My first day partner, Donnie Meade of Richmond, Va., was an experienced James River fisherman. I’m sure he would have made better decisions than I did, but he was willing to let me make my own mistakes.
We hit my first three pad stretches without getting a sniff. I was covering water with a frog. Meade slowed down with a variety of soft plastic baits, but I was moving too fast for him to fish them as effectively as he would have liked.
Even so, I was hoping the bass would tell us which type of presentation they preferred.
A bass nipped my frog at the next stop and ripped off the legs when I set the hook. A few stops later I got one of the bites I was looking for. A bass that easily topped 4 pounds darted out from under the pads and sucked in my frog when it hit open water.
I slammed home the hooks. The rod bowed over, the bass parried and I could clearly see its wide side just under the surface. I could almost hear the bass growl when it slashed across the surface.
It dove again, putting a deeper bend in my rod. Meade was standing next to me, net in had. The bass was surely mine. Then the bait pulled out. My rod smacked Meade in the chest.
I did everything right, but the bass was gone. About 30 minutes later another bass shot out and nabbed my frog when it came off the pads. I hit the fish hard. I put heavy pressure on it, but it didn’t budge. The bait pulled out a few seconds later.
I caught the last bass that was willing to hit my frog. It weighed a meager 17 ounces.
I should have left the pads and gone to my backup cover, which was docks and cypress trees. But that cover held smaller bass than the ones I had found in the pads.
I stayed with the pads too long. We tried a variety of tactics, but couldn’t get them to go. By the time I resorted to wood, the tide had dropped too low for my stuff to be optimal. Donnie put a keeper in the boat and lost one about 3 pounds on a crankbait.
My partner the second day was Alabamian Mike Johnson, who is a videographer for Elite Series pro Timmy Horton. Johnson is also quite resourceful. When I lost water pressure on the run to the Chickahominy, he called Scott Beattie with the Mercury Support Crew.