By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Following is some pattern and gear information for the 2nd- through 5th-place finishers at last week's St. Johns River Bassmaster Elite Series.
2nd: Greg Hackney
> Day 1: 5, 12-07
> Day 2: 5, 22-10
> Day 3: 5, 23-06
> Day 4: 5, 11-07
> Total = 20, 69-14
Greg Hackney had two big days in his first tournament back on the circuit following a 2-year hiatus spent with the MLF Bass Pro Tour, but the first and last rounds were a bit of a struggle.
"I caught all of my fish out of Lake George and I never caught one that wasn't spawning," he said. "The first day I fished to fast – that was a short day (due to a fog delay of almost 2 hours) and I was around the same fish I caught the next 2 days, but I was in a hurry because I only had about 3 hours to fish and I caught mostly males."
He fished extremely slow and frequently made multiple casts to likely spawning locations. He couldn't see fish on the beds, but he'd sometimes detect movement that would reveal their locations.
"I targeted wood because there's no grass left in that lake," he said. "I knew where they historically spawned when the grass was there and I checked around those places and found that wood.
He had no competition for his fish – he never saw another angler on any of the 4 tournament days. Every fish he weighed was enticed by a Strike King Rage Bug.
> Flipping gear: 7'6" heavy-action Lew's Hack Attack flipping stick, Lew's Pro-TI casting reel (7.5:1 ratio), 25-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line, 1/4- or 5/16-ounce Strike King Tour Grade tungsten weight, 5/0 Strike King Hack Attack flipping hook, Strike King Rage Bug (junebug in low-light conditions or watermelon red when sunny).
Seth Feider bounced back from a bad first day to post a 3rd-place finish.
3rd: Seth Feider
> Day 1: 5, 8-03
> Day 2: 5, 18-08
> Day 3: 5, 25-08
> Day 4: 5, 17-03
> Total = 20, 69-06
Seth Feider bounced back from a lackluster first day by catching 10 more pounds on day 2 and then another 7 pounds over that in the third round. He targeted spawning fish that he couldn't see in a complex of mostly short canals.
"I had a marginal practice and I thought I could catch maybe 15 pounds a day," he said. "I was getting some 3- and 4-pounders, but nothing real big.
"When I found those fish they were still staging and I caught a couple nice ones burning a ChatterBait. Day 1 was short and I tried that, but I didn't have a big. On day 2 I settled down and fished slower with a light Texas rig and I came to the conclusion that they were locked on beds and that's why they wouldn't bite the ChatterBait anymore.
He targeted any irregularity in the seawalls and small lily-pad clumps.
"The canals were tight and I pretty much had to stay down the middle," he said. "I'd turn my graphs off and put the trolling motor on a low setting and creep through there. I'd pitch (the bait) around and drag it or shake it and if I thought one should be spawning in a particular place, I'd make multiple casts there.
"At the pace I was fishing, it took me all day to fish the whole thing once. I really never went back to anything."
> Pitching gear: 7' medium-heavy Daiwa Tatula Elite Brent Ehrler Signature Series rod, Daiwa Steez CT casting reel (8:1 ratio), 30-pound Sufix 832 braided line, 17-pound Sufix Advance fluorocarbon leader, 3/16-ounce Woo Tungsten weight, 3/0 straight-shank worm hook, Z-Man Bang StickZ (black laminate).
Patrick Walters weighed a jaw-dropping 26-07 on day 3.
4th: Patrick Walters
> Day 1: 5, 13-03
> Day 2: 5, 19-00
> Day 3: 5, 26-07
> Day 4: 5, 10-03
> Total = 20, 68-13
Patrick Walters was another guy who bounced back from a slow first day to post a high finish.
"I had a good practice, but I was definitely disappointed in day 1," he said. "We had the fog delay and I was locking into Rodman (Reservoir). I didn't get much time to fish and I lost two good ones that would've put me up around the 15- or 17-pound mark."
He made long casts with a jerkbait to isolated stumps, lily pads and standing timber and often followed it up with a wacky rig. He also used the worm to probe shallow cover. He used his Garmin LiveScope unit to evaluate cover rather than see fish.
He deduced that some of his fish were spawning and others were on the verge of going to the beds.
He weighed a strong bag on day 2 and a monstrous stringer on day 3 to move to the top of the standings, but was stymied by the conditions in the final round.
"Some low pressure came in with that storm and there was a bunch of pollen in the water – I couldn't see 30 feet in front of me with the LiveScope," he said. "The fish got weird – they got off the jerkbait and they didn't want the wacky rig either. It was a strange day."
> Jerkbait gear: 7' medium-light Daiwa Tatula Bass Jerkbait rod, Daiwa Steez CT SV TW casting reel (8:1 ratio), 14-pound Sufix Advance fluorocarbon line, 13 Fishing Loco (black lavender).
> Wacky-rig gear: 7'4" medium-action Daiwa Tatula Elite spinning rod, size 4000 Daiwa Certate spinning reel, 30-pound Sufix 131 braid (main line), 14-pound Sufix Advance fluorocarbon (leader), size 1 VMC Neko hook, VMC Crossover Ring, Zoom Zlinky (blueberry).
Mark Menendez's four bags were all within 1 1/2 pounds of each other.
5th: Mark Menendez
> Day 1: 5, 16-02
> Day 2: 5, 17-05
> Day 3: 5, 17-08
> Day 4: 5, 16-06
> Total = 20, 67-05
Mark Menendez had a satisfying return to competition after sitting out 2020 due to a back injury.
"I was really pleased," he said. "I was very tentative about my boat-driving so I didn't go all that far. I'd say I'm at about 90 percent and I don't know if it'll ever get much better than that so I'm just going to have to do some things a little differently."
He displayed great consistency as there wasn't even a 1 1/2-pound difference among any of his four bags.
"In Florida, normally you get one or two big bites and you're a hero, but I wasn't around the really big ones," he said. "I had a 5-09 on the first day, then nothing bigger than 4 3/4 on days 2 and 3 and a 5-03 the last day, but vast majority of my fish were 2 3/4 to 3 1/4. I banked on those instead of the one big bite."
He spent the tournament in Crescent Lake and had one place that featured cypress trees and sand and another that consisted of a small current break in 3 to 5 feet of water. He threw a Strike King Space Monkey creature bait on the former and a Rage Craw on the latter.
> Flipping gear: 7'6" Lew's Mag Heavy Cover Custom Speed Stick, Lew's HyperMag casting reel (7.5:1 ratio), 20-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 1/4-ounce Strike King Tour Grade tungsten weight, 5/0 Gamakatsu straight-shank hook, Strike King Space Monkey (junebug).
> He used the same rod, reel line and hook for the Rage Craw (Alabama craw), but employed a 5/16-ounce slip sinker.