After the shortest offseason that I’ve experienced in my tournament fishing career, the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series season starts this week at the St. John’s River in Florida. The 2020 season wrapped up in early November in Texas so it was a quick turnaround to get ready for the new season. It was a busy couple of months for me, working on the sponsorship side of things, rigging a new boat and getting all of my fishing gear re-organized.
For me, the sponsorships are a big deal and allow me to pursue my career as a professional tournament angler. Our entry fees for the season are heavy, in addition to all of the travel expenses that are incurred being on the road for weeks at a time. As a regular guy, I don’t get to do this without their help so it’s an important aspect of my business. Each sponsor has different requirements but for the most part, I am expected to take advantage of any media opportunities I come across and be active on my social media pages throughout the year. The tournament results give credibility and can help to promote products but they are not as important as the overall number of impressions I can get through the various media opportunities.
Since competing in these tournaments is my main source of income, I was permitted to cross the border and come to the U.S. to participate in the events. This pandemic has not been convenient for any of us so I’m very grateful that I’m able to go and fish. I’m doing all I can to stay safe during my activities.
I arrived in Florida last week to get in a few days of fishing before we get serious this week. With a new boat, I like to put some time in with it before I get into competition to work out any bugs or glitches that might pop up. This boat has been great so far, without any issues. It’s nice to knock the rust off on the fishing and casting as well, and just get back into the swing of things.
It’s the third year in a row that we’re visiting the St. John’s River to start the season. Hitting the same body of water multiple years in a row is kind of unusual for our circuit because there are other lakes in Florida that are popular tournament sites. The host community of Palatka is a great place to hold a tournament and even though my finishes the past couple of years haven’t been great, I’m looking forward to the fishing this week.
The weather was nice when I first arrived in Florida but of course a cold front followed me down from Canada. It was cold and windy most of the week, which made the fishing pretty tough but it was really nice to be in the boat. I know there is no sympathy from anybody in NW Ontario on the weather down here but it wasn’t nice for fishing, that’s what I’ll say.
Former Winnipeg Jets star defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, who retired last year and now lives in Minnesota jumped in with me on my way south to help me with the big drive to Florida and fished with me for five days before heading back up north. He had some good stories from his hockey career and we had a good time exploring lakes in central Florida. Because the weather was challenging the fishing was not awesome but I was fortunate to catch a bass over nine pounds, which was the highlight of the week.
We’re going to have decent weather this week, which will make the fishing better over the coming days. The St. John’s is full of big largemouth bass so it’s a certainty that there will be some photo worthy bass cross the stage. In each of the last two years the big bass of the event was over ten pounds. I have beefed up the line on a few of my rods this week to be ready for anything.
The tournament starts Thursday and runs through Sunday. The Bassmaster website will have great coverage of the event this week. They even have a fantasy fishing league for anybody interested in participating, where you can win some pretty good prizes. Following the St. John’s tournament we have a week off before fishing the second event on the Tennessee River, out of Knoxville, TN.