tech on the phone, Menendez determined it was a simple throttle linkage adjustment that was needed. In all, he had everything working to specs in only a couple of minutes.
It pays to be good at diagnostics, adjustments and/or repairs when it comes to your boat and motor. Menendez is capable.
He’s back to picking apart every square inch of dock No. 2 on the day, and if I were to guess, fish No. 2 will be In the box shortly.
It took us a while to locate Missouri angler Rick Clunn. So naturally, he already had two in the livewell for an unofficial weight of 8-10.
The 72-year-old pro is fishing shallow enough he occasionally has to trim up his motor to avoid having it hang on the bottom.
This was the round in 2016 when he crushed 31-7 en route a historic victory.
He doesn’t need that much to stay in the hunt today - and he’s off to a great start.
Kentucky veteran pro Mark Menendez is starting off Day 3 knowing that he needs 20 pounds to stay in the hunt.
Unlike most of the other competitors, he is slowly and methodically picking apart a dock, whereas most others were sightfishing yesterday. The difference is, he said, his pattern should remain consistent today with the stronger winds and cooler temps.
The anglers who were sight fishing need much calmer waters to be effective. Menendez believes he can still catch them in the same way he did yesterday, even with the changing conditions.
Time will tell.
What Rick Clunn did the last time the Elite Series was here should encourage all 35 anglers who made the Day 2 cut on the St. Johns River yesterday. Clunn was in 31st place after two days in March 2016, almost 8 pounds out of the lead. At the end of the day, after he sacked 31-7, Clunn had a six-pound lead.
As we've seen the previous two days, there's plenty of "big magic" in the St. Johns River. It came in the form of the 11-pound, 2-ounce bass John Crews caught and the 9-13 Mark Menendez landed on Thursday. Yesterday, Clifford Pirch took big bass honors with a 10-4, but there was also a 9-12 caught by Patrick Walters and an 8-15 by Greg DiPalma.
So first place at the end of the day isn't out of reach for anyone today. And it could be the 72-year-old Clunn - again. In practice this week he landed an "11- or 12-pounder." And Clunn isn't facing the 31st-place, 8-pound deficit he was last time. He's in 5th place, six pounds behind leader Chris Johnston. Plus, Clunn thinks he'll be helped if the wind blows as predicted today.
"I'm catching some on a moving bait, and I'm catching my bigger ones on that," he said. "If the wind blows, they'll hit it better. I'm only getting one or two bites a day on that moving bait, but they're good ones."
The "moving bait" that Clunn is using is a Luck-E-Strike Hail Mary lipless crankbait.