Video: Giant sea cow and tilapia beds

Giant sea cow and tilapia beds in the St. Johns River on Day 1.

Whatley's big decision paying off

This is only Brad Whatley's 15th B.A.S.S. tournament. When he qualified through the Opens last year for the Elite Series this year, he had a tough decision to make. The 48-year-old married father of three was faced with quitting a good job as a supervisor of a Cooper Tire & Rubber manufacturing plant in Texarkana, Ark.

Whatley probably feels like he made the right decision now, especially after catching a 7-pounder at 12:55. Paired with another 6-8 he followed with at 1:54, the Bivins, Texas, resident has topped the 20-pound mark and currently sits in third place with 20-4, unofficially.

Latuso with an 8-pounder

Robbie Latuso is the latest angler to pull a giant from the St. Johns River. The 52-year-old Gonzales, La., angler was already having a good day with a fourth-place total of 15-10. But an 8-pounder caught at 1:53 has made Latuso the third angler to top the 20-pound mark today. He's in second place with 20-12, unofficially.

Birds and Birds

Not only are there plenty of wild birds for you watchers, but there are also the other kinds of birds present on the St. Johns.

Photos by Shane Durrance

Schultz locked down

I have no idea how big the fish is, but Florida veteran pro Bernie Schultz has his Power-Poles down, and he’s been making the exact same pitch time after time.

He’s been this way for well over an hour, and that should tell you the bass must be substantial.

Next to Schultz is Elite Series new comer Cory Johnston, one of three Canadian anglers in your this year. Johnston is also spending a great deal of time working a particular bass, changing angles and switching up presentations.

Clearly, both are in fish that will greatly improve upon their current totals.

Elephant tracks

We pulled into a creek and found quite a few of the anglers. And it became clear why.

This particular spot is absolutely covered in beds, however the strong majority are tilapia beds with a few bass mixed in.

That’s local favorite Drew Benton in the background. He said he needs more than what he’s got if he hopes to stay in it.

The color contrast of the beds and water is quite beautiful actually.

It seems as though anywhere a spring is nearby, the water is much cleaner, thus more beds.

It looks like a herd of elephants held a Dutch dance festival up in here—clogs and all.

Harvey got wet

Harvey Horne fell in this morning after setting the hook on a fish when his boat hit a cypress stump and threw him overboard.  As he was going in, his lower right leg clipped a cypress knob; and we all thought he had fractured it.  He said he didn’t care, nothing was going to stop him from fishing today.  He also already had 2 fish fro about 5 pounds.

Finding Digh

After a long run and a lot of idling into canals on the south end of Lake George, we finally located Rob Digh. He told us he has had a so-so day in this first round of the St. John’s elite. What he doesn’t know is that he is in fourth place with 15-4.

Dig worked into a short canal and quickly encountered Bill Weidler. Digh turned around and went downstream to another canal,where we had to leave him.

While Weidler appears to be sight fishing, Digh has been burning the shoreline. Two different tactics in the same area.

Lowen driving the struggle bus

At least that’s what he said.

Indiana pro Bill Lowen said he’s dealing with the worst practice and tournament start he can recall. He said the weather is good, and should help the fishing overall—especially over the next couple of days.

He did say, however, that the change in conditions may have occurred too quickly to help his pattern. At the time of this writing he had two small fish in the well.

“I know that when I get into weigh-in we’ll be hearing ‘25 pounds’, ‘31 pounds’ maybe even more,” he said. “But maybe it’ll speed up this afternoon. Things can only get better from here.”

Lowen is Mr. Consistent, and it’ll be shocking to see him come in with less than a limit. I bet he loads up real soon.