Today was moving day on the St. Johns River and with the exception of leader John Crews who kept his foot on the gas, the only thing that was predic
Today was moving day on the St. Johns River and with the exception of leader John Crews who kept his foot on the gas, the only thing that was predictable was that the leaderboard would experience significant tumult. Anglers who’d crushed ‘em on Day 1 were flummoxed on Day 2, which gave a number of pros who’d seemed out of it to jump back into the hunt.
Don’t expect that paradigm to change. With changing weather a constant, and less pressure out there tomorrow, we could see some further reorganization of the leader board. Yes, Crews has a lead of nearly 10 pounds, which seems virtually insurmountable. Typically on northern fisheries, where keepers are common but the fish tend to be cookie cutters, it’s tough to come back from a deficit that big. A rare exception to that rule is 2017 Elite at Champlain, when Aaron Martens came back from 19th place entering the final day to win. But anytime Florida strain fish are in play, the chance for a massive comeback (perhaps enabled by a massive drop off) exists. Will we see it this week?
What’s the formula? – Usually it takes two times the Day 1 cut weight, plus a pound, to make the cut to Day 3. After Day 1, 47th place was 11-03, so the formula would give us a cut weight of 23-06. Luke Palmer snuck in with 20-15, almost 2 1/2 pounds off that mark. If you were to apply that formula to the Top 10 (18-15 was 10th place after Day 1), that gives you 38-14. That drop was even greater – Chris Johnson is in 10th with 29-05.
Ice water in his veins – Early in today’s coverage we watched Matty Wong hook a fish on 8-pound line. The bass wrapped him up in a log, and despite substantial efforts to get it unwound, eventually he had no choice but to force the issue. The line broke. That in itself is disappointing but unremarkable. What was amazing was the rookie’s response. “Well, that’s unfortunate,” he said calmly. “That’s also my fault for throwing such light line.” Many more seasoned pros would have lost their cool after such an incident. So far, he’s not just impressive technically, he’s also the real deal emotionally. He didn’t have a great day (2 fish for 6-12), but he showed his mettle.
Speaking of spinning gear – Tournament leader John Crews also had a spinning rod in his hand a lot of the time. So did Stetson Blaylock (3rd place). On LIVE, Davy Hite talked extensively about how skittish some of these fish are, particularly those back in the springs. Most of us think of Florida as being a power fishing haven, but even if finesse isn’t the primary driver this week, it might be what puts someone over the top – or that extra bare keeper may earn them several thousand dollars.
Another afternoon surge – As of noon, BassTrakk reported that only 10 of the 94 anglers had 10 or more pounds today, topped off by Caleb Sumrall’s 17-0. He had just passed into double digits a half hour earlier when he landed a 9 pound-plus giant. Austin Felix had the next best reported daily weight at that time. What does that mean going forward? It’s quite possible that we could see a major shakeup on the afternoon of Days 3 and 4, so keep watching. It ain’t over until it’s over.
Speak softly and carry a big stick – In a field full of distinctive personalities like Seth Feider, Matt Robertson, the returning Mike Iaconelli and rookie Matty Wong, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the quieter guys. Stetson Blaylock is one of those quiet guys, workmanlike in the same way as a Bill Lowen, with comparable results. After a successful career at FLW, he’s headed to his third consecutive Classic, all before his 35th birthday. We know he knows how to win because he got a big blue trophy at Winyah Bay a few years back. He’s due for a major title, either a Classic or an AOY, and so far this week is a good start.
You can’t go home again? – The last three St. Johns Elite winners all struggled on Day 2: Paul Mueller had 2 fish for 3-15; Bryan New had 2 for 3-3; and Rick Clunn had 1 for 3-14. Only New made the cut, in 42nd with 21-14.
Nature’s revenge – If you haven’t seen the footage of Paul Mueller getting attacked by a resident owl, check it out asap on the tournament blog. Both Mueller and Rick Clunn are past winners here on the St. Johns, and both seem to have owls on the brain. Last week on the Bassmaster website Clunn wrote “if you want to learn the owl, study the mouse.” Alas, Mueller was a bit too startled to study anything. Instead, he just took evasive actions.
Hopeful Quote of the Day – Davy Hite: “I think we’ll see a double-digit fish, if not today, then tomorrow.” Brandon Cobb’s Day 1 9-13 beast remains the big fish for the tournament so far. Caleb Sumrall had a 9-7 today. Maybe tomorrow’s the day, but how cool would it be to see a last minute giant on Sunday to either seal the deal or jump forward from a bit back in the pack to win?
Tough Quote of the Day – Cliff Prince: “I’d like to hit the reset button for sure, but if I did I don’t know what I’d do.”