PALATKA, Fla. – What does a tournament bass fisherman do when he’s unexpectedly given a day off, like the Elite Series anglers were Thursday following the postponement due to high winds on the St. Johns River? He goes bass fishing, of course.
“When you get up at 4 in the morning, you’ve got to go fishing,” said Patrick Walters, recounting the previous day while waiting to launch Friday morning at the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite. Then came the word of a second-straight canceled tournament day. Patrick’s father, Todd, announced they were going back to nearby Rodman Reservoir, just like they did the day before.
Last year Rodman Reservoir was included in the tournament waters at the St. Johns. This year it’s off-limits. There’s a drawdown at the lake and fishing regulations are catch-and-release only. Patrick and Todd Walters were joined by several other Elite Series anglers there yesterday.
“We went there thinking we were going to crush ‘em,” Patrick said. “My dad hadn’t fished in about three months. I thought we’d catch about 30 fish. Supposedly, it’s been on fire. But it was a grinder. We caught seven fish all day. We were thinking we were going to catch them flipping with 65-pound braid. We ended up catching them on a crankbait and a (Zoom Ultra Vibe) Speed Worm.
“I talked to a lot of my buddies. They didn’t catch them either. (Thursday’s cancellation) might have been a blessing in disguise. The fish really didn’t want to bite with the weather and the front coming in. Everybody was thinking the fish were going to really turn on, but it was a struggle for some reason. Florida fish in general do not like change.”
By the way, father, Todd, beat son, Patrick, 4-3 on the fish count Thursday.
“I lost a big one that would have been the tiebreaker,” Patrick said. “That’s how it goes. When you take the old man fishing, he still beats up on you every now and then.”
Patrick Walters beat up on the St. Johns River bass in this Elite Series event last year. The then-24-year-old rookie announced his presence on the circuit with a fourth-place finish in his first event of the 2019 Elite Series. He weighed a 32-pound, 15-ounce five-bass limit on Day 3 that had him in second place going into the final. The Summerville, S.C., angler finished the season 16th in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings and qualified for this year’s Bassmaster Classic at Alabama’s Lake Guntersville next month.
But, as for the immediate task at hand, when this tournament begins Saturday, everyone is working off a clean slate. The last practice day was Tuesday.
“We are bed-fishing here, fishing for spawners,” Walters said. “That’s usually how you win here. We won’t have fished (the St. Johns) in three days. We were all going to fish what we had marked on a (spawning) bed. Usually, you want to be there the next morning, first thing. Three days is a big gap. Everybody is essentially going pre-fishing Saturday. It’s going to be a new body of water.”
Walters isn’t complaining. In fact, he thinks the three-day gap adds an element of excitement to the tournament.
“No one has got any fish they’d had their thumb on,” he said. “If you had spawning fish, it’s going to be completely different.”
Walters noted that the anglers who were concentrating on the deeper mussel shell beds might — emphasis on “might” — have an advantage Saturday. In the meantime, Walters is going back to Rodman Reservoir today to see if he can pick up a few keys for success on the St. Johns River Saturday.