Bassmaster Eastern Open #3 – James River – Richmond, VA
I knew the James River was going to be the toughest decision making tournament of the year. You have the option of fishing close by in offshoots and creeks or making a 60+ mile run to the Chickahominy River. Most tournaments on the James River are won out of the Chick and it is a very popular thing to do. I had a little history at the James fishing as a co-angler last time. Though I only got to fish it for one day because my boater did not show up to the ramp day 2 of the event. So I was looking forward to picking up where I left off.
In practice I decided to spend most of my time trying to find something close by to allow for more fishing time. While the Chick is where most of the field would be heading. I figured I should spend the majority of my time breaking down the area within the 60 miles. After 3 days of practice I had only caught 2 Bass and 4 Catfish. It was then I decided I should give a day of practice to the Chickahominy River. The tide in practice was in an ideal spot of falling tide that I was able to catch multiple 2-3 pound bass in short work. That answered a lot of questions and doubts I had about where I needed to be for Day 1 of the tournament.
Though official practice doesn’t end till Wednesday just before the meeting. I usually use the half day before the meeting to sleep in a little late after grinding for 4 days straight along with retying all my rods and taking time to clean and organize my boat and tackle. So the Tuesday night before the tournaments our travel group usually unwinds and has a night of hanging out and doing a group dinner. It’s a great time to reflect on how practice went. Well, this particular Tuesday before the tournament was my 31st Birthday. To my surprise a bunch of the guys we travel with all got together got a bunch of food and had a big cookout that night. It really means a lot to have such great friends on the road to share these special times with!
Tournament Day 1
Day 1 of the tournament as many others did, I decided to make the long run to the Chick. It right at an hour of driving to get there. With it being high tide and very little current, I decided to fish around some grass and cover that the fish could have settled into. Once the current started moving heavier, I started my approach with a crankbait down rocky banks and edges of Pads. I got a couple of bites, but couldn’t seem to keep them buttoned up. For the strongest part of the outgoing tide, I went to pitching a trick worm at duck blinds all the way up the river. This was very productive in practice. Unfortunately I missed the 2 bites I got doing this. On the way back I stopped just before the ramp casting a BDB Dawg Bone with a 1/8oz weight around broken up barges and drop-offs in the river. I was able to salvage a couple bites with short fish doing this and started to wonder if I would make that long run again on day 2. I came to the conclusion after weigh in that we just didn’t have the time to fish the time correctly at the Chick and it was a huge factor for many small bags on day 1.
Tournament Day 2
After a zero on day 1, I decided there was no reason for me to make another long run and waste fishing time. I decided to take a look back at the Appomattox River about 8 miles from the ramp. After talking with some travel partners at the end of day 1, I asked a question I should have asked during practice. As someone from Florida, I am used to the bass having some sort of cover to relate to. Some of the guys were saying they were getting their better bites in the little creeks and pockets off the main river. I wanted to know, “If there is no cover, how are you catching them in shallow mud creeks?” It turns out, the fish in a tidal fisheries like to sit in the deeper holes of the creeks. This got me thinking less like a bass fisherman and more like a saltwater fisherman targeting Trout and Redfish.
Heading into the Appomattox, I started looking at the pinch points and current breaks. One thing that keyed me in to what to do, was my co-angler catching a fish off a point that had a deep spot on a Senko. We turned around and started dragging worms through the deep hole on the front of the creek point. We caught several fish doing this. What I came to realize (something I should have figured out in practice) was that the fish are on the outer points of the creeks on incoming tide, and in the backs of pockets on outgoing or falling tide. I started running everything that looked similar to these conditions. Though it wasn’t a big bag. I was able to weigh in 3 fish for 4lbs 1oz, which was a big improvement over my zero from day 1.
While I did only finish 176 in the field. I learned a great wealth of knowledge about tidal fisheries that I can build upon in future events. I now know I won’t be making similar mistakes in the future on a tidal fishery. Next tournament will be the longest drive of the season to Oneida Lake in Syracuse, NY. I am looking forward to getting back to New York to catch some Smallmouth Bass!