Fishing & Boating News

Northern Open Competitors Will Experience James River At Its Summer Best  

by: Helen White, Bassmaster

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Michael Iaconelli joins a field of 193 pro anglers vying for the top spot and a berth in 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic
Photo by Seigo Saito/B.A.S.S.
(Jul 2, 2015 - RICHMOND, Va.) Virginia’s historic James River will host the first 2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open presented by Allstate from July 9-11, and the timing couldn’t be better. Earlier this year, various local tournaments have produced an unprecedented number of large fish — 8-, 9- and even 10-pounders. By the time the competitors take off on Day 1, any remaining postspawn struggles should be over, and the hot summer bite is expected to be in full swing.
 
“They’re in a little funk right now,” said Kelly Pratt of the bass in late June. Pratt won the 2011 Northern Open on the James and finished fourth in both 2012 and 2013. “The heat will get them going. It speeds up their metabolism so they start feeding and will put them in places where people can catch them.”
 
B.A.S.S. has held three Northern Open events on the James in recent years and the Chickahominy River tributary, about a 45-minute run from the Osborne Park and Boat Landing launch site, has played an outsized role in the top finishers’ outcomes. Pratt said the river system’s enhanced fertility doesn’t make the upper “Chick” a sure bet to produce the win this time around.
 
“It could be won anywhere,” he said. “The Appomattox River, the Chick or the James itself. It’s not just one area anymore, and if you’re going to win on the Chick, you’ll have to learn how to catch them in a crowd.”
 
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J., who has made the final day cut both times he’s fished the James in Open competition, expects to do well again because of his tidal river expertise.
 
“It’s not because I know the James very well,” Iaconelli explained. “I do well because it’s an East Coast tidal fishery. So much of it depends on timing. You can be on the best bank on the whole river, but if you hit it at the wrong time, you wouldn’t know they’re there.
 
“The nice thing is that you’ll be able to fish your strengths. A lot of other places there’s one main deal, whether it be punching mats or a drop shot on edges. The James is diverse. There’s hard stuff like wood and rock, as well as marsh banks and vegetation.”
 
Both Pratt and Iaconelli agreed that in order to win, an angler will likely have to run the tide.
 
After three Opens in recent years, there would seem to be few secret spots, so savvy timing will likely play a key role in the outcome. Fortunately, while the river has occasionally fished small in past events, there are huge swaths of water that have gone unexplored, and the angler who has multiple areas in diverse regions, and an understanding of when they’re at their best, can create a milk run to stay ahead of the competition.
 
“On the James, I don’t rule anything out,” Iaconelli said. “From all the way up in Richmond to where it breaks into the Chesapeake Bay.”
 
In the past three events on the James, it has taken between an average of 13 and 16 pounds a day to claim the victory. Elite Series pro Randy Howell had the highest winning weight of the three in 2013, with most of his catch coming on a junebug-colored Senko cast to the face of the Walker’s Dam on the upper end of the Chickahominy.
 
Howell’s victory qualified him for the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro on Lake Guntersville, which he won. Both Pratt and Iaconelli expect the winning weight to be in that range again, although one or two of the larger-than-usual big bass that have shown up in tournaments earlier this year could push an angler’s total much higher.
 
This year’s three Northern Opens will take place on a remarkably diverse trio of fisheries. After the James, the circuit will head to New York’s Oneida Lake in early August, and then complete the series on Lake Erie out of Sandusky, Ohio, in late September.
 
Anglers will take off each day at 6 a.m. ET. Weigh-ins will be held at 2 p.m. ET at Osborne Park and Boat Landing the first two days, with the final weigh-in on Day 3 held at the Bass Pro Shops in Ashland, Va., at 3 p.m.

The local hosts for the event are Visit Richmond and Henrico County Recreation and Park.
 
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
 
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Presenting Sponsor: Allstate
 
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
 
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: A.R.E. Accessories, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, GoPro, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
 
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Huk Performance Fishing, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Rigid Industries, Shimano
 
About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
 
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series presented by Allstate, Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation events, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.