PALATKA, Fla. -- Months and even as recently as weeks ago pundits and anglers alike were saying that several pros would join the Century Club (a 4-day catch exceeding 100 pounds) at the St. John's River stop of the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series. Dubbed the Power-Pole Citrus Slam, this second stop has some of those pundits second-guessing their optimistic predictions.
Anglers report seeing more bedding bass than they've ever seen in any tournament before. But, these fish aren't typical bedding bass; they're super-spooky late spawners.
"This pressure makes it hard to deal with these late spawners," Davy Hite said. "They've been looked at and run over so much that they're weary about trolling motor noise and boat noise."
Rookie Nate Wellman is gambling that fish further away from the ramp are less pressured and therefore easier to catch. He's planning on making a 1-hour, 45-minute run this morning in the hopes of escaping the highly-pressured bass in the St. John's and its offshoots. Lake George lies roughly 28 miles (as the crow flies) to the south of Palatka, and is likely where Wellman and a handful of other pros will be fishing.
Though there are miles and miles of water available to pros, much of the field is finding that the river is fishing small. Several clear-water springs hold multitudes of spawning bass, making them popular spots.
"If you can find an area all to yourself, that's going to be key," Davy Hite said. "But, its also hard to do. A lot of us are going to be fishing in a crowd today, so it'll take a lot of patience. I prayed a lot this morning in the hopes of keeping calm today!"
Pre-tournament favorite Bobby Lane is still hopeful that huge stringers will make their way across the stage each day. He's guessing that 90 to 100 pounds will carry the tournament.
"Things were really starting to get good yesterday afternoon," the Lakeland, Fla., pro said. "If you find the right patch of eel grass, they'll be stacked up in there. But, there should also be boats stacked in there."
Grant Goldbeck is coming off of his best B.A.S.S. finish ever, and is teeming with confidence. Goldbeck was sight fishing in his runner-up finish on the Harris Chain. He believes that anglers need to target bedding bass this week to be competitive.
"There will be bigger bags this week; guys are going to whack 'em," he said. "My confidence level has me hopeful that I can go out there and catch 'em good again and be in the running. That's all you can hope for.
"Having that bit of success really makes this thing addictive," he said. "It makes me want to continue doing this and get back in there and be competitive."