Going Ike

March 21, 2011
Lessons relearned, part 1

The St. Johns River event is over. I can't tell you how happy it makes me to say that.

My problems started the first day of practice. I fished hard all day and only had a few bites. They were keepers, but nothing that I'd want in the livewell at the end of the day. The thing is, I saw bass on the beds everywhere I went.

That night (Monday) I got the bright idea that I'd start marking bed fish the next day. Why or how I came up with that I don't know. I mean, the truth is I suck as a bed fisherman. My friends Ish Monroe and John Crews have been helping me for the past couple of years, but it's been a struggle. I'm far enough along that I can catch the easy ones, but I'm no serious bed fisherman, that's for sure.

Come Tuesday morning I launched my boat, notebook in hand. By Wednesday afternoon I had marked 40 fish on beds weighing more than 4 pounds. No, you didn't read that wrong. I said 40 fish over 4 pounds. I really thought I was on something. As it turned out I was — a good, old-fashioned butt whoopin'.

On Thursday I was the 90th boat in the draw. By the time I got to my fish, they were either caught, gone or there was another boat sitting on them. I fished all day without catching one bass off a bed. I know that sounds impossible, but it's true — not one bed fish.

By the time the weigh-in rolled around, I'd managed five keepers that weighed a total of 10 pounds, 10 ounces. That's not exactly an impressive sack on the St. Johns River. Worse, I knew I'd made a bad mistake and was going to pay a heavy price for it.

On Friday, my launch position was better but I still had trouble. My bed fish that hadn't been caught had moved off. For the most part, it was a repeat of Thursday except that my five little keepers only weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces. In two days I caught a grand total of 18 pounds — good enough for 58th place.

How did this happen, you ask? Well, I didn't fish my strengths, and I didn't have a backup plan. I ignored the two most basic principles of competitive bass fishing.

First, I had no business only marking bedding bass for the last two days of practice. I'm not a bed fisherman. I should have been looking for prespawn or postspawn fish. I didn't because I didn't want to go to the scales with five little keepers. Tell me that's not ironic, considering that's exactly what I ended up doing.

I know what my strengths are and what they aren't. I should never have allowed myself to develop a pattern that forced me to fish into my weaknesses.

Next week we'll finish this sorry saga.