RICHMOND, Va. -- Kelly Pratt was at a loss for words after winning the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on the James River. His three-day catch of 42-6 was good enough to best runner-up Randall Tharp by more than 5 pounds.
“I can’t even describe this right now, it’s a dream come true,” he said.
Though he’s excited about his Open win, Pratt is even more excited about earning a berth in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, to be held Feb. 24-26 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La..
“Every bass fisherman dreams about going to the Classic, so it’ll be fun. I’m already signed up for the next two Opens so I can qualify,” he said. “(The Red River offers) my kind of fishing, too. I like chunking around stumps in shallow water.”
Pratt caught most of his fish this week on a green pumpkin candy bug Zoom Finesse Worm rigged on a 1/8-ounce Slider Head. His best place the first two days was a log, but the bass had scattered on Day Three, meaning Pratt had to go find the 12-3 that he weighed Saturday.
“I just happened to stumble into two big fish today and wound up catching eight keepers,” he said. “The key to my day was the sun coming out. If it’s out, I can catch fish. When it cools off in the summertime in the Chickahominy, they go shallow. A lot of guys were out looking on ledges and they just weren’t there. I caught most of my fish in two feet of water. That’s something I’ve been doing for 30 years.”
Pratt also collected a cash prize and a Triton/Mercury rig, for a total value of $53,867.
In second Place is Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala. Tharp amassed 11-8 Saturday for a total of 37-1. He had to decipher the tidal shifts of the James to claim runner-up.
“What I did this week was figure out what the tides were doing. In practice the tide was low to start and during the tournament it was low later in the day, so I had to figure ‘em out every day,” he said. “I knew where big ones lived, so I just hung out until I found 'em.”
Most of Tharp’s fish fell for a black topwater frog, and others ate a junebug-colored Zoom Speed Worm. He had nearly 10 spots, all of which produced fish. He focused on lily pads as well as docks, one of which yielded his 6-6 on Day 2. He took home $13,300.
In third place is Chris Daves of Spring Grove, Va., who caught 10-7 for a total of 36-7. Michael Iaconelli of Pitts Grove, N.J., finished fourth with 35-1, and Sean Wieda of Florence, Ky., was fifth with 33-8.
On the co-angler side, Michael Rinaldi of North Haledon, N.J., took home a Triton/Mercury rig valued at $35,000 for his total weight of 18-0. He caught 4-15 Saturday.
“I have to thank the pros I drew. As a co-angler, all that you can ask for is good guys who put you on fish. Then it’s up to you to do the rest,” he said. “I signed up for this thing in the dead of winter with three feet of snow around me, and it just sounded good. I’ve never been here before, but it all worked out! My family and friends back home are going nuts.”
Rinaldi relied on a 4-inch Zoom Finesse Worm as well as a Zoom Speed Craw.
“I’ve been a co-angler for the last few years, and I’ve learned to pick my spots to cast to, because the pro can’t cover everything, though they try,” he said. “The key to my win was putting my head down and fishing my butt off. This is the highlight of my fishing career; it’s the highlight of my life.”
In second place is Kevin Davenport of Richmond, Va., with 17-2, in third is Ike Rogers of Madison, Ala., with 15-7, in fourth is Lenny Baird of Stafford, Va., with 15-1, and in fifth place is Steve Duri of Hardy, Va., with 14-10.
The next stop of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Opens is Lake Erie out of Sandusky, Ohio, Aug. 25-27, where another Classic berth will be awarded. The circuit wraps up in Syracuse, N.Y., on Oneida Lake, Sept. 22-24, where the third and final Classic berth will be awarded from the Northern Opens.