Iaconelli takes over James River lead

RICHMOND, Va. — Mike Iaconelli of Pitts Grove, N.J., leveraged low water windows to back up his Day 1 catch of 15 pounds, 2 ounces with an identical Day 2 bag for a 30-4 total that leads the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open on the James River.

As Iaconelli explained, tidal fisheries typically deliver their best opportunities on low, outgoing tides, as the falling water positions fish in predictable locations where they utilize current breaks to ambush forage flushed from shoreline cover. “Chasing” a tide refers to fishing the preferred stage until it ends and then repositioning up or down the tidal plane to find that scenario in another location.

“It was the same thing as yesterday; the lowest outgoing water you can find is key,” Iaconelli said. “What happens is you have it here in the morning, then it goes away and then you run South and you get it there in the afternoon.

“The reason I had that bag today is because I had a late flight. Had I had to check in a 2 o’clock, I would not have had that bag. I was able to fish two completely different areas of the river and keep with the low, outgoing tide. Almost all of that bag came late.”

Iaconelli said he power fished with three different reaction baits. Essential to his success was targeting areas with hard cover and nearby grass. That gives the fish those ambush spots with plenty of forage coming out of the soft cover.

“I’m fishing areas with current flow; nothing I’m fishing has slack water,” Iaconelli said. “Everything has what I call a ‘flush’ going past it.

“It’s all reaction baits on heavy line. I’m just throwing and winding. There’s no finesse at all. It’s in and out and if they bite, they bite.”

Noting that he intends to follow the same game plan tomorrow, Iaconelli said he knows he has his work cut out for him. Tides advance about an hour each day, so tomorrow’s later window of afternoon low tide could become a critical factor.

“I’ll need a magic day tomorrow to win; I’ll need one of those 18- to 20-pound days,” he said. “It’s possible — (Day 1 leader) Bryan Schmitt did it. They’re here, I’m in the right areas to do it, I just have to get fortunate.”

Kotaro Kiriyama of Guntersville, Ala., is in second place with 29-14. Improving from eighth place on Day 1, Kiriyama added 14-14 to his first-round weight of 15 pounds. The key, he said, was recognizing the opportunity delivered by changing conditions.

“I fished a similar area in the Chickahominy River, but the approach was different,” Kiriyama said. “The fish positioned differently today because the tide was one hour later and I didn’t know that until 11:30 — I had no fish until then. From there, I caught all of my fish in about an hour and a half.

“I’ve never been here before, but I have experience on the Potomac River and the Delaware River (both tidal fisheries). I figured it could be similar, so I was patiently waiting until I thought it was good and that’s when it happened.”

Precise presentations with finesse worms were the key to triggering bites from fish positioned in feeding spots.

Tommy Little of Chester, Va., is in third place with 29-11. Drawing on his three decades of James River experience, he avoided the frustration he experienced on Day 1 by adjusting the order in which he ran his spots.

“I changed my rotation up today because it took me until 11 o’clock yesterday morning before I caught my first keeper,” Little said. “I had one on my first stop this morning and then I caught my biggest fish on my second stop. I caught another big fish around 11 and then I caught fish the rest of the day.”

Little declined to mention what he used to fool his fish, but he did say that he had 10 rods on is deck and could have left nine in the locker.

Timothy Lucy of Prince George, Va., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 6-10 largemouth.

Jon Wiese of Charlotte, N.C., leads the co-angler division with 18-2. He said his day Friday included a thrilling start, a peppy conclusion and a whole lot of boredom in the middle.

“It was crazy, I literally had one bite in the first three quarters of the day, but it was the one that counted,” Wiese said of the 5-pounder that ate a wakebait. “At the end of the day, we ran up the river, I picked up a little black and blue Zoom Finesse worm on a Slider head and caught three fish in three casts.

“They were sitting in a little shaded area, the tide was going out and they were just fighting over food. It was meant to be and it happened.”

Scott Stephenson III holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 7-8 largemouth.

Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. ET at Osborne Park & Boat Landing. The weigh-in will be held at the Bass Pro Shops in Ashland, Va., at 3 p.m.

The event is hosted by Richmond Region Tourism and Visit Henrico County.