Today's Top 12 has several anglers that are intimately familiar win B.A.S.S. "win and you're in" Basmaster Classic qualifications. Kelly Pratt, Tracy Adams and Pete Gluszek would all like to qualify a second time via winning a Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open. Of course, Mike Iaconelli and Brandon Palaniuk are former B.A.S.S. Nation Championship winners that punched their tickets through that circuit. This group knows how to compete when a single spot in bass fishing's biggest event is at stake.
I had an issue with my media boat and finally got on the water. As soon as I got to Randy Howell, he moved to the other end of the dam from where he has been fishing last two days. He said he's already caught two big ones. He estimates they go two for 9 pounds. He's hooked abother one that looks about 2 pounds.
With a trophy catch on their minds, the Top 12 anglers make there way out into the James River on the last day of the first Northern Open.
Anglers Mike Iaconelli and Pete Gluszek have a long history.
The service crews are loading up after their tremendous support of 170 boat field at the James River. Most of them are looking at a two day drive to Wisconsin for next weeks Bassmaster Elite Series. Their efforts are appreciated by both the anglers and B.A.S.S. staff.
Virginia pro Greg Cooper has made the Top 12 here each of the last three years. "Making the Top 12 is satisfying, but winning is the goal," he said."Once you get here, 2nd through 12th are all the same." In 2011 and 2012 he entered Saturday in 2nd place. This year he's 9th, just over 5 pounds back.
Tracy Adams is glad that his Nitro Z9 holds 68 gallons of gas. He's been making a longer run than all but one or two competitors and burning at least 40 gallons of gas a day. Some newer boats hold only 42 or 45 gallons of gas, he said, and if he needed to fill up on the water that would cost him 20 or 30 precious minutes. One might think that with the reduced field Adams would have his distant area to himself, but he confirmed before blastoff that he's sharing it with another member of the Top 12.
Mike Hicks has been staying in nearby Hopewell during the tournament, but last night he went home and stayed in his own bed. He's hoping that home cooking and home state knowledge will pay off, and said that he doesn't care what the weather does. "Weather doesn't matter," he said. "The fish are going to bite when the tide gets right."
The 2011 winner Kelly Pratt got exactly the weather he wanted, still and clear. He believes the sunshine will position the bass predictably. He may seem unflappable and unemotional, but he said he was very excited when he first looked outside this morning and saw a sky full of stars.
Tournament leader Randy Howell said he slept well last night -- no tossing and turning over possible outcomes -- but would have liked a few more Z's. "By the time I got everything ready it was 10:30 [p.m.]," he said. "I was going to get up at 4, but I was awake at 20 until 4." His upcoming drive to Wisconsin may prove grueling, but it'll be a lot easier if the trophy is beside him.