Brandon Lester Leads Day One of 2016 Elite Series St. Johns River

Bucks Skeeter Yamaha
Atlas Jack Plate
Lews Fishing
Power Pole
Lews Fishing
Bucks Falcon Mercury
Strike King
MonsterTopAd

2016 Elite Series St. John's River Day One Leader Brandon Lester - photo by Seigo Saito - Bassmaster

2016 Elite Series St. John’s River Day One Leader Brandon Lester – photo by Seigo Saito – Bassmaster

PALATKA, Fla. — During the final round of practice for the Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River presented by Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Tennessee angler Brandon Lester found a giant largemouth bass on a spawning bed.

He was so excited about the fish that he texted some of his family members and told them to pay attention to Bassmaster.com when the tournament began, because he thought he could make something special happen early.

Hopefully they took it to heart.

Lester went straight to the big fish Thursday morning — and caught it on his fourth cast — to set the tone for a fantastic day of sight fishing. The bass, which weighed 9 pounds, 3 ounces, anchored a five-fish limit that tipped the scales at 23-13 and gave Lester the opening-round lead.

“Honestly, I thought the fish was about a 6 1/2- or 7-pounder,” said Lester, who is seeking his first B.A.S.S. win. “Once they get over 7 pounds, when they’re sitting in the water, it’s hard to tell.”

When anglers find fish on spawning beds one day, it’s usually a safe bet they’ll still be there the next. So Lester went prepared to fish for the giant bass Thursday morning with a heavy rod, strong braided line and a big lure.

After seeing that the big female fish wasn’t interested in heavy tackle, he switched to a lighter spinning rig in hopes of catching the smaller male bass that was guarding the bed.

But things didn’t work out like he planned.

“I picked my spinning rod up with a little wacky rig,” Lester said. “The male grabbed it, and I missed him twice. I pitched back in there, and the bait started swimming off again. When I set the hook, it was the big fish.”

That left Lester to battle a gigantic bass on a lighter rod with 12-pound-test line — in a tournament where landing nets aren’t allowed.

“It was chaos for a minute,” he said. “But it worked out OK.”

With much of the field sight fishing for bedding bass, it could be difficult for anglers to duplicate their Day 1 results when Friday’s second round begins. Many of the fish that were located during practice were caught Thursday, and it’s hard to say for sure if more will move up during the tournament.

Still, Lester said he feels good about his prospects — and he doesn’t believe the approaching cold front will have much of an effect on the spawning cycle.

“We’re coming up on the full moon, so hopefully that’ll overtake the cold front,” he said. “The water is 76 degrees, so it should be warm enough that the cold front won’t drop it down — at least not enough to run the fish off the beds.”

Elite Series newcomer Drew Benton of Panama City, Fla., is second with 22-15, and Cliff Crochet of Pierre Part, La., is third with 22-14. Crochet suffered a 4-ounce penalty for weighing in a dead fish.

If the weather does turn nasty with wind and rain, Benton said it could actually work in his favor.

“A lot of the guys who can catch them when it’s slick and sunny are kind of struggling a little bit,” Benton said. “But when it’s cloudy and windy, that’s kind of when I excel. I’ve got young eyes, and I can see them a little bit better.”

Benton conceded, however, that the bedding fish could grow scarce after Friday’s second round.

“I spent the last half of the day marking some fish, and I plan to go out Friday and catch as much weight as I can,” he said. “Then I’ll just kind of scramble around the last two days.

“That’s the thing about sight fishing tournaments — you’ve kind of got to burn them and look for new fish as the week goes on.”

Despite the dead-fish penalty, Crochet had one of the better days he’s had in recent memory. After earning only one check on the Elite Series in 2015, he’s within striking distance of his first career win with B.A.S.S.

“About halfway through last year, I could tell things just weren’t going right,” Crochet said. “I’ve been waiting for a day like this pretty much since the end of the 2014 season.

“It’s been a long time coming.”

The tournament will resume Friday, with takeoff at Palatka City Dock at 7:15 a.m. ET. The weigh-in is set to begin at 3:30 at Palatka Riverfront Park.

2016 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Toyota, Berkley, GoPro, Huk, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha

2016 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Academy Sports + Outdoors, A.R.E. Truck Caps, Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Rapala, Shell Rotella, Shimano

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Nation, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.

2016 Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River presented by Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels 3/17-3/20
St. Johns River, Palatka  FL.
(PROFESSIONAL) Standings Day 2

Angler                   Hometown              No./lbs-oz  Pts   Total $$$

1.  Brandon Lester         Fayetteville, TN         5  23-13    0
Day 1: 5   23-13     Day 2: 0   00-00
2.  Drew Benton            Panama City, FL          5  22-15    0
Day 1: 5   22-15     Day 2: 0   00-00
3.  Cliff Crochet          Pierre Part, LA          5  22-14    0
Day 1: 5   22-14     Day 2: 0   00-00
4.  Randall Tharp          Port St. Joe, FL         5  22-10    0
Day 1: 5   22-10     Day 2: 0   00-00
5.  Cliff Pace             Petal, MS                5  21-10    0
Day 1: 5   21-10     Day 2: 0   00-00
5.  Jason Williamson       Wagener, SC              5  21-10    0
Day 1: 5   21-10     Day 2: 0   00-00
7.  Mark Menendez          Paducah, KY              5  21-06    0
Day 1: 5   21-06     Day 2: 0   00-00
8.  Greg Hackney           Gonzales, LA             5  21-05    0
Day 1: 5   21-05     Day 2: 0   00-00
9.  Dean Rojas             Lake Havasu City, AZ     5  21-00    0
Day 1: 5   21-00     Day 2: 0   00-00
10. Jordan Lee             Grant, AL                5  20-15    0
Day 1: 5   20-15     Day 2: 0   00-00
11. Kevin VanDam           Kalamazoo, MI            5  20-09    0
Day 1: 5   20-09     Day 2: 0   00-00
12. Edwin Evers            Talala, OK               5  20-05    0
Day 1: 5   20-05     Day 2: 0   00-00
13. Randy Howell           Guntersville, AL         5  20-01    0
Day 1: 5   20-01     Day 2: 0   00-00
13. Billy McCaghren Jr     Mayflower, AR            5  20-01    0
Day 1: 5   20-01     Day 2: 0   00-00
15. Mike McClelland        Bella Vista, AR          5  19-15    0
Day 1: 5   19-15     Day 2: 0   00-00
16. Keith Combs            Huntington, TX           5  19-14    0
Day 1: 5   19-14     Day 2: 0   00-00
17. Luke Clausen           Otis Orchards, WA        5  19-13    0
Day 1: 5   19-13     Day 2: 0   00-00
18. John Crews Jr          Salem, VA                5  19-08    0
Day 1: 5   19-08     Day 2: 0   00-00
18. Brent Ehrler           Newport Beach, CA        5  19-08    0
Day 1: 5   19-08     Day 2: 0   00-00
20. Josh Bertrand          Gilbert, AZ              5  19-07    0
Day 1: 5   19-07     Day 2: 0   00-00
21. Alton Jones            Lorena, TX               5  19-02    0
Day 1: 5   19-02     Day 2: 0   00-00
22. Michael Iaconelli      Pitts Grove, NJ          5  19-00    0
Day 1: 5   19-00     Day 2: 0   00-00
23. Britt Myers            Lake Wylie, SC           5  18-14    0
Day 1: 5   18-14     Day 2: 0   00-00
24. Skeet Reese            Auburn, CA               5  18-11    0
Day 1: 5   18-11     Day 2: 0   00-00
25. Marty Robinson         Lyman, SC                5  18-09    0
Day 1: 5   18-09     Day 2: 0   00-00
26. Randy Allen            Shreveport, LA           5  18-08    0
Day 1: 5   18-08     Day 2: 0   00-00
27. Bradley Roy            Lancaster, KY            5  18-05    0
Day 1: 5   18-05     Day 2: 0   00-00
28. Chad Pipkens           Lansing, MI              5  18-04    0
Day 1: 5   18-04     Day 2: 0   00-00
29. Bill Lowen             Brookville, IN           5  18-03    0
Day 1: 5   18-03     Day 2: 0   00-00
30. Jay Brainard           Enid, OK                 5  18-00    0
Day 1: 5   18-00     Day 2: 0   00-00
31. Ish Monroe             Hughson, CA              5  17-10    0
Day 1: 5   17-10     Day 2: 0   00-00
32. Ken Iyobe              Tokoname  Aichi JAPAN    5  17-08    0
Day 1: 5   17-08     Day 2: 0   00-00
33. Seth Feider            Bloomington, MN          5  17-05    0
Day 1: 5   17-05     Day 2: 0   00-00
34. Ott DeFoe              Knoxville, TN            5  17-04    0
Day 1: 5   17-04     Day 2: 0   00-00
35. Greg Vinson            Wetumpka, AL             5  17-03    0
Day 1: 5   17-03     Day 2: 0   00-00
36. Jared Lintner          Arroyo Grande, CA        5  17-02    0
Day 1: 5   17-02     Day 2: 0   00-00
37. Terry Scroggins        San Mateo, FL            5  16-14    0
Day 1: 5   16-14     Day 2: 0   00-00
38. Rick Clunn             Ava, MO                  5  16-11    0
Day 1: 5   16-11     Day 2: 0   00-00
38. Chad Grigsby           Maple Grove, MN          5  16-11    0
Day 1: 5   16-11     Day 2: 0   00-00
40. Clifford Pirch         Payson, AZ               5  16-09    0
Day 1: 5   16-09     Day 2: 0   00-00
41. Jason Christie         Park Hill, OK            5  16-06    0
Day 1: 5   16-06     Day 2: 0   00-00
42. Jonathon VanDam        Kalamazoo, MI            5  16-05    0
Day 1: 5   16-05     Day 2: 0   00-00
43. Fletcher Shryock       New Philadelphia, OH     5  16-04    0
Day 1: 5   16-04     Day 2: 0   00-00
44. Brett Hite             Phoenix, AZ              5  16-00    0
Day 1: 5   16-00     Day 2: 0   00-00
45. Koby Kreiger           Bokeelia, FL             5  15-13    0
Day 1: 5   15-13     Day 2: 0   00-00
46. Micah Frazier          Newnan, GA               5  15-11    0
Day 1: 5   15-11     Day 2: 0   00-00
47. James Niggemeyer       Van, TX                  5  15-09    0
Day 1: 5   15-09     Day 2: 0   00-00
48. Bobby Lane Jr.         Lakeland, FL             5  15-08    0
Day 1: 5   15-08     Day 2: 0   00-00
49. Takahiro Omori         Emory, TX                5  15-08    0
Day 1: 5   15-08     Day 2: 0   00-00
50. Gerald Swindle         Warrior, AL              5  15-07    0
Day 1: 5   15-07     Day 2: 0   00-00
51. Todd Faircloth         Jasper, TX               5  15-04    0
Day 1: 5   15-04     Day 2: 0   00-00
52. Davy Hite              Ninety Six, SC           5  15-02    0
Day 1: 5   15-02     Day 2: 0   00-00
53. Brandon Palaniuk       Rathdrum, ID             5  15-01    0
Day 1: 5   15-01     Day 2: 0   00-00
54. Dennis Tietje          Roanoke, LA              5  14-15    0
Day 1: 5   14-15     Day 2: 0   00-00
55. Andy Montgomery        Blacksburg, SC           5  14-13    0
Day 1: 5   14-13     Day 2: 0   00-00
56. Chris Lane             Guntersville, AL         5  14-09    0
Day 1: 5   14-09     Day 2: 0   00-00
57. Casey Scanlon          Rocky Mount, MO          5  14-09    0
Day 1: 5   14-09     Day 2: 0   00-00
58. Hank Cherry Jr         Maiden, NC               5  14-07    0
Day 1: 5   14-07     Day 2: 0   00-00
58. Kelly Jordon           Flint, TX                5  14-07    0
Day 1: 5   14-07     Day 2: 0   00-00
60. Matt Lee               Guntersville, AL         5  14-06    0
Day 1: 5   14-06     Day 2: 0   00-00
60. Aaron Martens          Leeds, AL                5  14-06    0
Day 1: 5   14-06     Day 2: 0   00-00
60. David Mullins          Mt Carmel, TN            5  14-06    0
Day 1: 5   14-06     Day 2: 0   00-00
63. Tim Horton             Muscle Shoals, AL        5  14-04    0
Day 1: 5   14-04     Day 2: 0   00-00
64. Gary Klein             Weatherford, TX          5  14-02    0
Day 1: 5   14-02     Day 2: 0   00-00
64. Jacob Powroznik        Port Haywood, VA         5  14-02    0
Day 1: 5   14-02     Day 2: 0   00-00
66. Stephen Browning       Hot Springs, AR          5  13-15    0
Day 1: 5   13-15     Day 2: 0   00-00
66. Boyd Duckett           Guntersville, AL         5  13-15    0
Day 1: 5   13-15     Day 2: 0   00-00
68. Justin Lucas           Guntersville, AL         5  13-13    0
Day 1: 5   13-13     Day 2: 0   00-00
69. Matt Vermilyea         Perrysburg, OH           5  13-12    0
Day 1: 5   13-12     Day 2: 0   00-00
70. Brent Chapman          Lake Quivira, KS         5  13-05    0
Day 1: 5   13-05     Day 2: 0   00-00
70. Chad Morgenthaler      Reeds Spring, MO         5  13-05    0
Day 1: 5   13-05     Day 2: 0   00-00
72. Chris Zaldain          Laughlin, NV             5  13-03    0
Day 1: 5   13-03     Day 2: 0   00-00
73. Casey Ashley           Donalds, SC              5  13-02    0
Day 1: 5   13-02     Day 2: 0   00-00
74. Morizo Shimizu         Suita, Osaka JAPAN       5  13-01    0
Day 1: 5   13-01     Day 2: 0   00-00
75. Dave Lefebre           Erie, PA                 5  13-00    0
Day 1: 5   13-00     Day 2: 0   00-00
75. Brian Snowden          Reeds Spring, MO         5  13-00    0
Day 1: 5   13-00     Day 2: 0   00-00
77. Jeff Kriet             Ardmore, OK              5  12-12    0
Day 1: 5   12-12     Day 2: 0   00-00
77. Bernie Schultz         Gainesville, FL          5  12-12    0
Day 1: 5   12-12     Day 2: 0   00-00
79. David Walker           Sevierville, TN          5  12-12    0
Day 1: 5   12-12     Day 2: 0   00-00
80. Shaw Grigsby Jr.       Gainesville, FL          5  12-09    0
Day 1: 5   12-09     Day 2: 0   00-00
80. Keith Poche            Pike Road, AL            5  12-09    0
Day 1: 5   12-09     Day 2: 0   00-00
82. Brandon Card           Caryville, TN            5  12-08    0
Day 1: 5   12-08     Day 2: 0   00-00
83. Adrian Avena           Vineland, NJ             5  12-05    0
Day 1: 5   12-05     Day 2: 0   00-00
84. Kelley Jaye            Dadeville, AL            5  11-15    0
Day 1: 5   11-15     Day 2: 0   00-00
85. Kotaro Kiriyama        Moody, AL                5  11-14    0
Day 1: 5   11-14     Day 2: 0   00-00
86. Steve Kennedy          Auburn, AL               5  11-12    0
Day 1: 5   11-12     Day 2: 0   00-00
87. Mark Davis             Mount Ida, AR            5  11-11    0
Day 1: 5   11-11     Day 2: 0   00-00
88. John Murray            Spring City, TN          5  11-08    0
Day 1: 5   11-08     Day 2: 0   00-00
89. Russ Lane              Prattville, AL           5  11-04    0
Day 1: 5   11-04     Day 2: 0   00-00
89. Scott Rook             Little Rock, AR          5  11-04    0
Day 1: 5   11-04     Day 2: 0   00-00
91. John Hunter Jr         Shelbyville, KY          5  10-14    0
Day 1: 5   10-14     Day 2: 0   00-00
92. Brett Preuett          Monroe, LA               5  10-13    0
Day 1: 5   10-13     Day 2: 0   00-00
93. Yusuke Miyazaki        Forney, TX               5  10-13    0
Day 1: 5   10-13     Day 2: 0   00-00
94. Fred Roumbanis         Bixby, OK                5  10-12    0
Day 1: 5   10-12     Day 2: 0   00-00
95. Cliff Prince           Palatka, FL              5  10-12    0
Day 1: 5   10-12     Day 2: 0   00-00
96. Carl Jocumsen          Queensland TX AUSTRALIA  5  10-11    0
Day 1: 5   10-11     Day 2: 0   00-00
97. Brock Mosley           Collinsville, MS         5  10-10    0
Day 1: 5   10-10     Day 2: 0   00-00
98. Matt Herren            Ashville, AL             5  10-04    0
Day 1: 5   10-04     Day 2: 0   00-00
99. Clent Davis            Montevallo, AL           5  10-00    0
Day 1: 5   10-00     Day 2: 0   00-00
100. Paul Elias             Laurel, MS               5  09-12    0
Day 1: 5   09-12     Day 2: 0   00-00
101. David Williams         Newton, NC               5  09-07    0
Day 1: 5   09-07     Day 2: 0   00-00
102. James Elam             Tulsa, OK                5  09-01    0
Day 1: 5   09-01     Day 2: 0   00-00
103. Byron Velvick          Boenre, TX               5  08-15    0
Day 1: 5   08-15     Day 2: 0   00-00
104. Brandon Coulter        Knoxville, TN            5  08-13    0
Day 1: 5   08-13     Day 2: 0   00-00
105. Matt Reed Jr           Madisonville, TX         5  08-11    0
Day 1: 5   08-11     Day 2: 0   00-00
106. Tommy Biffle           Wagoner, OK              5  08-09    0
Day 1: 5   08-09     Day 2: 0   00-00
107. Fabian Rodriguez       Ocean City, DE           5  08-06    0
Day 1: 5   08-06     Day 2: 0   00-00
108. Shane Lineberger       Lincolnton, NC           5  08-00    0
Day 1: 5   08-00     Day 2: 0   00-00
109. J Todd Tucker          Moultrie, GA             5  07-06    0
Day 1: 5   07-06     Day 2: 0   00-00
110. Paul Mueller           Naugatuck, CT            2  04-06    0
Day 1: 2   04-06     Day 2: 0   00-00
———————————————————————–
Totals
Day   #Limits    #Fish      Weight
1       109       547      1656-09
2         0         0        00-00
———————————-
109       547      1656-09