Richmond, Va.—Local favorite Chris Dillow dialed up the heat for the competition on a hot opening day of the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open on the James River.
A cold front and storm passed through the area the night before, but the Northern Open competitors still had to contend with temperatures climbing up to 94 degrees. The heat didn’t faze Dillow too much as he caught a five-fish limit weighing 18 pounds, 3 ounces to take the lead in the pro division and position himself for another victory on the James. The 58-year-old real estate agent won last year’s Open at the James to qualify for the 2016 Bassmaster Classic and is gunning for a repeat.
“I just went fishing today and only caught one of them on my jig,” Dillow said. The Waynesboro, Va., angler disclosed he caught six keepers on five different lures throughout the day.
While several competitors made the long run to the Chickahominy River, Dillow decided to fish his usual 10-mile stretch close to the take-off site. When his boat batteries went dead at about 10 o’clock Dillow was restricted to only a few areas for the rest of the day. “I didn’t have any depth finders or anything so I was jump starting my engine all day long.
During practice Dillow caught a bunch of 2-pounders, but decided to leave his big fish areas alone. “I knew it was going to be a grind-it-out thing, but who knows if I will even catch a fish tomorrow,” he said. “It is hard to tell.”
The heat was on but the fishing was still a lot of fun for Grove City, Ohio pro Charlie Hartley who moved into second place with a 16-15 limit. “There are so many days when it is not fun so when it is good I am going to enjoy it,” Hartley said. “I am down so often after tournaments that it feels so good to be up.” The former Bassmaster Elite Series pro is gunning for his first B.A.S.S. victory.
“I caught some really good fish in practice, so I started there today and had my limit in the first hour. Then I culled twice and I thought I had a really good bag.“ He had been catching his fish on a low tide and thought his day was done when the tide changed but he still caught one more quality fish on a high tide.
“I am flipping a cricket (undisclosed soft plastic) in little tight places which is one of my favorite things to do,” Hartley said.
The remaining Top 5 pro division anglers include Brian Kelly, Liverpool, N.Y., Alvin Shaw, Roaring Gap, N.C. and Vinny Troiano, Chesterfield, N.J., all tied for third place with 15-12.
Taking over the lead in the co-angler division with three fish weighing 12-13 was Chesterfield, Va., angler Mark Ludwig. The 56-year-old construction superintendent is a member of the Shady Tree Bassmasters B.A.S.S. Nation club.
Hosting this event is Richmond Region Tourism. Tomorrow’s launch, weigh-in and the final-day launch will be held at the Osborne Boat Landing, 9530 Osborne Turnpike in Henrico. The final day weigh-in will move to the Bass Pro Shops at 11550 Lakeridge Parkway in Ashland.