Bryan Schmitt knows his way around tidal fisheries, but he welcomed a stroke of good fortune that delivered a five-bass limit weighing 20-04 on day 1 of the James River Bassmaster Eastern Open out of Richmond, Va. Schmitt’s catch included a 6-10 largemouth.
“I got one of those crazy, like pure-luck bites today,” the the FLW Tour pro from Maryland said. “This place has giants, but they’re not biting. I got one of those today and that made all the difference.”
With much of the field running to the Chickahominy River (a fertile James River tributary), Schmitt spent his day in the James. He fished a lot of water, but targeted the same habitat scenario.
“I’m fishing both grass and wood,” Schmitt said. “Clean water was the key. I knew this scenario could happen; I’ve seen it here, but when does it ever really work out? I got that big bite early and I thought, ‘This might be a good day.’”
Understandably tight on details, Schmitt said he caught his fish on a selection of Missile Baits. Notably, most anglers found their better action during the latter half of the day, which brought outgoing water.
Schmitt, however, did most of his damage early.
“The morning was better by far,” he said. “I prefer low tide on this river, but I got fortunate on the higher water today.
“I fished clean today and caught 10 fish.”
Tim Ward of Sylacauga, Ala., was in 2nd place with 17-15. He started his day by sacking up a solid limit in the Chickahominy, upgraded in a smaller creek and then secured his final culls in the James.
Ward’s biggest fish – a 4 1/2-pounder – surprised him in the Chickahominy.
“I was hoping there were some big fish there, but I had no clue that caliber of fish was there,” he said. “I had been catching a lot of 2-pound fish in practice and I caught one 5-pounder in another area and that keyed me in on what I needed to do.
“I started implementing that everywhere I went. I kept one rod in my hand all day and that produced all my weight.”
Denny Fiedler of Minnetonka, Minn., was 3rd with 16-10. Relying on a mix of reaction and slow-moving baits, he caught his better fish in the afternoon.
“It was low tide for us when they really started to bite,” Fiedler said. “It was the bottom of that outgoing tide and the very start of the incoming. There were two basic patterns: During high water, we were fishing pads – soft cover. When the tide was going out, it was all hard cover.”
Here are the totals for the initial top 10:
1. Bryan Schmitt: 20-04
2. Tim Ward: 17-15
3. Denny Fiedler: 16-10
4. (tie) Cameron Smith: 15-03
4. (tie) Whitney Stephens: 15-03
6. Mike Iaconelli: 15-02
7. Craig Chambers: 15-01
8. (tie) Kotaro Kiriyama: 15-00
8. (tie) Bill Weidler: 15-00
10. Alex Wetherell: 14-13