By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

High-level competitive fishing almost always comes down to decisions – whether it's a spur-of-the-moment call to make a move on the final day of a tournament in a quest for one kicker fish, or a broader notion to abandon a gameplan laid during practice and do something entirely different on day 1.

John Hutchins took the latter route at last week's Potomac River Northern EverStart, and it resulted in the biggest victory of his career. An early boat number was the impetus for the move.



The Warrenton, Va. resident weighed the event's lone 20-pound sack on day 1 and led the rest of the way. His 46-12 total for 3 days was a little more than 2 pounds better than that of runner-up Cory Johnston.

Here's how he did it.

Practice

Hutchins, who guides for largemouths and stripers on nearby Lake Anna, competes in a tournament somewhere on the Potomac every other weekend or so. His weekday time is limited, however, as he and his wife welcomed a baby girl earlier this year, so his preparation for this specific event consisted of a full day on the Monday prior to day 1 and a jackpot event the next evening.

"I was mainly focusing on grass," he said. "I went to some areas where I knew a lot of people would go and I did pretty good. I found some fish, but I knew they'd get beaten up all week.

"I didn't know what I was going to do on the first day of the tournament, but then I got a good boat draw (No. 22 in a field of 129 competitors). With that, there were a couple of places I was pretty sure I could get to first, so I switched gears a little bit."

Competition

> Day 1: 5, 20-07
> Day 2: 5, 15-02
> Day 3: 5, 11-03
> Total = 15, 46-12

With several tournaments still on his schedule this fall, Hutchins opted to keep most of the specifics about where he fished during the tournament under wraps. He did reveal, however, that he switched his focus from grass to hard cover in light of his early day-1 launch time.

"I was taking a big chance by doing that," he said. "We had the low tide in the morning, and a lot of times those grass fish will really chew. But I knew if I could get on a couple of areas where I really wanted to be and I got the bites, I had a chance for a considerable bag.

"Those places were known by only a few other people in the tournament – mostly locals."

Tossing a jig to rock and wood, he caught nothing but short fish in the early going and had just one keeper, a 2 3/4-pounder, after the first hour. Then, despite a forecast that called for sunny skies and temperatures in the low 90s, it began to rain.

"What I think happened was it made the tide start moving quicker, and that turned the fish on. All of a sudden I got a 4-pounder, and then a 5-07 (which would hold up as the biggest fish for the event).

"Those fish aren't real active a lot of times when the sun's out, but another thing the rain does, besides obviously making it darker, is it conceals you, and you tend to get more bites."

The rain slacked off after about an hour, and so did his action. He ground out two more decent fish from a couple of different areas, but still had a 1 3/4-pounder in his well as check-in time approached.

"I was idling into one of the spots I wanted to fish and I saw something on my Humminbird that I'd never seen before. I've got a 798 with a small screen, and when that happens I don't concern myself with figuring out exactly things are. It just looked like a little depression in about 6 feet of water.

"I casted to it and caught a 4-pounder."

That gave him a lead of nearly 2 1/2 pounds. He boosted it by a few ounces the following day before giving a little of it back – but not much – on the final day.

With a late boat number on day 2, he knew he wouldn't be able to get back on his prime stuff, but started close to there while giving the earlier arrivals plenty of room. He quickly boated a 3-pounder, but things slowed down after that under the bright skies.

FLW/Gary Mortensen
Photo: FLW/Gary Mortensen

Hutchins' big bag on day 1 contained a 5 1/2-pounder and a 4.

He decided to try a crankbait when he arrived at a particularly good-looking laydown and got a major backlash on his first throw. But a few casts later he picked up a 4-pounder, and then a 3 and a 2 shortly thereafter. He rounded out his bag with a 2 3/4-pounder that bit a jig with about 2 hours left in the day.

Then the wind showed up – to the tune of about 25 mph – for the final day. With the field down to 10 anglers, he opted to go back to his day-1 locale

"I had to make a pretty long run, but I knew if I could make it, I could get out of the wind a little bit. A lot of the fish I'd been catching were on finesse stuff, and I knew with that kind of wind, there weren't many places where I was going to be able to fish that way. With basically a 3-pound lead, I had to get to someplace where I was comfortable fishing.

"When I got there, I basically just sat down and finessed everything (with a Senko). I fished some of the stuff from day 1 – rocks and laydowns – and with about 3 hours left, I went to some main-river docks that were out of the wind, at least relative to everything else."

He made several upgrades there, gaining an eighth- or a quarter of a pound at a time. Toward the end of the afternoon, he caught a couple on a frog from grass that was adjacent to the docks.

"I wasn't really content with what I had (when the day had concluded), but I started doing the math and I figured there were only two guys who had a decent chance to catch me, and one of them would've had to have over 15 pounds. I wasn't totally confident, but I knew I had a good shot."

Winning Gear Notes

> Senko gear: 6'8" medium-action St. Croix Avid rod, Shimano Stradic 4000 spinning reel, 12-pound Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon line, 1/16-ounce bullet weight, 3/0 Gamakatsu offset-shank, round-bend hook, 5" Yamamoto Senko (plum/apple).

> He occasionally threw a Zoom Trick Worm of basically the same color on that setup. "When the bite got tough, I'd cut off about a quarter of the worm."

> Jig gear: 7' medium-heavy St. Croix Avid rod, Abu Garcia Revo STX casting reel (6.4:1 ratio), 20-pound Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon, 1/2-ounce Conquistador jig (spring craw), NetBait Paca Chunk trailer (crawfish).

> Cranking gear: 7'2" medium-heavy St. Croix Legend Extreme rod, same reel, 12-pound Seaguar AbrazX, Norman Deep Baby N (spatterback).

The Bottom Line

> Main factor in his success – "I was able to go into this tournament calm and remain very relaxed. I was flipping and throwing a frog in practice, but sometimes when you know a place real well, you can adapt to the circumstances. I was able to do that based on the boat draw."

> Performance edge – "Probably my Mercury 250 Pro XS. I ran about 160 miles total in some pretty rough water and it didn't give me a bit of a problem, and I was able to keep people from beating me to certain places. It did me right."

Notable

> Hutchins is sponsored by Topwater Clothing, Mercury, St. Croix and Habervision sunglasses.

Much of the tackle referenced above is available at the BassFan Store. To browse the selection, click here..

Final Standings

1. John Hutchins -- Warrenton, Va -- 20-07 (5) -- 15-02 (5) -- 35-09 (10) -- 11-03 (5) -- 46-12 (15) -- $31,695

2. Cory Johnston -- Peterborough, On -- 16-09 (5) -- 15-11 (5) -- 32-04 (10) -- 12-07 (5) -- 44-11 (15) -- $10,867

3. Walter (Mike) Snider -- Mt Airy, Md -- 17-11 (5) -- 15-01 (5) -- 32-12 (10) -- 11-07 (4) -- 44-03 (14) -- $9,056

4. Jimmy Kennedy -- Plainfield, Vt -- 14-11 (5) -- 13-12 (5) -- 28-07 (10) -- 11-04 (5) -- 39-11 (15) -- $8,150

5. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, Ga -- 15-04 (5) -- 11-06 (5) -- 26-10 (10) -- 10-15 (5) -- 37-09 (15) -- $7,245

6. Matt Greenblatt -- Port St Lucie, Fl -- 15-08 (5) -- 14-03 (5) -- 29-11 (10) -- 7-11 (5) -- 37-06 (15) -- $6,339

7. William Shelton III -- La Crosse, Va -- 15-02 (5) -- 11-10 (5) -- 26-12 (10) -- 9-08 (4) -- 36-04 (14) -- $5,433

8. Christiana Bradley -- Bealeton, Va -- 12-04 (5) -- 14-08 (5) -- 26-12 (10) -- 8-14 (4) -- 35-10 (14) -- $4,528

9. Chris Dillow -- Waynesboro, Va -- 17-01 (5) -- 13-00 (5) -- 30-01 (10) -- 4-13 (3) -- 34-14 (13) -- $3,622

10. William Kramer -- North Potomac, Md -- 16-03 (5) -- 12-02 (5) -- 28-05 (10) -- 4-02 (2) -- 32-07 (12) -- $2,717

The following anglers did not make the cut and did not fish on day 3.

11. Dave Lefebre -- Erie, Pa -- 14-08 (5) -- 12-02 (5) -- 26-10 (10) -- $1,811

12. Matt Stoupa -- Colonial Heights, Va -- 11-14 (5) -- 14-08 (5) -- 26-06 (10) -- $1,811

13. Jeff Hippert -- Hamburg, Ny -- 13-08 (5) -- 12-13 (5) -- 26-05 (10) -- $1,811

14. Edwin Jackson -- Marshall, Va -- 15-09 (5) -- 10-11 (5) -- 26-04 (10) -- $1,811

15. John Shumate -- Finksburg, Md -- 14-00 (5) -- 12-04 (5) -- 26-04 (10) -- $1,811

16. Robert Grike -- Dumfries, Va -- 13-12 (5) -- 12-08 (5) -- 26-04 (10) -- $1,358

17. Joshua Wagy -- Dewitt, Va -- 13-00 (5) -- 13-03 (5) -- 26-03 (10) -- $1,358

18. Barton Wines -- Marshall, Va -- 16-03 (5) -- 9-13 (5) -- 26-00 (10) -- $1,358

19. Jacob Powroznik -- Prince George, Va -- 14-15 (5) -- 11-01 (5) -- 26-00 (10) -- $1,358

20. Brian Divito -- Trafford, Pa -- 10-14 (5) -- 15-00 (5) -- 25-14 (10) -- $1,358

21. Ron Wolfarth -- Oakboro, Nc -- 13-13 (5) -- 12-00 (5) -- 25-13 (10) -- $1,268

22. Michael Hall -- Annandale, Va -- 16-04 (5) -- 9-02 (5) -- 25-06 (10) -- $1,268

23. Terry Olinger -- The Plains, Va -- 14-10 (5) -- 10-10 (5) -- 25-04 (10) -- $1,268

24. Rock Monteith -- Columbia, Sc -- 10-05 (5) -- 14-13 (5) -- 25-02 (10) -- $1,268

25. Derek Yasinski -- Senoia, Ga -- 12-08 (5) -- 12-05 (5) -- 24-13 (10) -- $1,268

26. James Tyson -- Middletown, Pa -- 11-08 (5) -- 13-03 (5) -- 24-11 (10) -- $1,177

27. Chris Novack -- Mansfield Center, Ct -- 12-09 (5) -- 12-02 (5) -- 24-11 (10) -- $1,177

28. Christopher Carmell -- Moyock, Nc -- 15-03 (5) -- 9-05 (5) -- 24-08 (10) -- $1,177

29. John Vanore -- Mullica Hill, Nj -- 13-01 (5) -- 11-07 (5) -- 24-08 (10) -- $1,177

30. Paul Mueller -- Southbury, Ct -- 15-06 (5) -- 8-12 (5) -- 24-02 (10) -- $1,177

31. Mickey Pettry -- Manassas, Va -- 12-02 (5) -- 11-12 (5) -- 23-14 (10) -- $1,087

32. Bill Chapman -- Salt Rock, Wv -- 12-02 (5) -- 11-10 (5) -- 23-12 (10) -- $1,087

33. Matt Stasiak -- Pittsburgh, Pa -- 12-02 (5) -- 11-09 (5) -- 23-11 (10) -- $1,087

34. Dennis Mcneal -- Stafford, Va -- 15-02 (5) -- 8-08 (5) -- 23-10 (10) -- $1,087

35. Ricky Windsor -- Huntingtown, Md -- 12-06 (5) -- 11-02 (5) -- 23-08 (10) -- $1,087

36. Harold Marietta -- Hunker, Pa -- 13-06 (5) -- 10-00 (5) -- 23-06 (10) -- $1,087

37. Otis Darnell -- Linden, Va -- 13-04 (5) -- 9-15 (5) -- 23-03 (10) -- $1,087

38. Randy Yarnall -- Womelsdorf, Pa -- 11-14 (5) -- 11-04 (5) -- 23-02 (10) -- $1,087

39. Charlie Reed Jr -- Gloucester, Va -- 12-12 (5) -- 10-03 (5) -- 22-15 (10) -- $1,087

40. Joe Sancho -- New Windsor, Ny -- 13-01 (5) -- 9-10 (5) -- 22-11 (10) -- $1,087

41. Joseph Thompson -- Landenberg, Pa -- 11-04 (5) -- 11-05 (5) -- 22-09 (10) -- $996

42. Jason Ober -- Johnstown, Pa -- 10-00 (5) -- 12-01 (5) -- 22-01 (10) -- $996

43. Adrian Avena -- Vineland, Nj -- 10-13 (5) -- 11-03 (5) -- 22-00 (10) -- $996

44. Chris Flint -- Potsdam, Ny -- 12-13 (5) -- 9-01 (5) -- 21-14 (10D

45. Gary Schembs -- Fredericksburg, Va -- 10-05 (5) -- 11-08 (5) -- 21-13 (10)

46. Dale Gorrell -- Quakertown, Pa -- 10-11 (5) -- 11-02 (5) -- 21-13 (10)

47. Joseph Fonzi -- Gasport, Ny -- 10-01 (5) -- 11-08 (5) -- 21-09 (10)

48. Matthew Caffi -- Fairfax, Va -- 7-02 (4) -- 14-06 (5) -- 21-08 (9)

49. Mike McDonald -- Randleman, Nc -- 8-10 (5) -- 12-13 (5) -- 21-07 (10)

50. Nick Gainey -- Charleston, Sc -- 10-05 (5) -- 10-14 (5) -- 21-03 (10)

51. Joseph Wood -- Westport, Ma -- 10-13 (5) -- 10-06 (5) -- 21-03 (10)

52. Robert Montgomery -- Connelsville, Pa -- 11-14 (5) -- 9-02 (4) -- 21-00 (9)

53. Mike Hoskings -- Spotsylvania, Va -- 15-11 (5) -- 5-03 (3) -- 20-14 (8)

54. Rex Johnsonbaugh -- Altoona, Pa -- 13-03 (5) -- 7-09 (5) -- 20-12 (10)

55. Tom Belinda -- Holidaysburg, Pa -- 10-08 (5) -- 10-03 (4) -- 20-11 (9)

56. Ernie Freeman -- Lothian, Md -- 14-02 (5) -- 6-08 (4) -- 20-10 (9)

57. Blaine Bucy -- Weirton, Wv -- 10-07 (5) -- 10-03 (5) -- 20-10 (10)

58. Ryan Powroznik -- Prince George, Va -- 11-07 (5) -- 9-01 (5) -- 20-08 (10)

59. Kyle Hoffman -- Harpers Ferry, Wv -- 13-06 (5) -- 6-15 (5) -- 20-05 (10)

60. Jeffrey Ware -- Rixeyville, Va -- 12-12 (5) -- 7-08 (5) -- 20-04 (10)

61. Steve Miller -- Mechanicsville, Va -- 11-10 (5) -- 8-10 (5) -- 20-04 (10)

62. Mike Hancin -- North Franklin, Ct -- 11-04 (5) -- 8-15 (5) -- 20-03 (10)

63. Andy Godwin -- Burnsville, Wv -- 11-01 (5) -- 8-13 (5) -- 19-14 (10)

64. Michael Phillips -- Clayton, De -- 9-02 (5) -- 10-10 (5) -- 19-12 (10)

65. Lenny Baird -- Stafford, Va -- 8-04 (5) -- 11-07 (5) -- 19-11 (10)

66. Jess Caraballo -- Danbury, Ct -- 10-03 (5) -- 9-08 (5) -- 19-11 (10)

67. Gary Krammes -- Pottsville, Pa -- 13-10 (5) -- 6-00 (4) -- 19-10 (9)

68. John MacDonald -- Peterborough, On -- 11-15 (5) -- 7-10 (4) -- 19-09 (9)

69. Gregory Wilder -- Brooklyn Park, Md -- 11-15 (5) -- 7-10 (4) -- 19-09 (9)

70. JT Kenney -- Palm Bay, Fl -- 8-11 (5) -- 10-12 (5) -- 19-07 (10)

71. Jason Tibbetts -- Centreville, Va -- 12-02 (5) -- 7-00 (5) -- 19-02 (10)

72. Steve Deguzis -- Bristol, Ct -- 11-13 (5) -- 7-05 (5) -- 19-02 (10)

73. Trevor Knight -- Magnolia, De -- 10-02 (5) -- 9-00 (5) -- 19-02 (10)

74. Paul Kimball -- Glastonbury, Ct -- 10-03 (5) -- 8-13 (5) -- 19-00 (10)

75. Billy Micciulla -- Staten Island, Ny -- 12-03 (5) -- 6-11 (4) -- 18-14 (9)

76. Ed Casey -- Whiteford, Md -- 7-13 (5) -- 11-01 (5) -- 18-14 (10)

77. Brad Rightnour -- Mingoville, Pa -- 9-14 (5) -- 8-14 (5) -- 18-12 (10)

78. Tommy Lee -- Oakville, On -- 8-01 (5) -- 10-10 (3) -- 18-11 (8)

79. George Acord Jr -- Lancaster, Pa -- 11-10 (5) -- 6-13 (3) -- 18-07 (8)

80. Curt Tindall -- Brandon, Vt -- 10-02 (5) -- 8-04 (5) -- 18-06 (10)

81. Ray Roux -- Ephrata, Pa -- 10-15 (5) -- 7-05 (5) -- 18-04 (10)

82. Justin Jones -- Apex, Nc -- 11-10 (5) -- 6-08 (5) -- 18-02 (10)

83. Ed Dennis -- Logan, Oh -- 10-10 (5) -- 7-07 (5) -- 18-01 (10)

84. Doug Larson -- Suffolk, Va -- 10-04 (5) -- 7-13 (4) -- 18-01 (9)

85. Michael Nelms -- Hartwood, Va -- 14-06 (5) -- 3-07 (3) -- 17-13 (8)

86. Peter Yanni -- Gaithersburg, Md -- 1-08 (1) -- 16-04 (5) -- 17-12 (6)

87. Brandon Hawthorne -- Ashford, Ct -- 7-08 (5) -- 9-14 (4) -- 17-06 (9)

88. Michael Baker -- Ellicott City, Md -- 8-14 (5) -- 8-08 (5) -- 17-06 (10)

89. Mark Inman -- Greensboro, Nc -- 13-03 (5) -- 4-01 (2) -- 17-04 (7)

90. George Loope -- Mt Airy, Md -- 10-15 (5) -- 6-05 (4) -- 17-04 (9)

91. Frank Ippoliti -- Mercersburg, Pa -- 7-13 (5) -- 9-06 (5) -- 17-03 (10)

92. John Trask -- Jay, Me -- 8-03 (5) -- 8-13 (5) -- 17-00 (10)

93. Daryl Biron -- South Windsor, Ct -- 9-06 (5) -- 7-07 (5) -- 16-13 (10)

94. Patrick Farrall -- Ellicott City, Md -- 10-07 (5) -- 6-02 (4) -- 16-09 (9)

95. Gary Barone -- State College, Pa -- 10-08 (5) -- 5-11 (3) -- 16-03 (8)

96. Charlie Russler -- Falling Waters, Wv -- 6-13 (4) -- 9-06 (4) -- 16-03 (8)

97. Paul Shuey -- Wake Forest, Nc -- 10-07 (5) -- 5-11 (5) -- 16-02 (10)

98. Melvin Smitson -- Baltimore, Md -- 8-07 (5) -- 7-07 (5) -- 15-14 (10)

99. Ronald Martinez Jr -- Valley View, Oh -- 10-05 (5) -- 5-05 (3) -- 15-10 (8)

100. David Kashuba -- Hagerstown, Md -- 7-13 (5) -- 7-11 (5) -- 15-08 (10)

101. Rick Anderson -- Dover, Pa -- 11-01 (5) -- 4-03 (3) -- 15-04 (8)

102. Gary Marean -- Manassas, Va -- 8-03 (5) -- 7-01 (5) -- 15-04 (10)

103. Rob Halter -- Upper Marlboro, Md -- 8-06 (5) -- 5-12 (3) -- 14-02 (8)

104. Chris Baumgardner -- Gastonia, Nc -- 0-00 (0) -- 13-03 (5) -- 13-03 (5)

105. David Wilder -- Middle River, Md -- 4-10 (3) -- 8-06 (5) -- 13-00 (8)

106. Garry Woodruff -- Candia, Nh -- 9-06 (5) -- 3-05 (2) -- 12-11 (7)

107. Red Moore -- Graham, Nc -- 7-13 (5) -- 4-13 (1) -- 12-10 (6)

108. Roger Hensley -- Jonesboro, In -- 8-14 (5) -- 3-05 (2) -- 12-03 (7)

109. Michael Ertel -- Manahawkin, Nj -- 10-06 (5) -- 1-11 (1) -- 12-01 (6)

110. James Donegan -- Leesburg, Va -- 11-14 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 11-14 (5)

111. Dave Shively -- Butler, Pa -- 9-12 (5) -- 1-07 (1) -- 11-03 (6)

112. Burley Warf -- Moneta, Va -- 7-12 (5) -- 3-05 (2) -- 11-01 (7)

113. Robert Vogelsang -- Jessup, Md -- 10-11 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 10-11 (5)

114. Will Jefferies -- Bountiful, Ut -- 10-08 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 10-08 (5)

115. David Barker -- Emitsburg, Md -- 10-06 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 10-06 (5)

116. Donald Haskins Jr -- Baltimore, Md -- 10-05 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 10-05 (5)

117. Derek Reynolds -- La Plata, Md -- 7-10 (5) -- 2-09 (1) -- 10-03 (6)

118. George Lambeth -- Thomasville, Nc -- 0-00 (0) -- 9-15 (5) -- 9-15 (5)

119. Bill Chambers -- North Bay, On -- 3-15 (2) -- 5-00 (3) -- 8-15 (5)

120. Anthony Clark -- Hyattsville, Md -- 4-12 (2) -- 4-03 (1) -- 8-15 (3)

121. Bryan Sisk -- Glenelg, Md -- 3-01 (1) -- 5-12 (2) -- 8-13 (3)

122. Daniel Welch -- New Martinsville, Wv -- 0-00 (0) -- 8-08 (5) -- 8-08 (5)

123. Mark Frickman -- Shelbyville, Mi -- 7-02 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 7-02 (5)

124. Art Vengels -- Bensalem, Pa -- 6-08 (3) -- 0-00 (0) -- 6-08 (3)

125. John McGoey -- Omemee, On -- 6-00 (2) -- 0-00 (0) -- 6-00 (2)

126. Mark Ward -- Thomasville, Pa -- 4-09 (3) -- 0-00 (0) -- 4-09 (3)

127. Rick Nitkiewicz -- Pittsburgh, Pa -- 0-00 (0) -- 3-12 (2) -- 3-12 (2)

John Bosley -- Laural, Md -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Tom Wolverton -- Hamiltom, Nj -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Big Bass

Day 1: John Hutchins -- 5-07 -- $258
Day 2: Peter Yanni -- 4-13 -- $129
Day 2: Red Moore -- 4-13 -- $129