PALATKA, Florida — Two Louisiana bass anglers are in good position to make the Top 20 and fish on Championship Monday in the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River.
Another Louisiana basser, Caleb Sumrall of New Iberia, has some catching up to do today to make the cut in the event that got underway Saturday instead of Thursday. High winds postponed Day One on Thursday and again on Friday, prompting B.A.S.S. officials to make it a three-day tournament starting Saturday and ending Monday.
Sumrall checked in with a five-bass limit weighing 10 pounds, 10 ounces, to put him in 28th place going into Day Two. He and the rest of the 88-angler field were scheduled to take off from Palatka City Boat Dock and Boat Ramp today at 6:15 a.m. and return for the weigh-in at 2:15 p.m. at Palataka Riverfront park.
The Elites fished Saturday in post-cold front conditions and started the morning just after sunrise with the temperature hanging around the 34-degree mark. It warmed up to sweatshirt temperature under bluebird skies and the bass bit for most of the bassers.
Gonazales bass angler Robbie Latuso left the stage after weighing in five bass for 17 pounds, 5 ounces, good enough to put him in seventh place and comfortably inside the Top 20. Monroe’s Brett Preutt’s limit weighed 12 pounds, 5 ounces, and left him in 19th place.
Sumrall, Latuso, Preutt and 83 other Elites went into the second day chasing Dadeville, Alabama, bass angler Kelley Jaye, whose five bass weighed a whopping 21 pounds, 7 ounces. Anchoring his pacesetting limit was a 9-pound, 2-ounce “hawg” that leads the race for the tournament’s Phoenix Boats Big Bass.
His first bass of the day was a 4 ½-pounder. Then he hooked and boated the big girl.
“When I caught those two big ones, I thought I was going to have a really big bag, based on what I’d caught in the past, but I’m pleased with what I had,” Jaye said after the weigh-in.
“It happened kind of fast. I had all my fish before 10 a.m. The bite slowed down, but they live here where I’m fishing. It’s a grind, just like last year. I’m only getting eight or nine bites a day, but they were good fish.”
The Alabama bass pro said he fished in 4- to 6-foot depths “offshore:” and caught the bass on a jerkbait.
Sumrall was as pumped as anyone to get on the water after being forced to miss the first two days of competition because of high winds. The New Iberia outdoorsman and the rest of the field prefished the waters Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before a scheduled off day on Wednesday.
On Friday, he pointed out that post-cold front conditions affect Florida-strain largemouth bass “a lot.”
“I think you’re going to see a lot of patterns, you know, guys fishing shallow, you may see some offshore fishing going on. It’s just going to be very, very interesting,” Sumrall said.
Paul Mueller of Naugatuck, Connecticut, was in second place with 20 pounds, 8 ounces. Clark Wendlandt of Leander, Texas, was in third place with 20 pounds.