Personal bests, notes from James River

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Josh Douglas

RICHMOND, Va. — Josh Douglas has already done it twice this season. Twice, as in squaring mathematically two personal bests.

Twice, the Minnesotan qualified this season for Championship Saturday. His first Top 12 cut came in April at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Chickamauga. Last month, he made the cut again at Oneida Lake.

The Mille Lacs smallmouth guide also caught his personal best largemouth during practice for Open events. Twice. Douglas caught a bucketmouth weighing 9 pounds, 4 ounces at Chickamauga. This week, he bested that catch with a largemouth weighing 9-12.

On Day 1 at Chickamauga he caught the largemouth weighing 9-4. The bass wasn’t even close to taking Phoenix Boat Big Bass honors. Double-digit bass crossed the scales and others weighing over 9 pounds.

The personal best of all time, so far, was a nice surprise.

“I was flipping a bait along the shoreline and all of a sudden the line started slowly moving away,” he said. “I set the hook and it took off for deeper water.”

Douglas wants another crack at the prized largemouth. It’s no surprise that he will return to the spot tomorrow.

Elite watch
Douglas is in contention for another personal best, if he chooses to participate. His ninth-place finish at Oneida has him in play for a coveted invitation to the Bassmaster Elite Series.

Invitations go out after the last event of the season to the top 5 anglers in the point standings for each of the three Opens regional divisions. Douglas got a head start with his high finish at Oneida. This week on the James River he needs to continue the streak to stay in contention for the invite.

Here is the top 5 in the point standings prior to today. Points are in parenthesis.

1. Stanley Sypeck Jr. (200)
2. Wesley Strader (199)
3. Glynn Goodwin (198)
4. Alex Wetherell (197)
5. Patrick Walters (196)

There are interesting dynamics going on. A formula is also used to determine invitations based on multiple factors. The most obvious are in play now. Those are the financial investment required to move up and the desire to accept the invitation.

Stanley Sypeck Jr., and Glynn Goodwin basically fished Oneida to win and qualify for the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

Wesley Strader is a high profile FLW Tour pro, and it’s unknown if he would chose to accept the invitation. Alex Wetherell has a short track record in the Opens.

Douglas is focused for now on a strong finish at the next two events.

Patrick Walters, a senior at the University of South Carolina, is a top-notch collegiate angler. The marketing and management major is due to complete his degree.

What all that means is moving down the list as invitees decline.

Sypeck sweats it out
Signing up for the two remaining Northern Open events was the first move made by Stanley Sypeck after winning at Oneida Lake. Fishing those two events is a must for him to qualify for the Classic.

Check off the James River from the list. Sypeck is wait listed for the final event at Douglas Lake in Tennessee. All he can do now is wait for a spot to open up.

Tide watching
In tidal the bass fishing the tide is an important factor for success. Not so much under the limited timeframe of a tournament. Being at the best areas at the right time doesn’t always work out.

That has panned out on the James River in three previous Open tournaments. None of the winners (Charlie Hartley, Chris Dillow, Randy Howell) pinned their wins solely on the tide chart.

They dealt with the conditions and played their hand best they could in their key areas. The winners and everyone else watched the tide more as a benchmark for how and where the bass positioned on their given spots.

The tide, and how it affects the winning ways of the top anglers, will be something else to watch for this week.

Pro, co-angler involved in boating mishap
Earlier this morning Tom Graziano sent in an image to the Bassmaster Opens blog showing his boat under tow by a cabin cruiser.

Graziano was behind the wheel when his boat potentially struck a submerged object. He and co-angler Gus Kneidinger went overboard as a result. The emergency stop switch disabled the ignition to the outboard, and the personal flotation devices worn by both anglers inflated upon water submersion.

Neither angler suffered injuries serious enough to require immediate medical treatment. The mishap occurred on the James River near the confluence of the Chickahominy River.