Open: Cypress pattern gives Alexander lead at James River

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Brenden Kanies

RICHMOND, Va. — Greg Alexander of Hebron, Md., made the most of his James River debut by sacking up a Day 1 limit of 21 pounds, 2 ounces to lead the Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open at the James River.

“I fish the Potomac and other tidal rivers, so I’m familiar with tidal fisheries,” Alexander said. “In practice, it seemed like you could catch them better on the high outgoing water than at any other time, but today I caught them all day.”

Alexander attributes his success to dialing in productive areas in practice and then giving them time to produce today.

“I could catch a lot of fish in a lot of places, but I found a couple of areas that were holding a little better fish,” Alexander said. “So, I just put my nose down and fished extremely slow through these areas.”

Alexander said he caught approximately 30 keepers today, including one around 6 pounds around 11 a.m. He started his day with a 5-pounder in the first hour.

Alexander spent his day on the James River and caught his fish around cypress trees. There’s no lack of this hard cover on the James, but Alexander said his fish were in specific scenarios.

“Everybody’s fishing cypress trees, but I got keyed in on a little deal,” Alexander said. “I could look at (a spot) and say, there’s one there.

“The way the trees are set up is key for me. I’m catching them shallow; they’re in 1 to 4 feet. Some of these fish are getting ready to spawn, and it looked like some of them have been done (spawning) for a long time and they’re just up there eating.”

While a Senko, shaky head, ChatterBait and beaver-style bait produced for him, Alexander caught his weight fish on a 1/2-ounce Cheeseburger Jig with a chunk trailer. An unnamed color proved essential for Alexander, but he also found that a specific presentation made a difference.

“I got keyed in on a jig that I like; I have just the right size, the right color, the right weight — I can go right behind people and catch them,” he said. “I’m definitely trying to do something specific with that jig.”

Jonathan Kelley of Old Forge, Pa., is in second place with 19-6. With multiple patterns established, Kelley worked through his options to recover from a disappointing morning that was likely caused by the mild cold front that lowered water temperatures by several degrees.

“I started on what I knew would get me a big limit, but the cold weather that came in and the low tide we had this morning really affected those fish,” Kelley said. “I scrapped that plan of fishing a pad field and I went to fish wood, but the tide was so low, I struggled.

“I ended up just picking one fish here, one fish there. It really came down to good decision-making on specific tides. That’s what got me the right bites. I was expecting to catch over 50 fish today, but I only caught 10.”

Kelley ended up catching his fish on rock structure in the Chickahominy and the James. Noting that he caught his fish on several different baits, Kelley said the cooler water temperatures required a slow retrieve.

Mike Hicks of Goochland, Va., is in third place with 18-13. While he had fared well in the pits (mining areas off the main river) during practice, devoting time to that pattern stung him today.

“I ran downriver and actually did better down there, and I only caught one fish that helped me once I came back up around noon, so I gave up at least three and a half hours of not catching anything today.”

Downriver, Hicks targeted cypress trees and caught his fish on a variety of baits, including a popping frog, crankbait, ChatterBait, flipping rig and dropshot.

Kerry Frey of Middlebury, Ind., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 6-8.

Cody Stahl of Griffin, Ga., leads the co-angler division with 11-5. Reporting a midday flurry that produced the bulk of his action, Stahl anchored his bag with a 5-9 that put up a nail-biting fight after biting in shallow wood cover.

“In practice, I figured something out about what they were doing — how they’re positioning in the cover,” Stahl said. “Today, it just came together for me.”

Bill Butler of Chester, Va., holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 5-11.

Alexander leads the Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open points standings with 200 points. Kelley is in second with 199, followed by Hicks with 198, Bo Boltz Jr. of New Kent, Va., with 197 and Gary Adkins of Green Bay, Wis., with 196.

Masayuki Matsushita of Tokoname-shi, Japan, leads the overall Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year points standings with 677.

Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. ET at Osborne Park & Boat Landing. The weigh-in will be held back at the landing at 2 p.m.

Visit Richmond and Henrico County, Va., are hosting the event.