Open: Fukae leads Day 1

RICHMOND, Va. — Shin Fukae, a Texas angler who is originally from Japan, learned some quick lessons on the James River Thursday as he moved into the lead in the pro division of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open. His five-bass limit weighed 16 pounds, 10 ounces.

Fukae credited his co-angler partner, Andy Semonco of Chester, Va., with helping him figure out how to catch bass on the James. Semonco, who fishes a local tournament series on the river, also did well with a three-bass limit of 7-13 to move into second place on the co-angler side.

Fukae mentioned that he had an “okay” practice a couple of weeks ago. But, when he returned to the river to practice this week, he mainly looked around at spots he fished in past tournaments on the James and stayed out of the areas he pre-fished to prevent burning those fish.

“I couldn’t find a new spot (in practice), so I decided to fish exactly what I fished two weeks ago,” Fukae said.

Fishing the high tide in the morning produced best for Fukae and Semonco. “We caught our fish pretty quick,” Fukae said. The Texas pro was puzzled, though, because he thought he would catch fish better later in the day on the low tide.

Fukae has proven his versatility in catching bass in different types of waters. He won the 2014 Northern Open fishing shallow and deep in August at New York’s Lake Champlain. On Thursday, he made a long run and fished four different lures in 10 spots to catch his fish in the tidal waters of the James.

Lanexa, Va., angler Steve Colgin relied on his experience on the river to move into second place with a 16-5 limit.

“It was just river fishing — hitting and missing,” Colgin said. “I would pick up one bait and throw it for an hour and catch a fish and thought I had something going. Then I would pick up something later on and catch another one and then just do the same thing over.”

The 56-year-old Colgin caught his fish on the high tide early and on the outgoing tide late. The retiree, who works some at Green Top Sporting Goods, said he ran the “whole river” and tried about 40 spots. “I went way down and then worked my way back up,” he said.

The local angler noticed the fishing has slowed down lately due to a recent hot spell. “The fish were on really good about two or three weeks ago and then it got really hot and they just shut down some,” he said. “They are just not as active and aggressive as they normally are.”

Fukae and two other Japanese anglers made the Top 5 of the pro division. Ken Iyobe of Tokoname-Shi, Japan, is in third place with 16-2, followed by Cameron Smith of Mashpee, Calif., in fourth with 16-1 and Seiji Kato of Shiga, Japan in a tie for fifth with Jake Whitaker of Fairview, N.C. Both anglers have 15-10.

Taking over the lead in the co-angler division was Chad Franklin-Buckey with a three-bass limit that weighed 9-1. Fishing in his first B.A.S.S. event, the 30-year-old merchant marine from Portsmouth, Va., said he caught his fish targeting “anything that had a little shade and had current running with it.”

Iyobe leads the Phoenix Big Bass Award in the pro division with a 7-10 largemouth. Tyler Woolcott of Port Orange, Fla., leads on the co-angler side with a 5-14.

Friday’s launch will begin at 6 a.m. ET from the Osborne Park and Boat Landing, 9530 Osborne Turnpike in Henrico. The weigh-in will be held back at the park at 2 p.m.