RICHMOND, Va. — Getting to a prime spot early and fishing it thoroughly could be the key to victory on the James River Aug. 18-20 during the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open. Photo by James Overstreet/Bassmaster
That’s about the same strategy Chris Dillow relied on last year when he won the Northern Open on the James by a 9-pound margin. The Waynesboro, Va., angler stayed within about 15 minutes of the launch site and methodically worked his area with a Dillow’s Perfect Jig and a Strike King Denny Brauer Structure Jig to trigger “a couple of big bites a day.”
While other competitors banked their hopes on catching fish during the low tide, Dillow favored the high tide because it kept more water over the cover (downed trees, pilings and rocks) he was fishing. Playing the tide paid off for him as he caught a 7-pounder each day to finish with a winning weight of 50 pounds, 12 ounces.
Next week’s Open will be held more than a month later than the 2015 event, but Dillow thinks James River bass will be in the same summertime patterns, setting up on wood cover, dropoffs, creek channel bends and lily pad patches.
“I caught fish as deep as 18 feet last year, but the majority should be around 6 feet or less,” he said.
While Dillow plans to stick close to the takeoff site and fish familiar waters, he knows there will be a temptation to make the long run to a traditional summer hot spot loaded with bass.
“I’ve learned in the past that the hotter the weather, the better the ‘Chick’ (Chickahominy River) is — that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s probably going to set up pretty good for the Chick with frogs in the pads and all that stuff. I’m sure a lot of guys who make the run there have the chance to do really well in this tournament because the Chick just seems to prevail when the weather is hot.”
The Virginia angler predicts the mouth of the Appomattox River will also produce well in the summertime heat. Even though he thinks the backs of creeks should provide some good action during the tournament, Dillow avoids these areas because of the tide.
“I don’t go too far back in those creeks because it gets shallow and you have to get out of there pretty quick if the tide gets a lot lower,” he said.
Jigs will once again be a top producer during the Open, but Dillow suggests other lures will also catch plenty of James River bass.
“Topwaters may come into play when they are feeding in the morning, and I guarantee the frog (both hollow belly and toad styles) is going to be on big time,” he said.
Michael Simonton took second place last year skipping a Spro Bronzeye Frog around laydowns and under overhanging branches.
“I think a buzzbait will also come into play,” he said. He envisions plastic worms and creature baits also producing during the tournament.
Presenting lures to cover could become a challenge for some of the Northern Open contenders who rarely fish tidal currents. Dillow suggests the current can be strong in some areas, and that influences where he has to deliver his lure around cover.
“If I am up in the Chick fishing docks, I have to get my jig pretty far up in front of a dock and let it swing back down to it,” he said.
Dillow predicts the Northern Open contenders will need to catch 25 to 26 pounds the first two days to make the Top 12 final cut. He thinks the weights might be down this year, so the winner could top the pro division field with 45 pounds during the three-day event.
Anglers will take off each day at 6:30 a.m. ET at Osborne Park and Boat Landing. Weigh-ins will be held at 2:30 p.m. at Osborne Park and Boat Landing the first two days, with the final weigh-in on Saturday taking place at the Bass Pro Shops in Ashland, Va., at 3:30 p.m.
2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: GoPro, Huk, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Berkley
2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Rapala, Shell Rotella, Shimano, A.R.E. Truck Caps, Carhartt
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. 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, B.A.S.S. Nation, 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.