With a quick turnaround this week, there isn’t going to be much time to take a deep-dive into the research. If that concerns you, let me ease your mind. My immense research wasn’t worth a whole hillabeans last week. Ultimately, my downfall was choosing a few sentimental favorites, plus a bunch of guys who have the best history of anyone in the whole field. Guys like Hackney and Prince really bit me. Looking back, I’m not sure I would have done much different, but this time, I’m going to shake it up and pick primarily guys who specify in the techniques that should play here and place history down a rung or two.
That said, those techniques will (almost) all circle around fishing in the grass. Each of the lakes within the Harris Chain have plenty of grass, including eel grass, lily pads, reeds, Kissimmee grass and more. You might see a few anglers find something special offshore too.
We saw the beginning of the spawn last week on the St. Johns River. Looking at the forecast, it’s lining up to be a perfect collision of upward-trending daytime temperatures and much warmer nights. I’m calling it now; this tournament will be an absolute slugfest.
The winners will almost certainly have to trick some ham-slammers off their beds, whether they’re looking at them or not. In fact, cloudy skies are likely as the week progresses which will make sight fishing difficult.
Table of Contents
BUCKET A: COX
I have a gut feeling that I’m not the only one who is going to land on John Cox in Bucket A. Live sonar and the like will be all but obsolete and you probably won’t look at your graph except to check the water temperatures or check the time. That suits Cox perfectly. He just wrapped up a solid finish on the St. Johns River anchored by a giant Day 3 stringer of one ounce shy of 32-pounds! He is a master sight fisherman and isn’t afraid to get in the skinniest water available to him. Solely as a bonus, he has a lot of history here, fishing it multiple times with other tours as well as the Bassmaster Opens and owns a myriad of solid finishes.
Don’t forget about: Drew Cook
Drew Cook started off his campaign on the St. Johns River in the same way he finished the Open on Kissimmee the week before – dismally. With only three fish for four-pounds on Day 1, his tournament should have been over, but he battled back over the next three days to finish in ninth. He is a great sight fisherman and loves shallow water fishing. Hopefully he can keep it going strong this week.
BUCKET B: LIVESAY
Big bass will be the name of the game and the big bass hammer jammer, Lee Livesay is here to play. He loves to catch giant prespawn fish and is equally good at catching them of the bed. Add some grass to the mix and he becomes an obvious pick. Last week he had a decent finish, but consistency was his Achilles heel. This one should have them coming in waves, so it will certainly be about finding the right areas. However, execution and fish management may be more critical then simply being around them if you want to win. He hasn’t ever fished a professional tournament here, but he hadn’t fished Chickamauga either and look what happened there!
Don’t forget about: Brandon Lester
Brandon Lester had just gotten through setting up his trophy case in the man-cave and filling it with a trophy from the Open on Kissimmee Chain when it was time to fish the St. Johns River event. He had a decent finish last week with a 28th. Whether flipping grass, picking docks apart, or sight-fishing, he could be lethal.
BUCKET C: COBB
Brandon Cobb has shown us time and time again how strong he is when it comes to fishing the spawn. He is also wanting to take as much momentum into the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell as possible. It is one of his favorite lakes and is coming up in just a few weeks. He will likely work hard to find spawning fish, but is very comfortable adjusting to find prespawn bass or flip them up from deep in the grass.
Don’t forget about: Scott Martin
Floridian Scott Martin struggled in both attempts in the Elite season opener. However, he is simply too good to consistently struggle so close to home. The Harris Chain is a body of water he is very familiar with and even though he hasn’t finished strong in Florida so far in his Elite career, he is suited for this type of fishery.
BUCKET D: HACKNEY
The next several picks both have one thing in common. They’re just too good to have two bad events in a row. On paper, Greg Hackney, was a shoo-in to finish high at the St. Johns River. The bass had other plans and he posted his worst finish by far at this venue with a 58th place finish. There is not a more ferocious competitor in the field and when he gets bloodied, he will come back swinging. He is equally built to do well here. The bass better watch out.
Don’t forget about: Clark Wendlandt
Another stellar sight-fisherman, Clark Wendlandt, had a tough event last week and is ready to bounce back. He has some experience here this time of year with previous tours, so he should be able to break down the best parts of the lake quickly to find the juice.
BUCKET E: KENNEDY
The highs and lows of Stephen Kennedy can be tough to stomach, but sometimes you have to take a leap. The last two times the Elites visited the Harris Chain were in 2008 and 2011 and Kennedy found himself with solid finishes in both. If he can slow down and fish thoroughly, which is required in Florida, he may avoid a roller coaster event.
Don’t forget about: Kyle Welcher
Kyle Welcher is no longer a fresh rookie, but a seasoned competitor. As he continues to find his stride, you’ll see him finishing more and more towards the top. Shallow grass, spawning fish and an expansive fishery should allow him to put plenty of his strengths to work.
Drain the Lake
I managed a below average score in the five-bucket game, but struck gold in the Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge, starting off the season in the top 98%. Most of my picks were specific to Florida, so that leaves me with plenty of options for the rest of the season.
Here are the picks for round two.
- Matt Arey
- Scott Canterbury
- John Cox
- Bill Lowen
- Chad Morgenthaler
- Bryan Schmitt
- Kyle Welcher
- Clark Wendlandt