In my blog prior to the first Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open of 2013, I said that I felt confident about getting the James River monkey off my back. During my previous James River tournaments, I never had a good day, not even in practice.
This time around I did have some good practice days. I went into the tournament ready to boot that James River monkey in the pants. I underestimated that little critter.
I limped to the scales the first day with one small bass in my bag. I was limping because the James River monkey had transformed into a 600-pound gorilla. (See my photos from James River.)
I have no excuses for such a poor showing. If nothing major in your boat breaks down, there are no excuses. My Phoenix got me there and back just fine.
This blog gives me an opportunity to kinda think out loud as I try to figure out where I screwed up. You get to sit back, enjoy my missteps and do some Monday quarterbacking.
What worked for me in practice was fishing a frog aggressively over lily pads. I found key short stretches where I could quickly get two or three bites.
And those bites included solid bass that would go 3 pounds or better. I was shaking them off but many of the strikes were far too vicious to be made by your average largemouth.
I did set the hook twice on two less than spectacular strikes. One produced a 4-pound bass; the other went well over 3 pounds.
The best action happened during the first two hours of the falling tide. I could get eight or nine bites then and half of those bites would have tickled any angler fishing the James River Open.
Unfortunately, the tides were not in my favor. On Thursday, the first day of the tournament, the high tide where I was fishing in the Chickahominy River was around 5:15 a.m.
By the time I got there, my prime time pad fishing window would be more than half closed. I figured if I could get just two of those good bites early and scratch out three more keepers, I’d have a respectable day.
From what I had seen in practice, I knew a bag weighing 18 pounds or more was a real possibility. My plan was to fish fast, as I had done in practice, and hit as many of the best stretches as possible before the last 3 hours of the falling tide.
I knew the areas I wanted to fish had been pounded during practice, partly due to Tropical Storm Andrea. A week before the tournament, that nasty storm dropped 10 inches of water in the Richmond area in 24 hours.
The main James River and many of its creeks were muddy. That jammed most of the anglers into the Chickahominy, which had the clearest water.
I also knew I’d be fishing used water after the first 90 minutes of the tournament. I accepted the fact that bites would be harder to come by than in practice.