Saturday I returned to the James River where I had just competed as a co-angler in the B.A.S.S. Northern Open. I had a dismal tournament to say the least. But through the tough fishing I knew I was gaining valuable information that I could use at a later date. Not just in this tournament but in all tournaments going forward. And it didn’t take long for the one of the lessons learned to surface.
I drove up from Lake Gaston Saturday morning. This is new for me this year and I didn’t quite allow enough time for gas, ice, and nature stops. I arrived at the ramp 20 minutes before launch. I hate to be late anywhere but especially the ramp on tournament morning. I tend to get in a rush to get ready and my adrenaline, which is already elevated on tournament morning, is racing through me like a spinnerbait being burned under the surface.
I made my mind up I wasn’t going to rush and methodically prepared my boat for launch. Caught up with my partner for the day and put the boat in the water. Since we only had about 15 minutes to launch I decided to wait and get my rods out once we arrived at my first stop. That decision lead to a situation I didn’t want to be in and decided to remove myself from it.
I had a fairly early number in the launch and decided to hit the first stop from last Friday’s tournament. The stop is a community hole that can produce some good fish, especially in the summer months. And with the completion of the Open the previous weekend I was confident there would be a few fish that found that spot along their travels to new haunts. As I arrived at the spot I set the motor boat down about 20 yards from it. Since I needed a few minutes to get my rods out and situated I didn’t want to roll up into the spot before I was ready and with the tide that is easy to do. As I was pulling my rods out another club member came around me and set down right on the hole. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I’m just heading right for the spot and this guy is going to cut me off.
After a brief conversation I remembered the experience last week with Andrew. It was the same exact spot. The situation was a little different but I remember how flustered and frustrated Andrew became attempting to share the spot with the other angler. He admitted later in the day that it had gotten him out of rhythm. I knew if I stayed there and attempted to do the same I to would have gotten frustrated. I decided to take the time to finish getting my rods ready and then I was gone. I had a plan…… I was sticking to it.
I wasn’t much of a run and gunner before last weekend. I learned a little how to fish that way from Andrew. I had laid out a route that would take me from the launch to the mouth of the Appomatox and several stops in between. My plan had considerations should the first stop, among others have someone on them. So I stuck to the plan and ran down river to a spot I had fished in practice and the Open. The tide was almost at full tide so there wasn’t much water moving at this time. I’m not sure if that influenced the bite there or not but it wasn’t the right time. After about 15 minutes there I moved on to the next stop. This spot wasn’t too far down the river and had some deep water on it. This area I’ve caught some good fish in the past and was going on history when I stopped there.
My partner and I fished this 100 yard stretch for about 20 minutes before I hooked up my first fish on a buzzbait. It was a nice 2 lber and a good way to put the morning behind me. We continued down that area fishing wood and rock but couldn’t find another bite on that pass. I asked my partner if he was ready to go and he replied… ‘Stick to your plan’. So we did.
I ran over to the mouth of the Appomatox River to fish a couple spots that had been successful for me in the past and usually have some ABC’s around for a few quick bites. One spot had an angler on it. So I went up aways from there and fished another. By now the tide had turned and was ripping out of there. I was putting my Minn Kota to work this morning. After 20 minutes on that spot we drifted back a little to fish the original area after it had been abandoned by the previous angler but the tide was running so hard it made it too difficult to hold the boat and present the baits properly. Let’s go!
We pulled up and started running back up river. I stopped at the previous 100 yard stretch, this time fishing into the outgoing tide. The area starts off with a rip rap wall and I managed two keepers on a crankbait within the first 20 yards and my partner boated his first there too. The plan was coming together. We continued down the bank but only managed a small catfish so we moved on.
After stopping at two more unproductive spots I pulled up on a duck blind that I had past many times before but Andrew had had some good bites during his practice. We did stop there during the Open but to no avail. Today would be no different. While I was stopped on the blind I was watching across the river at a location that I wanted to fish but had a boat on it. They weren’t quite positioned right on it so I was hoping they would leave. To my pleasure they did. Once they were up and I way I pulled the trolling motor and quickly made tracks. As I positioned the boat on the spot I explained to my partner how the area laid out and how I was planning on fishing it. ‘Good call’ he said as he boated his second fish. Shortly after that I completed my limit. It was a good call. We both managed to get another fish in the boat and I was able to make my first cull. Once the bite settled down a bit I was trying to decide on the next move. I was wondering if anyone was on the spot I tried to get to earlier in the day. I pulled up the trolling motor and said ‘Let’s go’.
We ran back up river towards the spot but, as expected, someone was sitting on it. I kept heading up river and went to go to another spot I had fished before but had also hit during the Open. This is another area that can hold some good fish. It’s a short dock with pier pilings that sits close to the channel. But on low tide there isn’t much water on the outside pilings, which was the case when we got there. Since the tide was out I stopped a little short and picked up my ALX Crankin’ stick and went to work. First cast rewarded me with another cull. I figured the fish must be sitting out in front of that pier and boated two more fish while my partner got his third. Once the bite on the crankbait slowed I picked up my shaky head fitted with one of Terry Bowden’s Cold Steel Tricky Finesse worms and tried to see if there were any others around that may have gotten spooked by the crankbait. There were. I had two more bites and was able to cull one last time. The plan had certainly come together.
I spent the last hour and a half of the day trying to get that big bite that I needed and my partner a chance to complete his limit. Neither of those happened and it was time to head back. I had a decent limit of fish but didn’t think my four fish limit would be enough to place. I took my fish to the scales and had just over 8 lbs. respectable but again not enough to place. Or at least that’s what I thought. As we were cleaning things up someone asked about the finish. I was surprised when the Tournament Director rattled off Jimmy won, Eddie was second, and Bob was third. I thought to myself, Bob was third? No way. That was a nice surprise and happy I stuck with my plan.
ALX Medium Diver Cranking Rod
McCoy 12 lb 100% Flouro
Lew’s Speed Spool
Spro Little John