Looking at the St. Johns River

Keith Combs wrote an interesting column recently about the possibility that records could fall at the 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. I respect Keith and think he has a point. If conditions are right, it could happen.  

But his column also got me to thinking about the rest of our schedule this upcoming year, especially the 2019 Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River. That could be a record setter, too, depending on the weather and the fishing conditions. Don’t ever sell that river or Lake George short. 

I’ve been to the St. Johns at least four times. Believe me when I tell you that it’s capable of producing massive weights. Florida strain largemouth living in Florida waters is nothing to take for granted. If the weather is good leading up to the event and the water’s reasonably warm, you’ll see our guys bring big bass after big bass to the scales. Several double-digit weights are a definite possibility.  

That’s always been true, of course, no matter who’s fishing but this year it’s especially true. We have fewer competitors so there’ll be more water that doesn’t have to be shared. That’s a big deal. Less competition means more bass will be caught. Along with that we have several true big bass anglers in our group. That’s a bad situation if you’re a Florida bass. 

On the other side of the coin, though, it’s also true that the St. Johns event could turn into four days of tough fishing and a lot of broken hearts. I’m talking about a situation where the weather is, and has been, cold.

I was there once when the water temperature was in the 40s. It’s no exaggeration to say that some of us thought we’d have to go to the local aquarium shop to get a fish to carry to the scales. Florida strain largemouth do not respond well to cold water. They shut down and are darn near impossible to make bite. That’s a good situation if you’re a Florida bass. 

Either way, though, it’ll be a good event to start off the season. If the weather’s right, we’ll see big, heavy sacks brought in and some dynamite interviews from the stage — and photos, too. Anglers and fans alike will have big smiles on their faces and stories to tell their friends. 

If the weather’s tough and the water’s cold, we’ll have a tournament where bites are hard to get and big fish will be few and far between. But that’s OK because we’re professional anglers and there’s nothing wrong with pushing our skills, mental toughness, physical toughness and experience to the limit. In fact, it’s a good thing. It separates us from the crowd. That’s what we’re all about. 

Everything I’ve said about the St. Johns River can be said about Lake Fork, or any other venue for that matter. Catch rates and size are influenced by the weather everywhere. We fish as much against Mother Nature as we do against anything else. 

The bottom line is this: If you’re a fan, hang on tight. This will be a Bassmaster Elite Series to remember, one way or the other.