Billed as the largest bass tournament east of the Mississippi, last Saturday’s 27th Wolfson Children’s Hospital Tournament out of Palatka on the St. Johns River drew a huge field of competitors — this time, 466 teams. The St. Johns offers the only North Florida waterway large enough to satisfy such a crowd, and it produced well again as it has since 1989.
This table lists top fishing times and days for Sunday-June 12. For best results, begin fishing one hour before and continue one hour after the times given. Times apply to all time zones.
Butch McKee and Glenn Rogers Jr. ended up at the top of the big heap of anglers, bringing in a five-bass tourney limit weighing 25.26 pounds. A fine 7.15-pounder helped their cause. Among the competing Gainesville anglers, Jay Daily and Zac Weimer finished highest after benefiting from a last-minute bite in Rodman Reservoir. Late in the day, the Gainesville men were one bass short of a limit with a long boat ride ahead and a set of locks to negotiate. They were about to head back toward Palatka when Daily made one more pitch with his Gambler worm. “Last casts” can be magical, and this one certainly was, producing an 8.26-pound whopper that would be the big tournament’s third-biggest single fish. It also finished the limit and bumped the team’s total weight to 17.20—good for 21st place.
This week’s overdue rain should help out local lakes whose levels had fallen noticeably through April and early May. The three inches that fell on Cross Creek Tuesday evening was a good start toward keeping access easy on Orange and Lochloosa, where bass action is good and cane pole fishers using grass shrimp for bait are pulling in big catches of bluegill and shellcracker.
The best nearby bream fishing, though, might be found on the St. John’s River near Palatka, where boat access is far less dependent upon rainfall. Thomas and Taj Jones, pre-fishing for the huge upcoming Wolfson Children’s Hospital Bass Tournament, have taken time to break out the telescopic poles for bream. Fishing crickets around boat docks north of Palatka along the river’s east shore, the Gainesville father-and-son have pulled in limits of big bluegill and shellcracker (with occasional catfish) for three weekends running.
Saturday’s 27th Annual Wolfson event, billed as the largest bass tournament east of the Mississippi, will attract hundreds of competing teams that will scatter through the vast river system, from Jacksonville to Crescent Lake, Rodman Reservoir, Lake George, and farther upriver yet. The bassing is good all around, and plenty of impressive catches should be displayed at the long-lasting weigh-in.
Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife
A months-long dry spell has our lake levels falling and anglers anxious for the coming, wetter season. Meanwhile, gulf shallows recently stirred up by an extended windy spell and further darkened by a high, spilling Suwannee River are gradually clearing. As the water clears, overall action is improving.
Unusually large numbers of a seldom-targeted hot weather visitors are present in the gulf shallows from Homosassa to Horseshoe Beach. More tripletail are being spotted and hooked these days than we can ever recall. If you’ve never caught one of the tasty but odd-looking pelagics, this is looking like a great year to change that.
Many of the best tripletail reports are coming from the Homosassa/Crystal River area. Two Fridays ago, Doug Henderson and Jim Wilson were fishing the clear Homosassa flats on their first trip to the area. Casting shrimp set under floats in water 5-feet deep, their primary target was trout. While they fished, Henderson saw a funny looking fish free-jump. He wound in quickly and made a long cast to that area… and his float went down right away. While Henderson fought his fish, Wilson hooked another hard-pulling fish. After battling the double hook-up for a while, both of the Gainesville men boated their fish. And they were more than surprised that both were tripletail in the 12-pound range.
Photo: Builders Association of North Central Florida
There are a lot of fishing tournaments these days, but few have been around as long as the Family Fun Fishing Tournament held by the Builders Association of North Central Florida (BANCF). Saturday, the Plantation Inn of Crystal River saw the group’s 52nd annual event.
Young anglers are always featured prominently in BANCF tournaments, and a good number of kids again participated in the big fishing day. As usual, the youngsters pulled in lots of fine catches. Jesse Crehore hauled in a fine 5.2-pound redfish, Austin Roscow took a 4.7 red, and John Michael Roscow hauled in a 4.6 red (sporting nine spots). Joe Cauthen’s red came in at 3.1, and Jordan Schutte’s keeper weighed 2.7. Briley Cauthen bagged a speckled trout weighing 1.7. Ridge and Gauge Robinson, Ray J. Cason, Sela Cason, and Cade Billings all weighed in keeper trout, as well. Cade also caught a Spanish mackerel.
Reid Wagner must have been worn out after whipping his 22.9-pound Amberjack to top that category.