James River, Richmond, VA
The second stop of the Northern Opens was a BIG tournament for me. After a good finish at Oneida, I desperately felt the need to back it up here with a even better finish on the James River. I was feeling good. I’ve been fishing well and have cashed checks in three of my past four tournaments. I’m really fishing good right now. Mentally I’m right and I’m putting the time in on the water to stay with the fish and hone my craft.
My worry… The James is a tidal fishery and with the exception of the past two times I’ve been here, I’ve had no other tidal experience at all. The first time I was here I had a great practice. Unfortunately, mechanical issues kept me sidelined the entire first day and horrible finish was the eventual result. Last year I took 20th on the James and kicked off my Northern Opens on a high note. Now, I need to do that or better and really get myself in the mix for the eventual all or nothing derby in September on Lake Champlain in New York.
Practice started just ok and maintained that way. Pretty typical for my practices here on the James and it’s strictly the tides. When the tide’s right, they freakin’ gack and when the tide’s wrong, they simply disappear, or don’t bite, or I can’t catch them, either way it gets tough. I fished the James a certain way last year and it paid off with a top twenty. I fished slow, ignored the tide and targeted “forgivable” areas to finesse quality bass into biting. This go round, with a little tidal tip from a local and good buddy, I searched ot “feeding areas” all throughout the system that when the tide was conducive, would allow one to get multiple bites. I worked hard at searching for these types of areas that would house numerous bass and not just singles. I managed to figure out a semi-solid pattern and the tide schedule worked out very convenient for my bite.
The key to these feeding areas where to target a relatively minuscule area of less pressured cover and since the feeding window was short, running moving baits like the Biovex Stangun Spinnerbait or the new prototype Outkast Tackle Heavy Cover Swim Jig through these areas allowed for more casts in a short amount of time, resulting in more bass in the boat.
I felt pretty good going into tournament morning. I had prepared myself well and knew that discipline and decision making was going to be what I would need to earn a check in this one. First day went perfectly as scheduled, I targeted hard cover while the tide was low and stagnant. Once the current started pouring in I started working my way with the tide hitting current spots that swept these feeding areas. Things went perfect, I was catching and culling at every spot I stopped. My timing was terrific and the result was a day one limit of 14.2 oz. and had me sitting strong in 14th place.
My goal day two was simply to do the same thing. The tide was a bit later but so was my flight number. This go round, my timing seem to be 30 minutes late every where I went. My timing felt like I should of been perfect and even matched accordingly to the tide charts but something was off or stronger about this tide. No matter how I tried to adjust, I wasn’t timing my spots well and with only 45 minutes to go and with only two very small keepers I reverted back to what got me a check last year and went to “smart” high water areas with a spinning rod in hand. Ten casts in and I finally get a bite, a good bite too. This was a boost of momentum and as I fought the bass, half way back tot he boat it jumped off. Ouch. I was crushed. I had no choice but to keep throwing and a cast or two later and I boat my third keeper. a dozen more casts and I boat my fourth. Running out of both water and time, I pick up a small crankbait and just start running water on my way back out. One about my last cast I boat my best keeper of the day. I was stoked! I never gave up and stuck with what my head was telling me to do.
I weighed in small limit but in a relatively tough tournament, a limit is gold and I finished with a strong showing of 28th, good enough for another check to keep the streak alive! This finish puts me in great contention for the Bassmaster Elite Series invite going into Lake Champlain late September. There’s no lake in the world that wants to punch you in the mouth worse than Champlain and there isn’t any style fishing that makes me feel more alive than big water up north. I can honestly say I’m excited for what lies ahead!
Big thanks to TEAM FEATHERWICK for another great time out in Virginia. Big things coming from this camp. Give ’em a follow!