Last-minute preparations

I’ve been busy getting all my last-minute preparations ready for the new Bassmaster Elite Series season. While I’m looking forward to kicking off the year at our first event on Florida’s St. Johns River, I know this fishery will challenging. To be honest, Florida fishing is almost totally new to me.

When the Elites were on Lake Okeechobee in 2017 was the first time I had even fished in the state. So my knowledge of Florida bass fishing is next to zero.

I’ll go into this event with an open mind; I don’t have a preset plan. I’m going to run one end of that river to the other and do my best to identify a handful of key areas where I can settle in and go to work.

I visited the St. Johns before it went off limits and mostly just ran around and looked at the fishery. One thing that I quickly noticed was the lack of grass. I was looking for areas where grass might come up, but I think the fishery is still dealing with the affects of Hurricane Irma (2017).

When I get back there for practice, my game plan will involve a wide range of baits to try to figure out what I can get bit on in the river and in a couple of the lakes. What the fish are doing — spawning or prespawn — is all going to depend on the weather, but I want to be ready to capitalize on whatever I encounter.

I’m sure water clarity will also play a role in this event. When I was there prefishing, there were no really clear spots because there was no vegetation. I keep watching the weather in hopes that Northeast Florida will get some sustained warm weather, which will get the new grass growing.

It’s hard to say if the grass will have enough time to grow up before we get there, but those fish have to go somewhere. At this point, I’m just not sure where that will be.

In these scenarios where I’m fishing unfamiliar waters, I try to find a confidence bait; something I can get bit on and then start running around and fishing multiple places with it. Whether that’s a jig or soft plastics, I want to be throwing something I’m comfortable with.

That’s really important because I definitely do better when I have some knowledge of a place and some idea of how to catch them. That allows me to quickly eliminate certain patterns and figure out what’s going to work. I won’t have this advantage on the St. Johns, so it’s going to require a lot more looking.

When I fished on Okeechobee, I stayed away from the crowd and found my own stretch a couple hundred yards away from the main area. The difference was there was grass everywhere, but this won’t be the case on the St. Johns.

For me, this first Elite tournament is going to be more about covering water and realizing that when I come across fish that I should pay more attention to where, when and how I catch that fish and expand on it.

That’s something I have learned about Florida: When you catch a fish, there are probably more there.