Perhaps the coolest thing about asking Brandon Lester to share four lures with fans he thinks will be major players on the St. Johns River is that he currently has no soft plastic or crankbait sponsor. So, what you’re getting here is unbiased authenticity in its purest form.
Plus, Lester has fished several Bassmaster Elite Series events on this famed Northeast Florida river, including leading after Day 1 of the 2016 Elite Series event, thanks to a 9-pounder he caught from a bed. Thus, his opinions are not only authentic, but dripping with experience too.
“The biggest key in this event is how much warm weather we get the next three days in order to push the water temps from where they’re currently at in the low 60s, up to around 68-degrees,” says Lester. “If it warms that much, we’ll see a huge wave of largemouth get shallow to spawn. So, I’m choosing the following four lures with hopes of that being the case.”
Rapala X Rap Prop – This bait is really similar to the famous old Devil’s Horse topwater prop lure bass are famous for eating in Florida around the spawn. Its magic resides in the fact you can float it directly over a spawning bed with a long pause between rips, and big fish simply can’t stand not to rise up and smash it.
3/8-ounce swim jig with a Zoom Z Craw trailer – This is a great lure for covering a lot of water like one might do with a Chatterbait or spinnerbait. Lester plans to swim it around everything from laydown trees to lily pads on the St. Johns.
1.5-ounce Texas rigged punch bait – If Florida had a mascot for a bass fishing lure, this might very well be it. It’s designed to “punch” through the thousands of acres of floating matted pennywort to get the fast attention of largemouth laying just beneath in a couple feet of water. Lester uses a Mustad tungsten weight, a stout 4/0 Mustad straight-shank hook and a Berkley MaxScent Creature Hawg.
Soft stick bait – Lester theorizes that since the St. Johns unfortunately lost a great deal of its once famous eel grass, a lot of bass are now forced to spawn on lily pad stems. And a slender stick bait like Berkley’s “The General” is perfect for pitching around the pads.
While millions of Bassmaster fans freeze around the country in frigid temps, Elite Series pros like Team Toyota’s Brandon Lester are anticipating the 78-degree temps forecasted for Palatka, Florida the next three days will bring an absolute heat wave to the weigh-in scales.