Kelley Jaye leads Day 1 on St. Johns

PALATKA, Fla. — Kelley Jaye knows the potential perils of fishing history, but doing so proved to be a wise decision Saturday as he took the Day 1 lead in the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River.

The Dadeville, Ala., pro, who is beginning his eighth-year on the Bassmaster Elite Series, brought in a five-bass limit that weighed 21 pounds, 7 ounces.

Last year, Jaye fished the St. Johns’ offshore structure and earned an 11th-place finish. Today, he figured the cold front that brought big winds and postponed the tournament’s scheduled start by two days likely stalled much of the spawning movement that seemed be happening prior to the weather.

That hunch sent him offshore again. 

“I’m catching them in the same place as last year, doing the same thing,” said Jaye, who has eight career Top 10 finishes with B.A.S.S. “I think the days off helped because I have a lot of boats around me. Hopefully, all those boats will stay on the bank tomorrow and leave me alone.”

Jaye went directly to his spot from takeoff Saturday, as he knew the post-frontal day would bring the usual “bluebird” conditions — high pressure and lots of sunlight. The first few hours of his day proved most productive, with the fish cooperating better before the sun got high overhead.

“It happened kind of fast, I had all my fish before 10 a.m.,” Jaye said. “The bite slowed down, but they live here where I’m fishing. It’s a grind, just like last year. I’m only getting eight or nine bites a day, but they were good fish. 

“Tomorrow, I’m just going to grind it out again and hope I get the right five bites.”

Jaye said he targeted 4 to 6 feet of water and caught his fish on a jerkbait. He kept the details guarded, but noted that he alternated between two colors specifically matched to various water colors he encountered.

Despite two days of fierce winds and a sharp decline in air temperature, Jaye said his spot, which measures about 300 yards long and 200 yards wide, held up well. He didn’t disclose his specific area, but he said its location helped keep the water temperature at a comfortable level.

“I caught them earlier this morning on the lower tide; I don’t know if they could see the bait better or what,” he said. “Then as the tide came up, the water started muddying up and the bite slowed down.”