James River Open difficult to predict

RICHMOND, Va. — A sudden, intense heatwave in Virginia would be a boon to Josh Wagy. The 2013 Bassmaster Classic contender, set to compete on the James River during the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open, believes a dramatic temperature rise would make the bass a bit more predictable in Richmond, Va.

“I’d like it to be 100 degrees from now until the tournament, but I don’t think I’m going to get that,” said Wagy, who earned his Classic berth with an Opens Series win on the same fishery last year. “That would be a lot better for me. It would put fish in the places where they should be at this time of year. I caught some the other day that were just pulling up to spawn.”

After what he’s experienced lately, Wagy said turning up the temperature on his home fishery would put bass in a summertime pattern, far more preferable to their current peripatetic state.

“There are so many different things going on now,” he explained. “I’m catching postspawn, spawn and even prespawn. The weather has been so up and down that the fish are scattered everywhere. They’re not grouped up like they were last year.”

When a warm spring preceded the Northern Open last year, Wagy knew exactly what to do to catch his daily limits and win with a three-day total of 39-4. He fished a 15- to 20-mile section of the James River, catching postspawners precisely where he anticipated they would be.

“I don’t know what to expect this year,” Wagy said. “I know it’s going to be a good tournament. They’ve been catching big weights here in local tournaments all year. The river has been on fire. Whoever will make the right decisions over the course of three days and adapt to what’s going on will win.”

Wagy says the James is fishing better than it has fished for many years, but pressure will be another factor in who will take home the trophy next week. Anglers will be part of a large field of competitors, including Bassmaster Elite Series pros Boyd Duckett, Kurt Dove, Mike Iaconelli, Timmy Horton, Brandon Palaniuk and Fletcher Shryock. Many of those fishing for the victory are locals, like Wagy.

“I’m going to have to focus,” Wagy said. “This river is full of good fish. Somebody will figure out how to catch some of those better fish, and the potential for catching a giant bag is there. If it takes more than 15 pounds a day to win this, it wouldn’t surprise me. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a 20-pound bag. I’ve talked a lot to the older generation who have been fishing here for 20 and 30 years. They can remember it taking eight fish weighing 20 to 24 pounds to win a tournament. Now it’s taking 24 pounds with only five fish.”

Wagy, who embarked on his career as a full-time angler this year, is living a pre-teen dream he first verbalized to his father.

“It would be another dream come true to win this tournament [and go back to the Classic],” Wagy said. “It would mean a lot to me to be able to win again in front of a hometown crowd. To go to the Classic would be the icing on the cake. After going there [in 2013], I definitely want to go back as soon as possible.”

His eyes are on another prize, too — an invitation to fish the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2014.

“My main goal this year is to be able to qualify for the Elites,” Wagy said. “I’m ready to get started, but there are no guarantees on a tidal fishery. I could zero or catch a big bag. There are so many odds, and this playing field is pretty even.”

Anglers will launch each day at 5:30 a.m. ET from Osborne Park and Boat Landing (9530 Osborne Turnpike, Henrico, VA 23231). Weigh-ins will be held at the same location on Thursday and Friday at 2 p.m. ET. On the final day, Saturday, the weigh in begins at 3 p.m. ET at Bass Pro Shops (11550 N. Lakeridge Parkway, Ashland, VA 23005).