Power-Pole Citrus Slam: 'It's going to be a zoo'

PALATKA, Fla. -- The closest actual zoo to the city of Palatka is in Jacksonville. That's not counting the alligator farm in St. Augustine.

That could change tomorrow with the start of the Power-Pole Citrus Slam on the St. Johns River.

Kevin VanDam, who has already been on the merry-go-round of Lake Cataouatche in the Bassmaster Classic, describes what he expects to find at daylight Thursday this way: "It's going to be a zoo, plain and simple."

The zoo-like atmosphere won't be in the form of lions, tigers and bears, but with the bevy of bass boats headed to Lake George.

"I expect at least three-quarters of the field to head there,'' he said. "There are fish on the beds all over that lake, but only a few places where the bigger fish are holding.

"From a fishing standpoint, it would be fantastic if we weren't in a tournament."

Anger after angler at Wednesday's registration basically backed up the assumption that this event, more than any other in recent memory, will be a sight-fishing affair.

"It's 100-percent sight fishing,'' VanDam said. "You can't fight it."

Part of his resolve deals with the coming of the full moon, and in this case a moon that is being characterized by astrologers as a "Supermoon." Deb Johnson has the skinny on that in this story.

From an angling perspective, a "rush" or "wave" of spawning bass are hitting the shallows along the St. Johns River, most notably Lake George, a huge lake connected to the river that is extremely fertile and has all the ingredients a spawning bass likes to have.

The result is an expected mad rush of anglers to that lake that will in essence turn into VanDam's "zoo" characterization. With spawning being a foregone conclusion, the big question during registration was who's not going to Lake George.

"I just can't do that,'' Mark Davis said. "It just doesn't suit my style getting in the middle of all that craziness. I won't be there, I'll be searching and looking elsewhere. But I bet it will be fun to watch."

Mike McClelland is another who refuses to get into the mix. But there's enough anglers going that the first day of this event promises some interesting story lines.

With that promise, it's easy to wonder why would you go?

That's simple enough for anglers like VanDam.

"I can't tell you that the tournament will be won there,'' he said. "My guess is it could be won somewhere else. I don't know yet. It will be hard for that to hold up for four days, especially if those fish don't get acclimated and get locked in.

"Right now they are so spooky that you just raise your arm to pitch and they are gone. It's not a perfect scenario, but it's the low-hanging fruit scenario. You have to go get what you can so you don't get behind. After that we'll see what develops."

For the first day, though, expect Palatka to have its very own zoo for the first time.

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