2014 Bassmaster Elite at Delaware River
Besides the Delaware’s enormous tidal fluctuations, another conundrum for the Elite pros will be whether to target largemouth or smallmouth bass. The largemouth comprise about 70 percent of the black bass population accessible to the pros during the tournament, Iaconelli points out. However, the smallmouth bass here tend to be heavier.
Smallmouth and largemouth bass coexist in parts of the Delaware River, but the brown bass are most prevalent in the tributaries between Philadelphia and Trenton. The water there is clearer than down river and has more rocky smallmouth habitat, Iaconelli asserts.
He adds that tournaments are won with smallmouth bass even farther upriver north of the Trenton Makes Bridge, which connects Trenton, N.J., to Morrisville, Pa. The downside here is that you court disaster.
“It gets rocky and treacherous up there and eventually turns into rapids,” Iaconelli says. “I’m sure some of the pros will chance it anyway.”
Day 2 report from KVD - Delaware River 2014 Elite Series
Tides and times
It's been a while since the Elite Series has had an event on a true tidal water, and the Delaware River is definitely that. In fact, the Delaware offers the largest tidal swing that I've ever seen.
At the Potomac River, you see tidal swings of 2 or 2 1/2 feet; at the James, it's 2 1/2 to 3 feet. The Hudson River swing is bigger than that, but at the Delaware, it's a 7 foot swing and that's huge. Honestly, it's almost mind-boggling!
The big tidal swing is challenging because the fish are conditioned to the current. In a lot of bays and creeks, when the water falls all the way out of them, it pulls all the baitfish and food into the last deep water there — the channel itself — and the current is concentrated around points, cuts, seawalls and things like that. The bass know it's prime feeding time at the end of an outgoing tide, and they're conditioned to feeding then.
That's when the bite's the best.
Tidal bass also move a lot, even within the general area where they live. In fact, I think they probably move more than bass in any other type of ecosystem. In some cases, they'll go up when the water rises and only pull out when it starts to fall. In other places, they may hunker down by a dock and wait for the tide to get low and for some food to come by.
The challenge, of course, is to figure those things out and to figure out the timing of it all. There's always a way and a place to catch them as long as the water's moving. Finding it, though, and being there at the right time can be tough.
Here at the Delaware, the water doesn't seem to stop and stagnate for any length of time. That's not true at places like the Louisiana Delta, where the water can stop moving for an hour or two. Wind can also affect the tides on some waters, though it seems to be a smaller factor here this week.
Tidal movement happens faster here than most places I've seen. The closer you are to the ocean, the sooner you see its influence. On a river like the Potomac, where the tidal influence is much slower and less dramatic, you can run the tide — hit a spot here or there and run up river to do it again, keeping up with the tidal influence as you go.
On the Delaware, it happens too fast for that.
The end of the outgoing tide positions the fish on the remaining structure and cover in the river and its tributaries. That last two hours of outgoing tide is really critical to success here. One of the toughest things about this tournament is that we won't have that late outgoing tide during competition hours until Sunday. For that reason, you might see the very best weights in the finals.
Experience on tidal waters will be a big advantage this week, especially since we're talking about the best anglers in the world. This could shape up to be one of the toughest and most exciting Elite tournaments ever.
-- Kevin VanDam
Delaware River 2014 - day 1 report from KVD
KVD vs. Delaware and other rivers
Kevin VanDam is a threat to win any tournament, and he won one of the toughest ever: the 2005 Bassmaster Classic in Pittsburgh, Pa. Since this week's Delaware River tournament is supposed to be at least that tough (and in the same state!), we asked him about how he feels about how today's tournament is setting up.
"I didn't come and prefish so I don't really know anything about it," he said, "but it's been super tough. One of the toughest I've ever been a part of as far as practice goes.
"Normally you hear whining [among the pros] when it's tough, but I've never seen it like this.
"A big part of the challenge is the 7-foot tide swing have here," he noted. "You can fish through an area that may be decent, but you may be there at the wrong time and wrong tide and not catch anything. That makes it hard to practice for.
"The toughest tournament I ever fished was the Pittsburgh Classic, and I had a lot more bites in practice there than I've had here this week," the Strike King pro said. "I think the guys who have some experience here, like Ike, will have a marked advantage compared to most places we go.
"I'll be practicing every day. I'm still learning."
This isn't the first time Bassmaster events have been held on tidal fisheries, so he put that tide swing in context. "The Louisiana Delta is on a 12-hour swing, and it's maybe 8 inches or a foot depending on the wind direction – very minimal, just enough to create a little current," he said.
"On the James River and the Potomac, it's a 2- to 3-foot swing every 6 hours. That's what's super crazy about [the Delaware] – it does 7 feet in 6 hours.
"That makes it interesting. I've never seen anything like it. It's definitely the biggest tidal swing I've ever fished. It's new to a lot of [pros], understanding what the fish do when the water moves that much."
Michael Iaconelli - 47-14
1. 9-2, 2. 15-1, 3. 12-13, 4. 10-14
Chris Lane - 39-14
1. 10-9, 2. 7-0, 3. 9-7, 4. 12-14
Jason Christie - 39-1
1. 9-12, 2. 7-12, 3. 10-11, 4. 10-14
Kevin Short - 39-0
1. 11-6, 2. 10-1, 3. 6-9, 4. 11-0
Shaw Grigsby - 36-15
1. 4-2, 2. 14-15, 3. 9-0, 4. 8-14
Skeet Reese - 34-11
1. 7-9, 2. 6-12, 3. 13-3, 4. 7-3
Bill Lowen - 34-0
1. 11-1, 2. 10-12, 3. 8-10, 4. 3-9
Boyd Duckett - 33-7
1. 16-14, 2. 6-7, 3. 1-12, 4. 8-6
Scott Rook - 32-8
1. 10-15, 2. 9-13, 3. 8-14, 4. 2-14
Byron Velvick - 31-8
1. 10-5, 2. 7-15, 3. 8-2, 4. 5-2
John Crews - 31-5
1. 9-13, 2. 11-14, 3. 3-9, 4. 6-1
Chad Pipkens - 30-9
1. 11-4, 2. 7-2, 3. 8-0, 4. 4-3
Kevin VanDam - 3-6
1. --, 2. 3-6
History & Notes;
Day 2 -- Bill Lowen 4-0
Day 4 -- Chris Lane 3-14