Behind the St. Johns eight ball

There isn’t a stitch of grass in the lakes where I’m from in North Carolina. I’ve spent my whole life not fishing grass. When I go to a lake or river with a lot grass, like the St. Johns, I’m automatically behind the eight ball.

My biggest fear about the St. Johns tournament is that a cold front will come through and shut the fish down. I’m not experienced enough with Florida grass lakes to know where the bass go and what to do when that happens.

A cold snap affects the fishing some in North Carolina, but the bass will still bite. Florida bass are different. From what I’ve seen, a cold front shuts Florida bass down to the point where it can be hard to catch anything. If that happens, I’ll probably have to slow down and do a lot of flipping and pitching.

The best thing for me will be if the weather is warming when I get to the St. Johns. If that happens, I’ll spend practice looking for bass that are getting ready to spawn and already spawning. I sight fish quite a lot on the lakes around home. The water is super clear and the bass are easy to see when they get on their beds.

Sight fishing on the St. Johns won’t be exactly the same, but I’m confident I can still catch them on soft plastic stickbaits, the Senko and stuff like that. I might use a topwater bait like a Devil’s Horse to help me locate bedding bass.

A Rat-L-Trap and a Chatterbait could also be players. My game plan is to stick with these basic baits and to keep it simple.

Something that should work to my advantage is that the St. Johns is a tidal fishery. I enjoy tidal waters, but I haven’t fished them before and during the spawn, which will be what the bass should be up to during the Elite event on the St. Johns. If you can find the right stretch in a tidal fishery, you can get right in a hurry.

I’ve fished tidal waters on the coasts of North and South Carolina, as well as the James and Sabine rivers. I finished fifth at last year’s Elite tournament on the Sabine. Those bass were in their postspawn phase and I caught them on a frog.

I’ve never been to the St. Johns, and Bassmaster Elite Series tournament rules don’t allow me to get information from anyone who isn’t fishing the tournament. I’ve found plenty of stuff on the internet to clue me into how past tournaments there have been won right around the spawn.

I believe I can rely on my travel partner, Kyle Monti, for a little help. He’s from Okeechobee and is dialed into Florida bass. We met each other when we fished college series bass tournaments. He was a little bit ahead of me. We were both Elite rookies last year.

We try to work together, but it’s challenging because we fish differently. We don’t tell each other exactly where to go and what to throw. But we will tell each other if we’re catching bass shallow or deep, or if we’re getting bites on, say, points or docks.

If Monti can help me get trough the St. Johns, maybe I can return the favor when we get to Hartwell.