Day 2 notes from the James River


Shin Fukae has a big bag for Day 1 of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open.
Ronnie Moore

Shin Fukae has a big bag for Day 1 of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open.

RICHMOND, Va. — Bass fishing is without geographical boundaries, and the Day 1 standings proved the point. After Day 1, four anglers from Japan and Australia landed in the top 10.

Three of the top five anglers were from Japan, which likely marked a first in B.A.S.S. competition.

Was it coincidental? The solid answer was not at all. Now, three of those four anglers are fishing Championship Saturday. They are Shin Fukae, Seiji Kato and Carl Jocumsen.

Fukae, Kato and Ken Iyobi, who missed the cut, all brought impressive credentials from Japan to the U.S., where the three have become even more successful. So did Jocumsen, the Australian who took ninth place on Day 1. Fukae led and Iyobi and Kato finished third and fifth, respectively.

Iyobi is a lure designer by trade and spent two seasons on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour, from 2015-16. He is fishing all three Open divisions with the goal of requalifyig for the Elite Series.

Kato is a legendary lure designer whose credits include the Daiwa TD Minnow, Lucky Craft Sammy and dozens of other hot baits. His latest endeavor is Jackall Lures, which he founded. Kato also has a long history of competition with B.A.S.S. At the 2007 Elite Series event held on Lake Amistad, he won what back then was the co-angler title. Kato has fished the Open tour continuously since 2015.

Jocumsen is the Australian who reached his dream of qualifying for the Elite Series in 2015. He competed for two seasons and now fishes the FLW Tour, and the Northern Opens. 

Fukae has the most tournament experience of the group. He won the 2004 FLW Angler of the Year title in his rookie year, nearly almost won it again in 2007, and has 11 Forest Wood Cups on his resume. He adds another next week when the event is held on Lake Murray. Fukae has $1 million in FLW Tour earnings. 

On the B.A.S.S. side he competed in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic, after winning the 2014 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open on Lake Champlain. Of no surprise, the upstate New York fishery is his favorite of all.

Developing a pattern

When not catching bass Pete Gluszek’s other job is teaching people how to catch them. The New Jersey pro is co-founder of The Bass University with Michael Iaconelli.

Gluszek is working on teaching a new course after Day 2. He caught a limit weighing 20 pounds, 2 ounces, to take the lead going into Championship Saturday.

Gluszek spoke of a strategy in use called the developing pattern. He defines that as getting ahead of a prevailing pattern, or looking for the next move made by the bass.

“As anglers sometimes we get stuck in what the bass were doing yesterday, and that is declining every day,” he explained. “So for every declining pattern there is a developing movement.”

Bass and baitfish move, gang up in new areas, or even feed in different water. A new pattern begins to develop. Missing the clues of change is getting stuck in the declining pattern. 

“I am always seeking that new pattern and want to be in front of it, keep ahead,” he said. “That is my goal every day.

Gluszek credited a developing pattern for his last win. That came at the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on Oneida Lake. As a result, he qualified for and fished in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. 

Staying ahead of the tide

A reoccurring comment by some of the top anglers revolves around the tidal cycle. Some like it high and others favor the low tide.

The high tide anglers need incoming water to flood shoreline habitat and bring the bass with it. They might be scattered but are in feeding mode. On the low side the outgoing water flushes out and so do the bass.

On the James River, the tide fluctuates on average of about 3 feet in the tournament waters. The ebb and flow at that level is the perfect mix for recharging the shoreline habitat with food sources as the water comes back up. Or brings it back out on the low side.

What else is good about the tide, and especially this week, is the timing. Timing is everything when a pattern needs the high tide to flood shoreline habitat and bring the bass with it.

The good fortune this week is the high tide occurred yesterday around noon, giving the anglers full benefit of fishing the incoming and outgoing tide. In the worse case scenario, that high/low tide cycle happens either really early or late in the day, cutting short those benefits of tidal bass fishing.

During the tournament hours today’s low tide came at 6:36 a.m., or 30 minutes after the official takeoff time. The high tide came at 12:17 p.m.

On Championship Saturday the low tide is at 7:21 a.m., and the high tide comes at 1:06 p.m. Those times are for the confluence of the Chickahominy and James rivers.

Kickers that matter

An above average bass in a given 5-bass limit is referred to as a “kicker” fish in tournament slang. So far, the kicker factor has been huge this week. Here are just two of multiple examples.

Ken Iyobe’s largemouth weighing 7 pounds, 10 ounces, took Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors on Day 1. Subtract that weight and add a few pounds for the size of an average keeper. The sum would’ve put him in the middle of the top 25. That kicker easily put Iyobe in third place.

The same thing applied for fourth-place angler Cameron Smith on the same day. A kicker weighing 7-1 anchored his limit weighing 16-1. Do the same math and he too would be in the middle of the pack.

Build it and they will come

B.A.S.S. has a long history with the launch site used during the Northern Open. 

Back in the late 1980s, the Commonwealth of Virginia made a bid to host a Bassmaster Classic. Holding the sport’s world championship that far north was a gamble at the time. Bass fishing was still a sport associated with the South, and B.A.S.S. was reluctant to stray away from the fan base.

Richmond was the only city in the state with an indoor arena large enough to accommodate the throngs of fans who made a summer vacation of the Classic. A launch facility big enough for the Classic was the only hurdle. That was cleared when government officials put on the drawing board a facility that would rival them all.

The result was Osborne Park and Boat Landing, a 26-acre site on the James River in Henrico County. At the time, there would be none like it anywhere in the East.

The City of Richmond, Henrico County, and the Commonwealth pulled out all the stops to host the Classic in 1988. B.A.S.S., the Classic anglers and sponsors were pleasantly surprised—maybe shocked—when 5,000 fans showed up at the new facility to see the launch on any given morning. 

Things went so well the Classic came back in 1989 and 1990, marking a Classic first. In no other city had a Classic been held for three consecutive years. 

The facility has hosted numerous B.A.S.S. events, from high school to Opens, over the years. Adjacent to the boat landing, there is a playground, picnic areas/shelters, trails, access to the James River, and a handicap accessible fishing pier.