By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor

On paper, it certainly looks as though a handful of anglers at the St. Johns River Elite Series have things figured out.

The top 5 on the leaderboard after two days have accounted for four of the five 20-pound stringers caught so far. One of them caught a 9-pounder on Saturday. Another one bagged a 10-pounder today. Yet another sacked a 7-02.

In reality, though, its been anything but easy.

Sure, Paul Mueller caught 16-02 to take over the lead with 36-10, but even he was surprised to be atop the leaderboard after a tougher day.

I thought I stumbled a bunch, said Mueller, who will be chasing his second Elite Series win tomorrow as the top 20 return to the water for the final day of a shortened three-day event. Mentally, I thought I needed one more big bite to be in the mix. These guys are good and its the St. Johns River. It can happen, but it was a weird day from that aspect. Im surprised to be leading, to be honest.

Regardless of how tomorrow goes, Mueller has already far exceeded his performance at the St. Johns last year when he finished 62nd in a 75-man field.

If you wouldve told me after practice that Id make the 20-cut here, Id have said, Okay, Ill take 20th, he quipped. Ill try not to put too much pressure on myself knowing I have the lead. Ill just fish the hardest I can and if its meant to be itll happen. Im thankful for where Im at. Regardless of what happens, this tournament was one that concerned me on the schedule.

For Kelley Jaye, the day-1 leader who now trails Mueller by a pound after catching 14-03, he battled through increased boat traffic in the area hes been fishing and also lost a few key fish. Still, he remains upbeat about his chances to claim his first Elite Series title.

The fish I lost wouldve given me a pretty good lead, he said. Im kind of upset, but glad I stayed right there. I have a decent lead on 3rd and Im looking forward to tomorrow. Several guys who were in there didnt make the cut. I had my chances again to do what I did yesterday. I just couldnt get them in the boat. I know Im doing the right thing to win the tournament. I just have to execute.

I just need to catch em, Jaye continued. I think Ill get some big opportunities. I just have to put them in the boat. There is still not enough water on the bank to hold the big ones. I know theyre there and know theyll bite what Im throwing. I just need to be patient.

In some ways, the fishery is still feeling the effects of the massive front that pushed through late last week and prompted competition on Thursday and Friday to be postponed due to high winds. The water levels havent returned to what they were during practice and the water temperatures are just now starting to bounce back.

The overnight temperature Sunday night is expected to be the warmest its been since earlier in the week and with sun in the forecast for Monday with highs near 80, it could trigger a wave of fish to start heading back to the shallows.

While today didnt yield a massive uptick in weights that some expected, there was plenty of shuffling on the leaderboard. Rookie Kyle Welcher caught the tournaments first 10-pounder and rode a 20-12 stringer up 17 places to 4th. Patrick Walters caught a tournament-best 22-15 to improve 31 spots to 5th with 32-08. Jamie Hartman jumped 32 places to make the cut in 16th. Harvey Horne was another big climber, going from 46th to 17th.



B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Jake Whitaker is in position to take a run at his first Elite Series win.

Jake Whitaker made a modest six-place move up to third and is now just 3-11 behind Mueller. He fished the same area today that he fished Saturday and came out with a similar result a 16-03 stringer that gave him 32-15 and 3rd place on the leaderboard. His limit today was anchored by a 7-02 that he caught this morning.

That was huge, he said of landing the kicker. There are so many big fish in this river, but they have not all moved up yet. This is maybe the first wave to move up. There are a few that have started to come up, but for the most part the fishings tough. Today was really slow. I only had six bites. Im around some big fish, but getting one or two is key.

Whitaker said the falling water put his practice plan on the shelf and despite his consistency over the first two days, hes unsure what to expect Monday.

The whole system has lost a foot of water, but theyre going to shallow water either way, he said. The lack of water has hurt the fishing. A lot of fish I found in practice, theyre no longer there because theres no more water there. I could go catch 20 (pounds tomorrow), but its also possible that I go out and catch nothing. Its just that time of year.

Either way, hell come away with a much better result than the 50th he posted in the season opener at the St. Johns a year ago.

After the practice I had, I was just hoping to make a top 40 to get out of here with a good payday, he said. To knock out a top 20 at least is huge. Ill gladly take it.

Mueller has done the bulk of his work with a swim jig so far, but he admits hes far from his comfort zone and even conceded that someone else may have been able to pull more weight out of the area hes in.

Im not an expert but I feel comfortable with that jig, Mueller said. I found water Im comfortable fishing. Granted, if you give a shallow-water expert the water Im on, maybe they have a better day the way Im fishing. I know John Cox would thrive where Im fishing.

Still, hes relishing the position hes in.

What else could I ask for? I have a place to myself and I still feel the fish are there, he said. The water level wasnt what I would want it to be it didnt get as high today. If I can get more water on the cover Im fishing, maybe Id get more bites.

Ive been able to get some decent bites, he added. I had two yesterday and one today. Without those, its been tough. Im getting bites, which is good, but if I can get one big one I can probably catch 16 pounds. If I get two, Ill weigh 20 and if catch three, I could have 25. I executed today, but it was just a tough day and the weights reflected that. Id feel good if I get two good bites tomorrow and have a limit, and if I get beat, I get beat. I have to believe it could be better tomorrow because itll be warmer tonight.

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

This 10-02 brute helped Kyle Welcher climb 17 spots on the leaderboard today.

Welchers day came together in a big way this afternoon.

The Alabama native caught his first ever double-digit bass and now is in position to make a run at a win in his Elite Series debut.

Im pretty happy about that, Welcher said of the 10-02 that is currently big bass for the event. It was a pretty cool fish catch.

He had three keepers for roughly 4 pounds at around 1:30 p.m. when he left a crowded Lake Dexter and started the drive back toward Palatka. He stopped in a backwater and caught his two biggest fish and added a 2-pounder to cull a smaller fish.

I think I have a decent shot tomorrow, he said. On the same token, I have a decent shot to not catch a limit. Ive not caught much before 2 oclock either day. I could catch 5 (pounds) or 25. Ill just go fishing and try not to think too much.

He said the 10-pounder was lying off to the side of a stretch of pads and he wasnt even paying attention when it bit.

I pitched over that way and I wasnt even looking when it bit because I was trying to get to the next place, he said. As soon as I set the hook and saw how long it was, I thought it was a mud fish. When it got to the surface and I saw its mouth, I said, I better get down there and grab it.

Weather Forecast

> Mon., Feb. 10 Partly Cloudy - 79/51
- Wind: From the SE at 5 to 10 mph

Day 2 Standings

1. Paul Mueller -- Naugatuck, CT -- 10, 36-10 -- 100
Day 1: 5, 20-08 -- Day 2: 5, 16-02

2. Kelley Jaye -- Dadeville, AL -- 10, 35-10 -- 99 -- $1,000
Day 1: 5, 21-07 -- Day 2: 5, 14-03

3. Jake Whitaker -- Fairview, NC -- 10, 32-15 -- 98
Day 1: 5, 16-12 -- Day 2: 5, 16-03

4. Kyle Welcher -- Opelika, AL -- 10, 32-09 -- 97 -- $1,000
Day 1: 5, 11-13 -- Day 2: 5, 20-12

5. Patrick Walters -- Summerville, SC -- 10, 32-08 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 09-09 -- Day 2: 5, 22-15

6. John Crews Jr -- Salem, VA -- 10, 32-02 -- 95
Day 1: 5, 16-13 -- Day 2: 5, 15-05

7. Buddy Gross -- Chickamauga, GA -- 10, 31-03 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 15-05 -- Day 2: 5, 15-14

8. Scott Canterbury -- Odenville, AL -- 10, 30-04 -- 93
Day 1: 5, 17-14 -- Day 2: 5, 12-06

9. Clark Wendlandt -- Leander, TX -- 9, 28-03 -- 92
Day 1: 5, 20-00 -- Day 2: 4, 08-03

10. Jay Yelas -- Lincoln City, OR -- 10, 28-00 -- 91
Day 1: 5, 13-15 -- Day 2: 5, 14-01

11. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 8, 27-14 -- 90
Day 1: 5, 19-00 -- Day 2: 3, 08-14

12. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, AR -- 10, 27-12 -- 89
Day 1: 5, 11-01 -- Day 2: 5, 16-11

13. Drew Cook -- Midway, FL -- 10, 27-08 -- 88
Day 1: 5, 09-10 -- Day 2: 5, 17-14

14. Todd Auten -- Lake Wylie, SC -- 10, 27-04 -- 87
Day 1: 5, 17-11 -- Day 2: 5, 09-09

15. Matt Arey -- Shelby, NC -- 10, 26-14 -- 86
Day 1: 5, 16-02 -- Day 2: 5, 10-12

16. Jamie Hartman -- Newport, NY -- 10, 26-03 -- 85
Day 1: 5, 07-14 -- Day 2: 5, 18-05

17. Harvey Horne -- Bella Vista, AR -- 9, 25-15 -- 84
Day 1: 4, 08-07 -- Day 2: 5, 17-08

18. Robbie Latuso -- Gonzales, LA -- 10, 25-13 -- 83
Day 1: 5, 17-05 -- Day 2: 5, 08-08

19. Brandon Palaniuk -- Rathdrum, ID -- 10, 25-11 -- 82
Day 1: 5, 10-05 -- Day 2: 5, 15-06

20. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 10, 25-06 -- 81
Day 1: 5, 10-10 -- Day 2: 5, 14-12

The following anglers missed the cut and will not compete on day 3.

21. Taku Ito -- Chiba JAPAN -- 10, 25-05 -- 80 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 08-09 -- Day 2: 5, 16-12

22. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, GA -- 10, 25-01 -- 79 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-10 -- Day 2: 5, 12-07

23. Cody Hollen -- Beaverton, OR -- 6, 23-01 -- 78 -- $10,000
Day 1: 1, 03-06 -- Day 2: 5, 19-11

24. Randy Pierson -- Oakdale, CA -- 9, 21-10 -- 77 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 11-11 -- Day 2: 5, 09-15

25. Drew Benton -- Blakely, GA -- 10, 21-10 -- 76 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 11-09 -- Day 2: 5, 10-01

26. David Mullins -- Mt Carmel, TN -- 10, 21-09 -- 75 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-05 -- Day 2: 5, 09-04

27. Bryan Schmitt -- Deale, MD -- 10, 21-08 -- 74 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 11-04 -- Day 2: 5, 10-04

28. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 10, 21-07 -- 73 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 09-08 -- Day 2: 5, 11-15

29. Chad Pipkens -- Lansing, MI -- 10, 21-00 -- 72 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 09-09 -- Day 2: 5, 11-07

30. Brad Whatley -- Bivins, TX -- 9, 20-15 -- 71 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 10-08 -- Day 2: 5, 10-07

31. Jason Williamson -- Wagener, SC -- 8, 20-14 -- 70 -- $10,000
Day 1: 3, 08-06 -- Day 2: 5, 12-08

32. Wes Logan -- Springville, AL -- 9, 20-13 -- 69 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 13-11 -- Day 2: 4, 07-02

33. John Cox -- Debary, FL -- 4, 20-12 -- 68 -- $10,000
Day 1: 1, 06-14 -- Day 2: 3, 13-14

34. Luke Palmer -- Coalgate, OK -- 9, 20-05 -- 67 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 11-02 -- Day 2: 5, 09-03

35. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 5, 19-14 -- 66 -- $10,000
Day 1: 0, 00-00 -- Day 2: 5, 19-14

36. Shane LeHew -- Catawba, NC -- 10, 19-13 -- 65 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 07-13 -- Day 2: 5, 12-00

37. Brandon Card -- Knoxville, TN -- 10, 19-10 -- 64 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 07-14 -- Day 2: 5, 11-12

38. Rick Morris -- Lake Gaston, VA -- 7, 19-08 -- 63 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-11 -- Day 2: 2, 03-13

39. Chris Groh -- Spring Grove, IL -- 9, 19-08 -- 62 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 08-11 -- Day 2: 5, 10-13

40. Destin DeMarion -- Grove City, PA -- 9, 19-03 -- 61 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 09-14 -- Day 2: 4, 09-05

41. Jeff Gustafson -- Keewatin Ontario CANADA -- 8, 19-00 -- 60 -- $7,500
Day 1: 3, 04-04 -- Day 2: 5, 14-12

42. Clent Davis -- Montevallo, AL -- 9, 18-09 -- 59 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 10-05 -- Day 2: 4, 08-04

43. Brandon Cobb -- Greenwood, SC -- 6, 18-03 -- 58 -- $7,500
Day 1: 1, 01-04 -- Day 2: 5, 16-15

44. Carl Jocumsen -- Queensland TN AUSTRALIA -- 7, 18-03 -- 57 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 11-11 -- Day 2: 2, 06-08

45. David Fritts -- Lexington, NC -- 7, 18-02 -- 56 -- $7,500
Day 1: 3, 07-05 -- Day 2: 4, 10-13

46. Jesse Tacoronte -- Kissimmee, FL -- 10, 18-02 -- 55 -- $5,000
Day 1: 5, 08-10 -- Day 2: 5, 09-08

47. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 7, 18-00 -- 54 -- $5,000
Day 1: 5, 13-04 -- Day 2: 2, 04-12

48. Caleb Sumrall -- New Iberia, LA -- 8, 18-00 -- 53 -- $5,000
Day 1: 5, 10-10 -- Day 2: 3, 07-06

49. Koby Kreiger -- Alva, FL -- 9, 18-00 -- 52 -- $2,500
Day 1: 4, 07-08 -- Day 2: 5, 10-08

50. Clifford Pirch -- Payson, AZ -- 10, 18-00 -- 51 -- $2,500
Day 1: 5, 07-12 -- Day 2: 5, 10-04

51. Matt Herren -- Ashville, AL -- 7, 17-14 -- 50 -- $2,500
Day 1: 5, 07-14 -- Day 2: 2, 10-00

52. Gerald Swindle -- Guntersville, AL -- 7, 17-06 -- 49 -- $2,500
Day 1: 5, 13-03 -- Day 2: 2, 04-03

53. Ray Hanselman Jr -- Del Rio, TX -- 7, 17-04 -- 48 -- $2,500
Day 1: 2, 04-01 -- Day 2: 5, 13-03

54. Chad Morgenthaler -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 8, 17-00 -- 47 -- $2,500
Day 1: 5, 13-09 -- Day 2: 3, 03-07

55. Cory Johnston -- Cavan CANADA -- 9, 16-08 -- 46 -- $2,500
Day 1: 4, 06-09 -- Day 2: 5, 09-15

56. Hank Cherry Jr -- Lincolnton, NC -- 7, 16-02 -- 45 -- $2,500
Day 1: 2, 02-08 -- Day 2: 5, 13-10

57. Shane Lineberger -- Lincolnton, NC -- 7, 16-02 -- 44 -- $2,500
Day 1: 4, 08-13 -- Day 2: 3, 07-05

58. Brian Snowden -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 6, 16-01 -- 43 -- $2,500
Day 1: 3, 06-03 -- Day 2: 3, 09-14

59. Brett Preuett -- Monroe, LA -- 8, 16-00 -- 42 -- $2,500
Day 1: 5, 12-05 -- Day 2: 3, 03-11

60. Ed Loughran III -- Richmond, VA -- 6, 14-15 -- 41 -- $2,500
Day 1: 1, 01-13 -- Day 2: 5, 13-02

61. Caleb Kuphall -- Mukwonago, WI -- 5, 14-13 -- 40 -- $2,500
Day 1: 3, 10-09 -- Day 2: 2, 04-04

62. Mark Menendez -- Paducah, KY -- 8, 13-11 -- 39 -- $2,500
Day 1: 3, 06-07 -- Day 2: 5, 07-04

63. Brock Mosley -- Collinsville, MS -- 6, 13-10 -- 38 -- $2,500
Day 1: 3, 07-09 -- Day 2: 3, 06-01

64. Austin Felix -- Eden Prairie, MN -- 7, 12-05 -- 37 -- $2,500
Day 1: 4, 08-12 -- Day 2: 3, 03-09

65. Frank Talley -- Temple, TX -- 5, 12-01 -- 36 -- $2,500
Day 1: 2, 03-03 -- Day 2: 3, 08-14

66. Hunter Shryock -- Newcomerstown, OH -- 5, 12-00 -- 35 -- $2,500
Day 1: 0, 00-00 -- Day 2: 5, 12-00

67. Seth Feider -- New Market, MN -- 8, 11-01 -- 34 -- $2,500
Day 1: 4, 05-06 -- Day 2: 4, 05-11

68. Mike Huff -- Corbin, KY -- 5, 10-02 -- 33 -- $2,500
Day 1: 2, 03-01 -- Day 2: 3, 07-01

69. Tyler Carriere -- Youngsville, LA -- 6, 10-01 -- 32 -- $2,500
Day 1: 5, 08-12 -- Day 2: 1, 01-05

70. Skylar Hamilton -- Dandridge, TN -- 5, 09-06 -- 31 -- $2,500
Day 1: 5, 09-06 -- Day 2: 0, 00-00

71. Chris Johnston -- Peterborough Ontario CA -- 5, 09-05 -- 30 -- $2,500
Day 1: 3, 04-08 -- Day 2: 2, 04-13

72. Rob Digh -- Denver, NC -- 6, 09-00 -- 29 -- $2,500
Day 1: 5, 07-04 -- Day 2: 1, 01-12

73. Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, FL -- 4, 09-00 -- 28 -- $2,500
Day 1: 2, 04-11 -- Day 2: 2, 04-05

74. Tyler Rivet -- Raceland, LA -- 5, 08-05 -- 27 -- $2,500
Day 1: 2, 02-11 -- Day 2: 3, 05-10

75. Rick Clunn -- Ava, MO -- 4, 08-03 -- 26 -- $2,500
Day 1: 3, 05-02 -- Day 2: 1, 03-01

76. Bill Weidler -- Helena, AL -- 5, 08-02 -- 25 -- $2,500
Day 1: 1, 03-07 -- Day 2: 4, 04-11

77. Dale Hightower -- Mannford, OK -- 6, 07-15 -- 24 -- $2,500
Day 1: 1, 01-00 -- Day 2: 5, 06-15

78. Derek Hudnall -- Baton Rouge, LA -- 5, 07-15 -- 23 -- $2,500
Day 1: 1, 01-06 -- Day 2: 4, 06-09

79. Greg DiPalma -- Millville, NJ -- 4, 06-06 -- 22 -- $2,500
Day 1: 3, 04-00 -- Day 2: 1, 02-06

80. Chris Zaldain -- Fort Worth, TX -- 4, 06-01 -- 21 -- $2,500
Day 1: 1, 01-05 -- Day 2: 3, 04-12

81. Quentin Cappo -- Prairieville, LA -- 5, 05-15 -- 20 -- $2,500
Day 1: 0, 00-00 -- Day 2: 5, 05-15

82. Bob Downey -- Hudson, WI -- 4, 05-13 -- 19 -- $2,500
Day 1: 4, 05-13 -- Day 2: 0, 00-00

83. Kyle Monti -- Okeechobee, FL -- 3, 05-11 -- 18 -- $2,500
Day 1: 2, 03-03 -- Day 2: 1, 02-08

84. Lee Livesay -- Gladewater, TX -- 2, 05-03 -- 17 -- $2,500
Day 1: 1, 03-06 -- Day 2: 1, 01-13

85. Gary Clouse -- Winchester, TN -- 2, 04-01 -- 16 -- $2,500
Day 1: 2, 04-01 -- Day 2: 0, 00-00

86. Randy Sullivan -- Breckenridge, TX -- 2, 03-12 -- 15 -- $2,500
Day 1: 0, 00-00 -- Day 2: 2, 03-12

87. Garrett Paquette -- Canton, MI -- 3, 03-12 -- 14 -- $2,500
Day 1: 2, 02-13 -- Day 2: 1, 00-15

88. Yusuke Miyazaki -- Forney, TX -- 2, 03-05 -- 13 -- $2,500
Day 1: 1, 02-06 -- Day 2: 1, 00-15