There is something buzzing in the air in Palatka, Fla., besides the fog. You can feel the excitement and nerves of Bassmaster Elite Series competitors as they prepare to kick off the 2021 season tomorrow with the start of the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite on the St. Johns River.
Fourth year Elite Series pro Caleb Sumrall is ready to get the season underway and is excited to tackle the vast and beautiful St. Johns River. This is Sumrall’s third trip to Palatka, but as much as this river might look like his native Louisiana waters, the Yamaha pro is quick to tell you this place doesn’t exactly fish like home.
One thing Sumrall has learned about Florida in February is just how much weather factors into a four-day Elite Series tournament. “Weather” has definitely been a buzzword today, just as it has been for every St. Johns River event. A warming trend has settled in to Northeast Florida this week and has anglers hopeful for what is to come.
“Based on the five-day forecast, I truly believe some giant Florida bass will flood the shallows to spawn during our derby,” Sumrall suspected. “But it’s so hard to predict where or when that will happen on a fishery like this. You hope you’re the guy who lands on them in the tournament, but you never really know this time of year in Florida.”
Sumrall’s experience on the St. Johns has shown that the giant bass this fishery is famous for do not just pull up all over the river to perform their spawning ritual. There might be miles of dead water in between productive spots. And with 101 of the best bass anglers in the world all looking for similar types of areas, this massive body of water could fish very small.
The potential for rainy or stormy conditions doesn’t concern Sumrall too much, as he is not planning to focus on sight fishing solely during this event. He’ll be primarily fishing for bass he believes to be spawning, but not necessarily looking at them. Overcast conditions could very well play into his favor if it affects anglers hoping to use their eyes to find and catch fish.
Sumrall trusts his Carhartt rainsuit to keep him comfortable no matter the conditions and doesn’t believe the wet weather will affect fish too negatively. One weather factor that does worry Sumrall is the chance of fog. As of 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday the fog still hadn’t lifted and anglers are expecting similar conditions tomorrow morning.
“The dense fog we’ve had the past two mornings definitely has me nervous,” Sumrall said. “You hate to have a fog delay and lose time in any tournament, but I really need every minute possible with the way the St. Johns is fishing this week.”
There is no doubt the weather will be a major player for Elite Series anglers this week, but it’s also something they cannot control. Instead of spending his time worrying, Sumrall is focusing on variables he can control and intends to start his 2021 Elite Series campaign off on the right foot.