Kelly Pratt of Williamsburg, Va., put his vast knowledge of the James River to work for him today as he sacked 16 pounds, 6 ounces to take the lead in the first stop of the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Opens. Though he burned a considerable amount of gas, most of his fish came from one log.
“After I caught ‘em form there, I just went practicing and made a few casts all over the place,” he said. “However, if it clouds up and rains tomorrow, it’ll scatter ‘em and I’ll have to run and hunt even more.”
Though he’s dealing with some boat traffic, Pratt is hopeful that his familiarity with the river and its tidal fluctuations will carry him to the final day, Saturday. He played his cards close to his vest and wouldn’t go into specifics about his pattern.
One ounce behind Pratt is Wilkesboro, N.C., pro Tracy Adams with 16-5. Adams earned a spot in the 2011 Bassmaster Classic via the Northern Opens last year, and is off to the right sort of start to gain entry into the 2012 Classic.
“The main thing today was the timing of the tide,” he said. “You had to be in the right place at the right time. The first place that I went to I had to wait on it a bit, and once it started moving they started biting, then I made a move and caught a few other good ones.”
Adams stressed that he could’ve been in the correct area with the wrong tide and caught nothing.
“It could’ve gone that way just as easy,” he said. “Leaving earlier tomorrow is going to be pushing it (as far as catching the right tide in his area), and I really don’t have another spot, so I’m not sure about tomorrow. If I make the cut, I’m going to have to adjust. But, so far so good.”
In third place is Terry Baksay of Easton, Conn., with 14-14. Baksay dealt with considerable pressure from other pros, but is confident that he’s doing something no one else in the area is, evidenced by his quality catch. In fourth is Elite Series pro Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla., with 14-03. Schultz used a buzzbait, crankbait and a Yamamoto flipping bait to catch his limit. In fifth is Mike Hicks of Goochland, Va., with 14-01.
Pro anglers are competing for a trio of prizes: a berth in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic set to be held in Shreveport, La., on the Red River, several thousand dollars in cash and a Triton bass boat with a Mercury outboard. The pro winner of each of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens receives a berth in the Classic, with the top five points finishers earning an invite to fish the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series.
Co-anglers are fishing for a brand new Triton/Mercury rig as well, and leading that race is Steve Duri, a Canuck-turned-Virginian who resides in Hardy, Va. His 3-fish limit weighed 7-1 and came from the back of Kelly Pratt’s boat. Duri credits Pratt for putting him on fish.
“I’ve only been fishing for 2 1/2-years, and I love this place,” he said. “I had a great time out there with Kelly today.”
Currently in second is Jake Morris of McKee, Ky., with 7-0, in third is Ike Rogers of Madison, Al., with 6-13, in fourth place is Michael Rinaldi of North Haledon, N.J., with 6-4, and rounding out the top five is Ryan Cooper of Nashua, N.H., also with 6-4.
Daily launches will be at 5:45 a.m. ET out of Osborne Park, 9530 Osbourne Turnpike, Henrico, Va., 23231. Weigh-ins will be at 3 p.m. at Osborne Park on Days 1 and 2, but will move to the Bass Pro Shops on Saturday at 11550 Lakeridge Parkway, Ashland, VA 23005.