Gardner’s Persistence Yields Day 1 Lead In Bassmaster Open On Chesapeake Bay

Calling Jody Gardner “hardheaded” would be neither insulting nor incorrect. In fact, that mentality delivered a limit of 18 pounds, 3 ounces that leads Day 1 of the St. Croix Bassmaster Northern Open at Upper Chesapeake Bay presented by Mossy Oak Fishing.

On a tough day that saw only 44 limits on the pro side and 23 for co-anglers, Gardner found himself faring far better than he’d expected.

“These days usually don’t happen to me,” said the pro from Tippecanoe, Ohio.

Gardner said the key to his success was focusing on hard cover. Writing off the bay’s vast acreage of submerged grass, he devoted his day to docks and shallow wood.

“I practiced in the grass, but I couldn’t locate them and it just didn’t work,” he said. “I caught two off of one tree and the rest of them came within a quarter mile of each other.

“I covered a lot of water. I made a run and fished a couple of creeks because I think the fresh water coming in (from recent rains) stirred them up a little bit.”

Finding only six keeper bites, Gardner anchored his bag with a 4-14 that bit around midday. That fish, he said, exemplified the persistence his lead required.

“Today, I really fished slow,” Gardner said. “I soaked the bait and threw three or four times to the same spot.

“For the big one, I actually threw 10 times to the same dock post and he finally grabbed it.”

Gardner caught all of his bass on Texas-rigged plastics. He had multiple baits and kept rotating size and color to trigger the bites.

“The higher water in the morning was a little better for me and when the bottom fell out (slack low tide), I quit catching them,” Gardner said. “Then, when the tide started to come back, I got a couple more.

“I changed my baits with each area. I would throw one color for a little bit and then I’d throw another color. It seemed like sometimes I’d switch the color and get them to bite.”

Looking ahead to Day 2, Gardner said he plans to replicate his opening effort. “I don’t know if I can back it up tomorrow, but we’ll find out.”

Chris Beaudrie of Princeton, Ky., is in second place with 17-8. Making his Chesapeake Bay debut, Beaudrie stayed within 20 to 30 minutes of takeoff. Recognizing the vastness of tournament waters, he thought it best to carve out a manageable section and build on his practice findings.

“I fished a couple of different areas until about noon or 1 o’clock and came back,” Beaudrie said. “It was slow going; just here and there. I didn’t catch them in practice, so I went into today with an open mind and tried some new stuff.

“I had a few bites and they showed up in a big way. I think the weather brought them into my area. With a little cooldown and the rain, the water temperatures dropped probably four degrees since I got here for practice. I think that moved them a little bit.”

Beaudrie said he followed a run-and-gun strategy and focused his attention on wood and grass. He threw reaction baits to find fish and then slowed down to fish promising areas with plastics.

Jacob Walker of Springville, Ala., is third with 15-14. His game plan started with a 30- to 40-mile run south.

“I spent all of my time down there mostly because I felt like it was going to be unpressured,” Walker said. “I do better when I’m by myself. I can settle down and pick it apart.”

Walker started with three keepers by 10:30 a.m. After that, he ran farther south and added a 4-pounder at 1 p.m.

“I ran around a little bit and I knew I had to leave at 3 o’clock to make it back,” Walker said. “I had four fish and I had one dock I had (already) hit three times. I pulled up to it and on my first flip, I lost one that was 6 or 7 pounds. Then I caught one that was 3 and one that was close to 3.

“It was all about the tide. It was best when it was falling.”

Walker said he caught all of his bass on a jig. He used chunk and swimbait trailers, depending on where he was fishing.

Cole Drummond of Effingham, S.C., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 5-13.

Chris McCarthy of Woonsocket, R.I., leads the co-angler division with 9-4. McCarthy holds a 9-ounce lead over Dawson Wisner of Westminster, Md.

Roland Gittings of Perryville, Md., holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 5-1.

Walker leads the Bassmaster Northern Open standings with 563 points. Alex Wetherell of Middletown, Conn., is second with 557, followed by Kyoya Fujita of Minamitsuru, Yamanashi, Japan, with 554, John Garrett of Union City, Tenn., with 529 and Mike Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J., with 518.

Cooper Gallant of Bowmanville, Canada, leads the overall Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year standings with 970 points.

Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. ET at Anchor Marina and North East Community Park. The weigh-in will be held at the park at 2:30 p.m. Full event coverage will be available on, while Championship Saturday action will be broadcast live on FS1 beginning at 8 a.m. ET.

The tournament is being hosted by Cecil County Tourism and the Town of North East.