UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Kentucky / Barkley Lake

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Top 10 Patterns from the James River

Top 10 Patterns from the James River
Troy Morrow targets a long stretch of lily pads.

Flipping isolated clumps of spatterdock produced the winning fish for Canadian pro Cory Johnston at the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on the James River. Adapting to the week’s extreme high water was critical to bagging the winning total of 46 pounds, 14 ounces.

With a full moon two days before the tournament boosting super-high tides for the week, and heavy runoff from recent rains and a northeast wind impeding the outgoing cycle, anglers fished a swollen river where bass had an extended range.

Essentially, Johnston figured out that the fish in his area had pushed far back into the flooded vegetation, so he abandoned the outer perimeter of pads and moved in for some close-contact jig-fishing.

Most of the other top-10 finishers also targeted shallow cover such as spatterdock, laydowns, lily pads and cypress knees. Dealing with the extreme water depths of days one and two was a commonly recurring theme, as was the limitation of a shorter final day and less opportunity to fish the afternoon’s outgoing tide.

Here’s a look at the patterns of the second- through 10th-place finishers.

 

2. Dave Lefebre leveraged Sunshine, Rises to Second

The Walmart FLW Tour pro admitted the James River challenged him, but Dave Lefebre worked with the conditions, took advantage of a weather break and rallied to a second-place performance with a three-day total of 46-07.

“This is one of the tougher fisheries for me, but it suits my style of fishing. There are fish in the grass, and you just have to get ’em out,” Lefebre observes.

Lefebre fished far back in the Chickahominy River – a major James River tributary. Fishing spatterdock, he had a solid start on day one, and once he figured out the right presentation, business picked up from there.

“I usually get them here [the James River] on topwater baits,” Lefebre explains. “I caught several fish on a Pop-R and a frog, but not as good. This time I caught them on a 1-ounce Terminator jig – the same bait I used [to finish 12th] on Lake Eufaula.

“It’s crazy, I was fishing offshore with a big 1-ounce jig on Eufaula, and I come up here with the same exact rod – an 8-foot 13 Fishing rod with 20-pound-test fluorocarbon. It was the same jig with teeth marks all over it, and I was flipping it in the pads instead of fishing it in 20 feet of water.”

Lefebre fitted his jig with a Yamamoto Flappin Hog. A trailer of a larger profile, he notes, was important for weeding through the abundance of smaller fish to find the quality bites.

The final day’s weather played a major role in Lefebre sacking up the day’s heaviest catch – 18-09 – and moving up five spots from seventh. Contrasting the cloudy skies and rain of days one and two, the third day dawned partly clear and became increasingly sunny. This, Lefebre adds, benefitted his cause by pulling fish tighter to cover where he could more efficiently target them.

“The sun came out at 10:21, and I started catching fish right away,” he recalls.

 

3. Kelly Pratt Plucked Spawners

Pro leader Kelly Pratt fights a nice fish.

Day-two leader Kelly Pratt took advantage of the week’s super-high tides that prompted the last wave of spawning fish to move up and invade the shallow spatterdock-covered flats.

“They had been holding off of the edges the last two weeks, and then the full moon came Tuesday [before the tournament],” Pratt says. That was the trigger to his pattern.

Pratt’s plan produced well on days one and two with weights of 16-03 and 17-01, putting him in second and first places, respectively. Day three saw the tides stabilizing, and that meant many of the areas that had held good fish earlier in the tournament were becoming too shallow for the bigger fish.

“That tide just got too low, and it pulled all the big fish off what they were on [during day one],” Pratt says. “There was a ton of big ones on the bank I was fishing, but when that tide went out, they were gone.”

Pratt caught his better fish on a Z-Man ChatterBait with a gold blade and a white buzz toad trailer. He followed up any misses with a 1/16-ounce Slider Head with a green pumpkin Zoom Finesse Worm (with the tail dipped in chartreuse dye). Pratt also caught a few keepers by flipping a green pumpkin gold Missile Baits D-Bomb on a 4/0 hook with a 3/16-ounce weight.

His three-day total was 46-02.

 

4. Ryan Powroznik Played the Tide

Adjusting to the changing water level factored significantly into the Virginia pro’s program. With higher water on his spots in the Chickahominy, Ryan Powroznik found he could catch fish in the spatterdock when the tide flooded the vegetation, but as the week’s extreme water level withdrew, switching to a topwater presentation kept him in the game and on track toward a total weight of 46-02.

On the first day of the tournament, the water was higher, and he caught most of his fish on a 3/8-ounce V&M swim jig with a hand-tied bluegill pattern skirt and a Lake Fork Tackle Magic Shad. A ChatterBait and a buzzbait also produced, but on the last two days he had to go to a silver/chartreuse Lobina Lure Rico popper.

“When the tide flooded, the fish would get up in those pad fields,” Powroznik says. “I wouldn’t get many bites, and I had to make them react [to the moving baits]. Once the tide got really low, I had to go to the popper. On day three, at the end of the day, I caught a really nice one on the popper, and that gave me a 2 1/2-pound cull.”

 

5. Cypress Trees Key for Troy Morrow

While many of his competitors focused much of their effort on spatterdock, grass and other shallow vegetation, FLW Tour pro Troy Morrow concentrated on cypress trees. Abundant along the Chickahominy’s banks, the trees offered a variety of depths with lots of irregular features where bass could hide.

Morrow, who tallied 42-06, says he caught a few fish by swimming an unweighted Zoom Fluke Stick around the structure, but he fared best with a SPRO Little John MD in chrome olive.

“You couldn’t just wind it in,” Morrow notes of his retrieve. “When I hit one of those cypress trees, I really jerked it to make it deflect and got them to react.”

Morrow says he also mixed in a Little John MD in the bluegrass craw color to match the blue crabs prevalent throughout the area he was fishing. Primarily a saltwater species, blue crabs thrive in tidal rivers and comprise a dietary staple for bass.

 

6. Buzzbait and Ringworm Key for Bryan Elrod

Bryan Elrod, of Mechanicsville, Va., fished the spatterdock beds in the Chick. A big day-two performance of 18-07 earned his final-round berth, but day three was less generous and Elrod finished sixth with 40-14.

“Yesterday [Friday] was a very different day,” Elrod said of the ideal topwater conditions – cloudy, no rain. “I caught them on a black buzzbait, and they really hit it hard. On days one and three, I caught them on a 4-inch blue fleck ringworm.”

Elrod rigged his ringworm on a 4/0 hook with a 3/16-ounce nose weight.

 

7. Tide and Time Challenged Bo Boltz

Bo Boltz, of New Kent, Va., says he prefers the latter half of the falling tide on the James River, and the high-water conditions during the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division opener presented a challenge. He started his mornings looking for topwater bites in the Barge Pits near the takeoff site at Osborne Landing and then transitioned to throwing Yamamoto Senkos and jigs around woody shoreline cover.

With the water finally stabilizing by day three [Saturday], it looked as if Boltz might have his window of opportunity to surge ahead. However, with the outgoing cycle arriving at the end of the short final day, Boltz never really had the opportunity.

“The water stayed high most of this week, but I needed the low water to concentrate the fish along the edges of that vegetation,” Boltz says. “On day three, I ran out of time to get to the low water.”

Boltz ended in seventh place with a three-day total of 40-06.

 

8. Clay Lewis Stuck with Topwaters

Hailing from Sandston, Va., Clay Lewis fished laydowns and spatterdock edges in the Chick and committed his entire tournament effort to throwing a bone-colored Rebel Pop-R. He ended with 39-09.

“I lived and died by a topwater,” Lewis recalls. “I started Thursday with it and never put it down.”

Of his hookup ratios, Lewis had this to say: “I had a lot of humbling experiences this week, but that’s fishing.”

 

9. Homemade Jig Productive for Glenn Browne

Glenn Browne flips a keeper into the boat.

Florida pro Glenn Browne made his James River debut and figured out the deal well enough to take ninth place with 38-12.

Brown caught his fish on a homemade black/blue 3/4-ounce jig with a black/blue Zoom Big Salty Chunk trailer.

“I just flipped pads [in the Chick] all week long,” Brown notes. “I caught a few on a topwater popper, but I’m from Florida and I like to flip, so that’s what I did most of the week.”

Notably, Browne says the James River’s tidal nature availed opportunities uncommon to non-tidal waters.

“You can go right behind people and catch fish because the tide is always changing [and moving fish around],” he says.

 

10. Sunlight Stung Jeffrey Ware on Day Three

Two days of cloudy skies, with rainy conditions lasting most of day one, gave 10th-place pro Jeffrey Ware plenty of opportunity to catch fish on a topwater popper. However, the sunny conditions of day three required a change in tactics.

“I caught all of my fish [the first two days] on a bone-colored Rico popper,” Ware confesses. “On day three, when that sun came out, I had to go to a moccasin blue ringworm on a 4/0 hook with a 3/16-ounce weight.”

Ware ended with a tournament total of 33-12.

Tags: james-river  tidal-water  top-10-patterns  david-a-brown  post-tournament  2015-06-04-james-river 

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