• Ken Perrotte

Virginians Fare Well in 2021 Bassmaster Northern Open on James River with 14 in the top 40


Brandon Palaniuk - all here photos courtesy BASS

Idahoan Brandon Palaniuk claimed the top prize at last weekend’s Bassmaster Northern Open on the James River, with a crowded field of Virginia anglers behind him. Fourteen of the top 40 finishers in last week’s Bassmaster Northern Open on the James River were Virginians, a stalwart showing in the field of 224 professional anglers who entered the tournament. The top 40 anglers received award payouts.


Palaniuk’s three-day total of largemouth bass weighed 53 pounds, 12 ounces, earning him $52,267. Right behind was Richmonder Nicholas Bodsford, who notched his first top 10 finish in a B.A.S.S. event, winning $25,387 with his 50 pounds, 5 ounces of fish.

Nicholas Bodsford

Other Virginians in the top 10 included Mineral resident Mike Hicks, a regular top angler in Lake Anna tournaments and a former Bassmaster tour competitor, who finished in sixth place and pocketed $11,947. Bo Boltz Jr., of New Kent placed 10th, winning $6,720. Brad Webb of Hampton, and Garrett Geouge, who is in the Virginia fishing citation record books for catching a 13-pound largemouth in Chickahominy Lake in 2018, finished in 11th and 12th place, respectively. Webb won $5,227 while Geouge received $$,107.

Mike Hicks

Drake Hundley of Church Road, came in 21st and John Conway Jr. of Henrico, 24th, each winning $3,733. Rounding out the top 40, each winning $3,435, were Virginians Christiana Bradley, Bealeton, 26th; Michael Rowe, Providence Forge, 27th; Tommy Little, Chester, 33rd; Jacob Powroznik, North Prince George, 35th; Nolan Minor, Charlottesville, 38th; and Chris Atwell, Mechanicsville, 40th.


Christiana Bradley

Clearly, experience in fishing Virginia’s sometimes tricky tidal river systems was advantageous. Many anglers made the run to the beautiful, cypress-laden Chickahominy River, considered part of James River system for the tournament. Palaniuk, who has fished Northern Opens on the James five times now, spent his entire tournament fishing “The Chick.” He said he fished natural habitat features on the first day, but the next two days saw him working the area by Walkers Dam.


Palaniuk was in 50th place after day 1, but then found big fish, catching 22 pounds, 6 ounces in the final hour of fishing the next day. This got him into the lead. On Saturday, when only the top 10 anglers fish, he caught 17 pounds, 11 ounces, also in his last hour of fishing, as the incoming tide began flowing. Palaniuk’s best fish hit 6- and 8-inch Megabass Magdraft swimbaits in the albino color, according to tournament reports. He also used a drop shot presentation with a green pumpkin/blue fleck XZone Lures Deception Worm.


On the co-angler side of the tournament, Cody Stahl of Griffin, Georgia, won with a two-day weight of 20 pounds, 14 ounces. Co-anglers weigh up to three fish. Pro anglers can weigh five bass. Stahl earned $22,553. Phillip Arnold, Powhatan, Virginia, placed second, winning $5,307. Ryan Drewery, of South Prince George, placed third. Virginians comprised half of the entire field of co-anglers but took seven of the top 10 positions.