I finished up the St. Johns late Sunday and just finished day 1 of practice of Lake Lanier. We didn't pull out of Palatka until about 7:30 Sunday night, then we drove four hours, slept four hours, then arrived here for practice.
The St. Johns was an incredible experience for my first event. There were a ton of fans – that was really cool to see those all those people at the event – and the fishing was incredible, so that help as well. I finished eighth with 85 1/2 pounds. Here are my weights from the official standings:
Day 1: 5, 21-01
Day 2: 5, 19-15
Day 3: 5, 27-13
Day 4: 5, 16-09
My practice was really bad. Terrible actually, because it was a cold front. But then it started to warm by the last day of practice. And during our day off it got really warm and we knew they'd be coming to the bank. So that's what I practiced for, and on Day 1 I went in and fished those areas blind and it turned out to be the right call.
I did a mixture of this across the four days. I was sight fishing the first two days, when I went to flipping reeds and fishing docks. They were spawning in the reeds, and the key was to flip the holes in the reeds, because that's where the beds were. New fish just kept coming, but on the last day, the wind was pounding on it, 2-foot waves were rolling in, everything got dirty and I couldn't even fish it.
I was also fishing docks – the same docks Rick Clunn was fishing. I went back to my docks on Day 4 and two guys were already on them – Clunn and somebody else – so I knew they were getting pounded. I went to try to find something new. Obviously that was the wrong call.
My key gear
In the reeds I was flipping a Jackall Cover Craw in black and blue with a 3/8- and 1/2-ounce weight, as well as a Senko in black and blue. My weights are made by Flat Out Tungsten.
Around docks I was flipping a black/blue Punisher Jig with a Zoom Small Salty Chunk, as well as a Texas-rigged junebug Zoom Speed Worm.
I was using a Shimano 894 NRX jig/worm rod with a Shimano Metanium reel and 65-pound PowerPro, but I did mix in some 20-pound Gamma Fluorocarbon.
My Power-Poles were a must – especially when the wind started blowing. I fished the reeds like this: I'd pick up the Power-Poles, then drift a little bit until I came near an isolated reed clump, then I'd put the poles back down and start flipping to the holes. The fish weren't overly spooky so I didn't need to sit too far back, but I did have to fish real slowly.
The docks were wood, and the fish were on different areas. Some were on the pilings, then you'd catch one under the platforms, and there were dollar pads between the docks and you'd catch some there. They were through that whole area.
Good ones, not huge ones
I already mentioned I was really impressed with the turnout and all the fans. I also thought Bassmaster LIVE was really cool. I had a Bassmaster LIVE camera guy with me the last two days. We had a lot of fun out there. When you get a camera guy that works with you well, and lets you know when you're on LIVE, it makes you look good.
Overall I'm happy with making the Top 10. If you asked me at the end of practice whether I'd be happy with eighth, I'd have said yes. But looking back, there were a few things I did wrong that I corrected quickly, but could have made a difference. I was running real far down to Lake George. The first day I tried to go sight fishing, but the sun wasn't up real high, the bottom was very dark, and the water had come up 6 or 8 inches with the tide. I wasted three hours of my day. The next day I didn't do that in the morning. I just went fishing and that's when I dialed in on the pattern in the reeds.
I saw some 6s and 7s, but I never did get a 7-8-9-pound bite. All my fish were just good ones, not huge ones.