The weather changed today for the anglers fishing the Bassmaster Northern Open on the James River, but the top of the leaderboard did not.
Local angler Kelly Pratt added 13-13 to his Day One catch of 16-06 and leads second place angler Gregory Cooper by 1-10. Cooper rose seven spots thanks to a 14-15 catch. Some others were blessed by the daylong clouds, while a few suffered at the hands of the weather gods.
Brief bursts of sunshine gave some hope, but invariably gave way to clouds once again.
That hurt Virginia pro Teddy Carr, who had hoped to jump from 17th into the twelve man cut. With only two small fish, he fell out of the money. His day brought to mind the adage that “if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes,” but unfortunately he didn’t have enough time to wait.
“I needed sunshine for what I was doing and my spots didn’t reload,” Carr lamented. “I had about a dozen brushpiles and I saved four for today, but I just could not get bit. Then the sun came out for two minutes and I caught one.”
Connecticut pro Terry Baksay also needed the sun in order to make his jerkbait pattern work. His Day Two limit weighed just over half of what he caught yesterday, and as a result he fell from 3rd to 16th.
“At 12:48 I caught fish number one and at 2:20 I caught number five,” Baksay said. “I was lucky to catch what I caught.”
Elite Series pro Kevin Short wasn’t ready to pin all of the blame for his fall from 8th to 13th, the first man out of the cut, on the weather change. He said that “there are so many variables, it’s hard to know what it was.” But in addition to the overcast conditions, he believes that increasing mud in his fishing area made underwater visibility difficult for the bass.” As the rain stormed down during the weigh-in, he wore a yellow (not pink) rain jacket and tried to figure out what he could have done differently.
Clark Wendlandt vaulted from 44th place, outside the money, all the way up to 10th thanks to a 15-08 limit. Like Short, he believes that water clarity is a key. Today, his area cleared and the bites that eluded him on Thursday were more plentiful, but he believes that runoff from today’s afternoon thunderstorms could once again muddy up the mix.
“Rain will not help me at all,” Wendlandt said. He’s not getting many bites, but the fish he’s caught have all been footballs, averaging nearly 3 pounds apiece.
Many anglers expected that the overcast conditions and occasional sprinkles would allow the fish to roam and improve the bite on reaction baits. “I would’ve bet the farm that they would have bit like they did yesterday, or better, but they didn’t,” said Florida pro Bernie Schultz. He added 9-10 to his Day One catch of 14-03 and snuck into the cut in 11th with only ounces to spare. Less than 3 pounds separate 3rd place from 12th, but the difference between 1st and 3rd is nearly four pounds. If Pratt stumbles tomorrow, the angler who can eke out an extra big bite will have an opportunity to shine.
Former Bassmaster Classic and Angler of the Year winner Mike Iaconelli said that today’s weather change wasn’t instrumental in improving on his Day One catch by nearly three pounds. Instead, he said that he simply managed to adjust to the tide better and got the bites he needed.
“Yesterday I had one fish over 4 pounds,” Ike said. “Today I had two. That’s the difference. To win, I’ll need three tomorrow.”
Pratt, who openly stated on stage yesterday that clouds would hurt his chances, didn’t seem injured by today’s curveball from the weatherman. He said that his magic log continued to produce and he culled seven or eight times to reach his final weight of 13-13. Apparently he can catch them here rain or shine, but he said that the latter condition would be his preference for Saturday.
“If the sun shines tomorrow, it’ll be a really good day,” Pratt said.
Pratt hopes to weather the approaching storm of anglers lined up behind him tomorrow, but regardless of how the skies look, the sun will shine on one angler who manages to roll with the punches.