Big Bass saves the tournament

One thing about competitive fishing is you just never know what kind of conditions will be put in front of you in a tournament. The first Bassmaster Elite Series event of the season took place this past weekend on the St. John’s River in Florida and we were faced with multiple cancelled days due to weather.
The typical format for these tournaments has the full field of 88 anglers fishing the first two days of the tournament (Thursday/Friday). The field is then cut to the top 40 for day three, followed by the top ten moving on to fish the fourth and final day. Weights are carried forward through each day of the tournament.
We fished at the St. John’s River to start last season and after a few days of practice it became apparent that the fishing was going to be much different this time around. Last year, there was a parade of big bass dropped on the scales but it was clear early in the week that the same scenario was not going to play out this year. Some cooler weather combined with a lack of vegetation made the fishing tougher than it was last year. It was difficult to even catch five fish throughout the practice days.
For most of these tournaments I stay with four other anglers and we rent houses for the week at each venue we visit. Those other anglers are fellow Canadians Chris and Cory Johnston, Seth Feider and Chris Groh. We have a good time together and share some fishing information throughout the week with hopes that we all catch fish. Some of the guys were going through a whole day of practice without catching a fish so we all knew it was going to be a challenging tournament.
I felt okay going into the tournament because I had found one area that seemed to have a decent number of fish around it so I figured if I just spent as much time as I could in that zone and fished slow I would be able to grind out my five fish limit each day.
The first morning of the tournament I got to the boat ramp only to get a text message from Bassmaster saying that the first day of the tournament would be cancelled because of strong winds. I was disappointed because I had practiced for the wind, so the places I had found would not have been affected by it all that much.
The same scenario played out on day two and it was cancelled as well. Something I had never seen before, two tournament days in a row, cancelled. On the second cancelled day I went fishing on a nearby lake with one of my fellow competitors, Carl Jocumsen. He is actually from Australia and we have formed a good friendship over the past few years fishing against each other. It was nice to catch a few fish and get a few bites. I was ready to start this tournament.
Finally, on our third try, the conditions allowed us to get out on the water but while the wind died off, the temperatures dropped significantly, with temperatures at take-off being only around 4 degrees Celsius. Florida bass do not like cold weather and they can be very hard to catch. I went to the area that I was confident in and it did not work out. I lost a couple of fish and fished hard all day, only to catch three small bass. Not how I wanted to start the season.
It turned into a shortened event after the two cancelled days, with the full field fishing two days, then the top twenty fishing a final day. It was still cold when we blasted off on day two. I went back to the area that I knew had some fish and was rewarded on my third cast of the morning with a seven pound bass that really got the ball rolling for the day. It took me all day to catch my five fish limit but I managed to get it done. My nearly 15 pound catch moved me from 70th up to 41st.
While I’m disappointed with my first day, I did end up finishing in the money and saved a bunch of points so I’ll take it. It could have been a lot worse had I not caught that big fish on the second day.
I’m headed home for a couple of weeks before I come back for the Bassmaster Classic tournament the first week of March.
Time to go ice fishing!