We’re starting the 2019 Elite Series season on the St. Johns River in Florida and immediately thereafter heading six or seven hours up the road to Lake Lanier in Georgia. We’ve had some back-to-back tournaments since I’ve been with B.A.S.S. but never one that posed this much of a contrast.
At the St. Johns we pursued big Florida largemouth. They’re the only game in town. Lanier has both largemouth and spotted bass, and while I expect both to play a role, the spots will likely dominate. Additionally, even though the Lanier event takes place after we get out of Florida, the fish should still be in winter patterns, while at the St. Johns I expected them to be pre-spawn or even spawning.
What this means for me is that I had to pack almost all of the tackle I own into my boat and truck before heading east. I have probably 30 baitcasting outfits and 20 spinning rigs with me, everything from finesse tactics up to heavy braid. There won’t be much overlap in rods and reels. In fact, I don’t think that a single rod that I used in Florida will be in the boat in Georgia. The same with baits – I expect that just about all of the hard baits, soft plastics and jigs that were in my boat for the St. Johns will be replaced for Lanier.
Obviously, when you go into any tournament your goal is to get to the final 10 cut and then to win. That’s what we all hoped to accomplish at the St. Johns, but those anglers who make it to Sunday had better be prepared.
Prior to even a single event, I usually spend about six hours the day before getting things ready. I stock my boxes, respool and retie, get organized and try to rest a little. A healthy percentage of the field won’t have that luxury this time around. The guys who got cut after Saturday had a very busy Sunday. The 10 who fished Day 4 had a choice to make: They could either hustle up the road and operate on minimal sleep, or they could choose to take part of the first practice day off.
I got a little taste of back-to-back very different events early in my career and it was stressful. It was a good lesson in how fast the Elite Series moves. It provides opportunities for those who are prepared, and punishes those who try to cut corners, so I’ve worked hard over the years to become increasingly organized. I have no doubt that this will be one of the toughest tests we’ve had since I’ve been on the Elite Series, and I don’t want to leave anything to chance.
In order to succeed in the first part of this season, not only will we have to engage in a total reset of tackle and mentality, but we’ll also have to prepare for wildly different conditions. Compared to Florida, the temperatures in Georgia could be substantially cooler when we get to Lanier. After all, that’s the same region where we had single-digit temperatures at the Hartwell Classic. Any corner of my truck that’s not packed with tackle is probably occupied by a bag containing extra clothing. We certainly won’t have time to do laundry in between events, and I don’t care how tough you are, if you’re not comfortable it’s impossible to fish well.
I look forward to consecutive events because they allow me to remain in a fishing mode and save money. We’re putting the finishing touches on a new house right now, so my time at home is valuable. Nevertheless, I know that my time on the road is where I make my money, so I aim to use every minute productively and profitably.