JAMES REQUIRES TIDAL KNOWLEDGE
It flows past a lot of history- Appomattix, Petersburg, Williamsburg and other sites marking the course of America from Colonial times to the Civil War. It also hosts some of the best bass fishing in the mid-Atlantic region. All the usual suspects will gather in Richmond VA for the Bassmaster Northern Open on the James River- a regular stop on the Open trail for many years, and the first event for the North in 2022. Anglers are hitting the James about a month earlier than usual.
Fish will definitely be staging for the spawn and, depending on water temps, may even arrive on beds during the event. This could mean that baits that worked post spawn over the years will be replaced by baits effective in the deeper staging areas or finesse baits if they are in the shallows. The James River system holds a good population of Florida-strain largemouth bass which don't like the colder weather that has plagued the spring.
Emptying into Chesapeake Bay, the James River has tidal ebbs and flows, so having experience fishing tidal rivers will be key to success at this Open. The tournament culminates on April 16- the day of a full moon, bringing potential for an extreme tide. It is setting up to be a perfect time to be on the James, but it requires decent weather. The tournament week will begin warm and sunny with highs in the upper 70s. The forecast calls for increasing clouds, with showers Thursday afternoon and Friday morning ushering in cooler temperatures. So anything could happen.
Visibility is often limited on tidal rivers, so anglers typically target likely areas with blind fishing techniques. Fish could be bedding, but you may not be able to see them in the murky water. There may be pockets of clearer water or low enough water to sight fish, but most of the catching should be prespawners. A key element of success on tidal fisheries is determining the bite windows- periods when fish feed best, but this sometimes results in someone catching them one day and the next day not catching at all. It usually comes down to who can adapt to the changes day to day. Elite Series veteran Brandon Palaniuk, who earned his first Open win at last year’s James River event, spent his final day targeting bass he found preying on jumbo river shad by throwing big swimbaits. Something he did not do the previous day.
Competition days will be April 14-16 with weigh-ins streaming on Bassmaster.com. The field will fish the first two days with the Top 10 fishing on Saturday for the Trophy.