Season of Fundraising Tournaments Arrives

Bass Assassin wormAnglers love to support worthy charities while competing on the water, and the season for these events has arrived.

Locally, the Wolfson Children’s Hospital fundraiser is the daddy of them all.   Held on the St. John’s River at Palatka, this one typically attracts around 400 teams and is billed as “The largest bass tournament east of the Mississippi”.  This year, the 28th annual “Wolfson” rolls around May 18-20.

The Save Rodman Reservoir Bass Tournament ranks number two in attendance and popularity.  The 2017 edition of the long-running battle to preserve the embattled reservoir goes out of Kenwood Landing on Saturday, April 15.  Fishing is excellent on Rodman, and nearly 200 boats are expected to compete.

The only nearby, annual fundraising bass tournament west of Interstate 75 is gaining steam fast.  This contest benefiting the Suwannee River Breast Cancer Awareness Association was held Saturday out of Ellie Ray’s RV Resort on the Santa Fe River.  The event usually draws around 100 teams, but this year, 127 boats fell out to hunt for bigmouths on the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers…and to support the worthy charity. 

As they do every year, participants scattered for many miles…some making impossibly-long runs past the Suwannee’s mouth.  But, in his Bass Tracker boat, Michael Craft stayed in the Santa Fe…running far up that little river.  And there, he located a stack of fish.  Anchoring his 18.77-pound five-bass limit was a whopping 8.57-pound bruiser—the biggest single fish and the best total weight of the day.  Andy and Chase Day finished in second place with 16.51, and Brandon and Deryl Williams nailed down third with a 16-pound limit.  Best of all, Tournament Director and organizer, Donnie Feagle reports the ever-growing bassing event succeeded in raising an astonishing $50K for the Suwannee River Breast Cancer Awareness Association.

The Wednesday Night Tournament Series on Lake Santa Fe is now in full swing, and catches seem to be increasing weekly.  Two Wednesdays back, 38 teams competed in perfect conditions.  The winners, Mike Meredith and Lester Harrington, had five bass weighing 11.30-pounds.  This Wednesday, a stiff southwest wind greeted 31 teams at take-off.  Fortunately, conditions improved toward nightfall.  Josh Griffis and Kyle Davis came out on top with 14.66-pounds.  The top three teams this week all topped last week’s winning weight.

A weekend that arrived considerably nicer than forecast made the saltwater anglers who stuck with their fishing plans happy they did….and it aggravated folks that cancelled based on the anticipated bluster.

When John Stork and Jane Inouye headed out of Suwannee Sunday morning, they found the seas nearly flat.  They stopped first on Hedemon Reef, where they trolled jigs and dusters to quickly pick up 15 Spanish mackerel.  John also hooked a bigger mack—a sizable kingfish that broke his wire leader.  Buoyed by success and stellar weather, they continued out to Spotty Bottom and found baitfish spread over acres of crystal-clear water just under 20 feet deep.  Still trolling green grubs and dusters, Stork and Inouye continued to hook mackerel.  They wrapped up the great fishing day with 23 of the largest Spanish on ice…fish up to nearly 4-pounds.  To boot, they also returned with kingfish limits—but the 31-pound test wire leader had proved a bit light to deal with the largest kings they hooked.

Hearing fetching fishing stories almost daily is a big perk that comes with working at Gary’s Tackle Box.  A really cool one was told on Wednesday, when Scott and Ty McClung came in for fresh line on their reels.  Seems that two Mondays ago, the Gainesville husband and wife went out from Cedar Key along with friend, Mike Sustana in search of Spanish mackerel.  But, at that time, the water temp on Seahorse Reef was still in the high sixties.  They only picked up one smallish fish.

The weather was nice, so the three headed on to the zone north of the reef known as The Kingfish Hole.  Drifting through the area, Ty bounced a Hot Lips jig across the bottom.  She was using light spinning tackle spooled with 6-pound test monofilament.  A fish struck and headed for the horizon. 

Fortunately, Ty’s drag was set perfectly…and there was barely enough line on the spool to turn the fish.  She battled for twenty minutes before finally bringing the beauty to the boat.  It was securely hooked in the corner of the mouth and that was a good thing.  They had no gaff or net.  Finally Scott remembered they had a gaff head—with no handle—aboard.  With it, he hauled aboard Ty’s 45-inch kingfish. 

Yes, with 6-pound test mono.

A bit later, Ty backed up her king catch with a fine 30-inch Spanish mackerel.  Her male co-anglers had caught very little, but “It was a great fishing day”, she said, “for me…”


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