Neuse River Backwater Open
After being narrowly edged out of the event’s winner’s circle two years ago, Winterville, NC’s Blace and Max Nalavany came back strong, posting a 24.05 lb. aggregate of speckled trout, flounder, and red drum to take home first place at the 2010 Neuse River Backwater Open. Their aggregate included the 7.05 lb. drum that topped the event’s Big Fish Pot TWT as well.
“We fished all summer and we fished a few weeks ago,” Blace Nalavany said, “but we didn’t really pre-fish. I was a little worried about that because the water temperature in the Neuse dropped 14 degrees in a week right before the tournament.”
The falling water temperatures were the main factor in the father/son team’s game plan for the event.
“We were trying to decide between fishing the creeks or the open shorelines,” Nalavany continued. “We ended up deciding to hit the creeks early, waiting for the sun to warm up the water to fish the open shorelines.”
The game plan was proven solid on Max’s fifth cast in the first creek the anglers tried, as he landed a 26” red drum on a white Gulp shrimp, one of the pair of reds the team weighed in.
Continuing to fish the creek, the anglers landed several smaller reds, some trout, and a few flounder, but little else they felt would be worth weighing in.
“Around 9:30,” Nalavany said, “we decided to go fish some shorelines. We didn’t see a lot of bait, but we caught a nice flounder right off the bat.”
Adding a 17” flounder to the drum already in the box, the pair continued working the open shoreline of the river with the trolling motor on their 19’ Key West bay boat.
Shortly thereafter, Max added another 25” red to their creel, again on a white Gulp shrimp.
A smaller flounder was next to fall for the spell of the Gulp shrimp, this time in the glow pattern.
“I caught a pretty good trout after that,” Nalavany reported. “That area holds all three species. I actually had just lost a nicer trout before that one bit.”
Nothing wrong with a 20” speck, but Max showed his father up shortly thereafter, boating a 23” trout to add to the pair’s already impressive stringer.
A few trout, lower-slot puppy drum, and keeper flounder later, Blace hooked and landed the 26”, 7.05 lb. pup that brought home the Big Fish Pot money.
With the pair of big reds anchoring their stringer, the Nalavany crew headed for the scales at Lawson’ Creek Park in New Bern to weigh in.
“I didn’t think we’d be anywhere near winning,” Nalavany said, “since I figured most of the people would have some stripers, too. Max was much more confident than I was, but we were still absolutely surprised to win it.”
The winning team wished to thank Capts. Gary Dubiel and Dave Stewart for helping them learn the Neuse fishery, and the Neuse River Backwater Open staff for putting on a great event for a great cause.
Posting a 22.86 lb. aggregate to finish second were Jeremy Jones and Ronnie Wiggins, from Askins, NC. The pair, fishing on a 21’ Sea Pro bay boat, started the day at the New Bern Bridge looking for a striped bass, but like the winners, soon ended up fishing a creek.
“We went into Broad Creek,” Jones explained. “We caught probably 20 trout in there, but most of them were small. I think we only kept 3.”
Though most of the team’s Broad Creek fish fell for Gulp Swimming Mullet, a TT MirrOlure and a Rapala crankbait also did some damage.
After leaving Broad Creek, the anglers fished for a short while near the mouth of Goose Creek before crossing the river and heading to Turnagain Bay.
“We went to the back of the bay because we though it would be holding some drum,” Jones continued, “but there was nothing there. We came back out toward the front of the bay right by an oyster rock, and that’s where we caught the rest of the fish.”
Gulp Swimming Mullet produced the pair of puppy drum and speckled trout that finished off the team’s aggregate weight, with Jones working a rootbeer/gold bait along the bottom and Wiggins casting a white model under a popping cork.
A 20.26 lb. aggregate weight earned third place in the Backwater Open for Scott Wood and Berry Bender. Mike Zaytoun, Jr., and Jonathan Howell finished fourth with 19.76 lbs., and Ronnie Buck and Kip Gilgo rounded out the top five with a 15.61 lb. creel.