For local anglers like Adam Richardson, getting a chance to compete for the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation of Virginia state championship on your home lake only comes around once every several years.
Richardson, a Norlina native and Littleton resident on Lake Gaston, made the most of that opportunity last weekend, securing his first Virginia state title and advancing to the Southeast regional/divisional tournament in which he’ll get a chance to qualify for the prestigious Bassmaster Classic.
Richardson (two-day total of 28.58 lbs.) bested a field of 60 anglers, all of whom had to qualify to participate, in the Lake Gaston state tournament that launched out of Holly Grove Marina in Bracey on Oct. 31 and concluded Nov. 1. Another 56 competed in the co-angler division topped by Larry Witt (two-day total of 16.6 lbs.)
“That’s one of the most gratifying things here for me is the fishermen that I actually beat in this tournament,” Richardson said, referring to the “big sticks” in the field, or the veteran anglers with histories of competitive success.
Richardson happens to be one of them, having previously claimed a pair of North Carolina state titles in 2017 in addition to having advanced to to the regionals previously out of both North Carolina and Virginia state tournaments.
“It’s a good lake,” said Mike Bryant, the president of B.A.S.S. Nation of Virginia, “but Adam is a very, very strong fisherman.”
Brad Weese finished second overall behind Richardson with a haul of 24.69 lbs. Brandon Pritchett (24.32), Bryant Copley (23.81), and Ivan P. Morris (23.39) rounded out the top five. And Travis Lively, Garrett Towler, Brody Brown, Rick Hodges IV, and Mike Gunn all finished in the top 10.
Richardson logged a bag of 16 lbs. on day two to secure the title after entering the day in fifth place. His big fish of the tourney was a 4.46-pounder caught on day one.
“We had one day it was sunny and had a little bit of wind,” Richardson said, “and the next day it was pouring down rain all day. And that was a huge adjustment.”
Adjustments can be easier to come by on a familiar lake.
The fish were biting up a storm in practice rounds on Thursday and Friday, but that behavior slowed down by tournament time. That’s where strategy and patience came into play for Richardson, who had already identified some key spots on the lake he felt like had more fish.
“Normally this time of year, Lake Gaston is a very good lake,” Bryant said. “It turns out the amount of fish we caught was very substantial. It went very well.”
B.A.S.S. Nation will return to Lake Gaston for its annual spring tournament, which will bring a much larger field to Holly Grove, which Bryant credited for being a great host.
“When we come in with our big tournament in the spring time,” Bryant said, “that tournament there will probably have 225-250 people. When you bring these tournaments into the community, they’re selling gas; they’re selling food; they’re selling lodging and everything. It brings revenue to the community.”
In past years, the B.A.S.S. Nation Virginia championship has been held at sites like Smith Mountain Lake, James River, Chickahominy River, and Buggs Island/Kerr Lake.
Richardson believes Buggs Island/Kerr Lake is in the running to host the next regional round in the spring that he is now qualified for, but it could be anywhere in the Southeast. Richardson has previously competed at this stage on Lake Okeechobee in Florida and on Winyah Bay in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
He missed the opportunity to qualify out of the North Carolina Eastern state tournament this year on Neuse River since it was held at the same time of the Virginia tourney, not that it matters much now.
“I had to pick one of the two,” Richardson said, “so obviously I picked Lake Gaston.”