Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Flatheads and Flatties

This past week I fished the Flatheads & Flatties tournament which is the third out of seven tournaments in the Pirates of Lynnhaven Angler of the Year series. The format of the tournament is a Catch-Photo-Release (CPR) and the longest stringer consisting of two flounder and one catfish wins. I started out Saturday June 9th fishing the CBBT searching for my first sheepshead of the year and trying for flounder as well. I struck out with the sheepies, but the flounder fishing was real good. While paddling to the first island I stopped at the small boat channel and picked up a couple of shorts. This was my first trip out to the island this year and although I was unsuccessful at snagging a sheepshead I made up for it with a nice pair of flatties. I was using a 2oz. SPRO Bucktail in Blue Shad paired with a 6” Pearl White Gulp Jerk Shad combo. While jigging on the bottom a few yards off the pilings on the outgoing tide I caught two flatties going 18” and 21”. Seeing how the sun was setting, I called it a day and headed back to the beach.

Very tasty flounder! 
CBBT Sunset
With the two flatties secured I had completed the first task for the tournament. However, I knew Jarred, another Pirate who was last year’s flounder tournament winner, was looking for a repeat title and that I if I was going to make a serious run at first place I would need a really good size catfish. There are plenty of areas around Tidewater to catch catfish but not the size I was looking for. My only option was to head north on the James River to the state capital Richmond, Virginia. I was infected with a small taste of the fishery back in March for the MS Shad Shootout. Having not fished the river in this area but only once, I needed some local knowledge to point me in the right direction. I called Dan, earlier in the week and made plans to fish an area of the James on Friday targeting Smallmouth Bass, Flatheads and Blue Catfish. On Friday morning we met at a gas station in Richmond and I then followed him to an undisclosed location. The morning started off great considering the blue bird skies above. It did not take long to see a good size ugly brown catfish swimming towards me but he spooked and disappeared. A short while later I spotted some blues swimming, but again they were spooked and quickly disappeared. I decided to drop anchor and drop a float with a live bluegill back 40 yards behind me. Five minutes later Dan paddles beside my float and yells “you got a takedown”; seeing how close he was to my line I first assumed he was joking and that he snagged my line. No pranks there, I was hooked up with my first fish of the day and after a short fight I pulled in a hefty 29” Blue Catfish which turned out to be my biggest of the day.

First fish of the day 29" Blue, and Dan lurking in the background.
 small Smallmouth Bass
Seeing how I managed a nice cat early, I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon fishing for smallmouth bass. Fishing was slow and it was getting late in the afternoon. Dan had fatherly duties to take care of and had to call it a day. I however was not ready to call it a day but I was starving and needed to take advantage of the break. I filled my stomach with some grub and coordinated the evening fishing plans with another fishing buddy in Richmond. I got ahold of Rob Choi, who was still at work and we coordinated to meet at 6pm for round two.

Round two seemed to be very promising with the sun setting in the evening. We initially met slow conditions. I did manage a Smallmouth bass on a topwater popper on the first cast but none after that. The catfish action started right before sunset. Rob started things off by pulling in a few flatheads and Blues and a little bit later my rods start to see some action as well. I picked up four blue cats in the 22-28 inch range. With bait running out and the sky’s void of any light we decided to paddle it back in.

this lad was bigger than the first, but not by much.

After we packed up Rob says to me “for once I have a shorter drive…”. He was right, this doesn’t happen too often because there are so many fishing opportunities in the Tidewater Area. I always enjoy checking out new waters. I will probably not venture there again anytime soon, but I will definitely be back. As it turns out, The decision to head to Richmond was a smart one as I managed the best limit of the tournament taking first place. I would not been able to do that if I had not met up with Dan and Rob in Richmond and explored their backyard fishing waters. Thanks fellas for putting me on some fish! And congratulations to the other top finishers in the tournament. I love being infishincated…