Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

CRACKER JACK GUIDE Freshwater Veteran Wise to Ways of Bream, Bass

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

CRACKER JACK GUIDE Freshwater Veteran Wise to Ways of Bream, Bass

Article excerpt

Since freshwater guide Jim Allen and I last fished, the former

three packs-a-day man has quit smoking and added 30 pounds

to his wiry frame. One thing hasn't changed, though: Allen

still loves to fish for bream or bass or anything else that

swims in the St. Johns River.

"He about pulled it out of my hand, and I still missed him,"

Allen was saying the other day, reeling in an empty bream hook

and rebaiting with a fat, juicy wriggler.

We had originally planned to fish shell bars in the river for

bluegills and shellcrackers, which have gone on a feeding binge

in recent weeks. But a 20-knot southerly wind had piled up an

uncomfortable, frothy chop in the open river, necessitating a

switch to Plan B -- find a dock in protected waters.

Allen, who knows the river docks as well as his own Middleburg

neighborhood, chose a worn structure in the Tocoi area. He

anchored the Ranger bass boat within casting distance of the

dock, baited up with a worm on a ounce sliding-sinker rig, and

within minutes was lifting a healthy shellcracker into the boat.

I could already hear the sizzle of bream browning in the deep

fryer.

We didn't move the boat for the next three hours. Casting close

to the pilings and into the shade of the dock, we pulled in

shellcrackers, bluegills and an occasional redbreast sunfish at

an easygoing pace. On occasion, one would jump on the worm as

soon as it touched bottom. At other times, they'd play a waiting

game -- until you laid your rod down to reach for something to

eat, and then the rod tip would inevitably begin bouncing.

When the fish went on break, Allen renewed their interest by

chumming the water downcurrent with river mussels. The long-time

bass guide, who now works out of a private lodge in East

Palatka, is wise in the ways of bream, too.

"You'll be able to catch bream around docks in the river all

summer," Allen said. "It's just beginning now. …

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