RICHMOND, Va. — Garrett Paquette has had a good relationship with the James River.
In 2016, he and his partner Zak Fadden of Schoolcraft College finished eighth in a Carhartt Bassmaster College Series event on the James. Then in 2017, Paquette placed fourth in a Bassmaster Open there, earning a check for $10,812.
But as he prepares for this week’s Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open on the James River, Paquette expects to see a completely different fishery than he’s experienced in the past.
“The last time I was there (in 2017), it was at the end of July,” said Paquette, who’s now a successful rookie on the Bassmaster Elite Series. “So, we’re going at the same time of year.
“But one thing you always have to prepare for when you fish the James River is the tides — and the tides this year are going to be completely different than they were last time I was there.”
Competition days will be Thursday through Saturday, with daily takeoffs at 6 a.m. ET from Osborne Park & Boat Landing. Weigh-ins on Days 1 and 2 will be held at the landing at 2 p.m., and the final-day weigh-in will be at 3 p.m. at the Bass Pro Shops in Ashland, Va.
The James River has served as the venue for 11 previous major events. The tide was a factor for all of those tournaments — and as Paquette said, it will be for this one as well.
“The things that worked for me last time, I just can’t see working for me until maybe Day 3,” Paquette said. “I’m kind of getting nervous about it already.”
To deal with the tidal fluctuation that comes from the James River’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, Paquette said anglers will basically have two choices.
“One way to approach it is to find an area with fish and sit in there all day — high tide, low tide or whatever — and just kind of change presentations throughout the day,” he said. “The other thing that works when fishing tides is just fishing really specific targets and running the tide, just moving around the river and hitting the specific stretches you want to fish at just the right time.”
With the current tidal predictions, Paquette expects that latter strategy to be particularly tough. He believes 13 to 14 pounds per day will put an angler in good position to win — and he thinks employing all of the typical river-fishing methods will be the key to amassing that weight.
“The cool thing about the James is there are no secrets,” Paquette said. “It’s very rare when someone even gets a Top 10 and you look back and say ‘Wow, I didn’t think of that.’
“It’s very basic river fishing — flipping, frogs, ChatterBaits, spinnerbaits, maybe a Pop-R-style bait and then finesse fishing.”
The James River was the site of three Bassmaster Classics in 1988-90. More recently, the fishery has hosted six Opens since 2011, including the 2016 event won by former Elite Series pro Charlie Hartley and the 2017 tournament won by current Elite angler and Virginia resident Rick Morris.
“Because it’s going to be so hot and the tides aren’t going to be perfect, I think it’s going to be a little stingier than it has been at times in the past,” said Paquette, who has five career Top 10 finishes with B.A.S.S. “But it’s still going to be a great tournament.”