Heavy sacks possible in early Elites

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Andy Crawford

John Crews' huge lunker caught in 2019 on St. Johns River.

The first part of the 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series season could line up to be a total smash fest. There are two scheduled before the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk and two after it. If a few factors work out, it could get ugly … real ugly … a beautiful kind of ugly.

Let’s take a quick look at them.  

2020 AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River

Weather will be far and away the number one factor at this one. 

Last year, we hit the weather perfect. It was cold the week before we got there and didn’t warm up much early in the week. By the time the tournament started, though, it turned hot and sunny. The big females and stud males were coming to the bank to spawn. We nailed it. Clunn and the rest of us in the Top 10 put on a serious show. I caught my personal best the first day. It was amazing!

Looking at 2020 it’s the warm and cold trends that interest me. If we get a little cold snap a week or so out and then it warms up, it’ll be another shoot-out. But if it gets cold during the event, it’ll be a totally different deal. The weights will go down.  

2020 Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake

I’ve never fished Chickamauga at this time of year, but we all know what this legendary largemouth factory is capable of producing when conditions are right. It doesn’t take a backseat to any other lake in the country.  

The rain is going to be the biggest factor here. If it floods out and they keep getting pounded with wet weather in that region of the country, it could be high and muddy. That’s not a great scenario for a February tournament in Tennessee and will likely hold the weights down.  

On the other hand, if the rain backs off some and conditions are right, Chickamauga could produce some of the biggest weights of the year. It’s reasonable to see fish in the 8- and 10-pound class every weigh-in. That’ll make for a heavy winning weight.

2020 Bassmaster Elite at Lake Eufaula

We haven’t fished Eufaula in over a decade so much of the information I have about the lake is dated. The information I do have, however, is that the fishing was amazing last year. I’m told that it took more than 30 pounds to win almost every one-day event last spring. 

The general spring weather will dictate what’s going to happen when we get there in early April. The fish could be doing almost anything. But one thing is for sure about this body of water. If the lake is full and there’s plenty of bank grass with water on it, it’ll be called a Smashmaster tournament instead of a Bassmaster tournament. 

Another thing is for sure, too. We’ll all be double-checking our knots to make sure they’re ready to handle Lake Eufaula giants.  

2020 Bassmaster Elite at Santee Cooper Lakes

This is another lake(s) I can’t say I have much personal current information about. It’s been 10 years since I’ve been there. But, the last time we were there I had a Top 10 finish so I have some fond memories of these legendary lakes.

Wind is really the big factor on Santee Cooper Lakes. The two lakes together are big, really big, and they can get rough. When that happens the fishing drops off quite a bit. There’s no doubt that there’ll still be some spawning bass around but the weather leading up to the event will dictate what most of the fish will be doing. The river could be a factor, too.    

That’s a lot of unknowns but the one thing we do know is that these lakes are capable of producing big bass in big numbers. I watched Preston Clark pull out each of those big 5-pounders that he weighed in on the first day. They totaled more than 40 pounds. 

The bottom line to all of this is that our schedule is sure to keep everyone interested in professional bass fishing. It’ll be must-see TV all the way. As for me, I’m like a little kid waiting for Christmas day to come.