Wooing a Classic berth

RICHMOND, Va. — Woo Daves wants to turn his success on the James River into a Classic berth.

The 2000 Classic winner came close to winning four of the seven B.A.S.S. events on his home water. In the back-to-back-to-back Classics on the James (1988-1990), he had two Top 5 finishes, taking second in 1988.

He also took fifth on the James in a 1983 Invitational. Though he lives on the river -- he can fish a point from his backyard --  a victory has eluded him here.

For the first Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open, the Spring Grove, Va., pro hopes it’s his turn.

An Open title carries with it an automatic berth into the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, to be held on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. The winner also receive a cash prize and a Triton boat with a Mercury motor.

If Daves can win and fishes the other two Northern Opens, it would be his 18th Classic qualification.

Though he’d like a win, Daves isn’t exactly in top form on his home water. He’s only been on the James four times in the past eight years.

“It’s a lot different than it used to be,” he said. “A while back — 2002, I think — there was a massive saltwater influx and consequent fish kill due to a lack of rain, and that killed a lot of the cypress trees. The fishery changed completely.

“It used to be a really great place to fish; you could go out and catch 100 a day.”

Tournament weights plummeted as bass were difficult to find. A few years after the fish kill, Daves and a group of concerned anglers pooled together funds — along with a handsome donation from Bass Pro Shops — to restock the river.

“Since we’ve restocked it, it’s steadily coming back and a few local events are taking 20-plus-pounds to win,” he said.

For this Open, though, Daves is less optimistic.

“Right after the Fourth of July weekend isn’t the best time to have a big tournament like this, with all the boat traffic that’s been out and about lately,” he said. “Hopefully by Thursday it’ll have gotten back to normal.”

Daves estimates the winner will need around 35 pounds, similar to the top weight in the 1990 Classic. When you factor in the James’ fluctuating tides, anglers will need to be fleet of foot and have several dependable spots in order to have a shot at a Classic berth.

Daily launches will be at 5:45 a.m. ET out of Osbourne Park, 9530 Osbourne Turnpike, Henrico, Va., 23231. Weigh-ins will be at 3 p.m. at Osbourne Park on Days 1 and 2, but will move to the Bass Pro Shops on Saturday at 11550 Lakeridge Parkway, Ashland, VA 23005.

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