2016 Elite Series
Charles County, MD
51st Place / 10 fish, 20-00
I’d visited the Potomac four or five times while fishing the FLW Tour, and while it had been a number of years since the last trip I still had fond memories of the place. It was the first tidal water I fished, and while I never made a top ten there, I hadn’t missed a check, either. The rumors were that the fishery wasn’t as good as it had once been but I was still looking forward to it because I expected to be able to fish exclusively in 5 feet of water or less.
Historically I’d never fished all that much far north of the take-off point in Mattawoman Creek or far south of it, so one day in practice I went about as far north as you can take a bass boat. I was looking for a smallmouth bite, and while I found a few, I quickly realized that they weren’t the quality I’d need to do well.
Throughout the rest of practice I switched back and forth between the main river and the Potomac’s many creeks. On the main river, it wasn’t a matter of “not many” – it was “not any.” I simply couldn’t get bites out there, so I resolved to creek hop. I felt good about that decision and believed I had several places where I could make things happen.
On the first day of competition Andy Montgomery and I started off in the same creek. It was time-consuming to get back there, but it was the type of place where you could get bit on wood or grass or any little bit of cover you came to. Pretty quickly I caught a 12-incher on a wacky worm, then a 12 ½ on a finesse jig. That second keeper was hooked kind of funny so I resolved to keep an eye on how he was doing. I figured that there was going to be a decision to make, but I put him in the livewell with a Flip Clip on him and hoped for the best.
Soon thereafter I lost a good fish in the pads on a jig, then caught a 3-pounder on the jig and a 2-pounder on a wacky worm. I finished off my limit at about noon with a 1 ½ pound fish. I didn’t have a big weight, but the 2 pounder and the 3 pounder were solid fish.
After that I left to fish some other creeks. There was one in particular where I’d had several good bites in practice on a Terminator Popping Frog. This time, I couldn’t get them to move on it, though. I did manage a 2 ¼ pounder flipping, which allowed me to cull out the fish that had been struggling earlier, although by that time it appeared to be healthy and vibrant. Then I caught one about 2 ¾ pounds on a small swimbait, which allowed me to cull out the first 12-incher. With an hour left, I went to another creek and culled up again by a few ounces.
That last cull brought me up to 11-13 for the day. I’d caught eight keepers and missed a few and while the bite had been pretty tough, I felt that my areas still held enough fish to beat out another limit with the chance for some good ones.
On the second day of competition I started in the same place I’d begun the previous day. After all, I’d caught five keepers there and only three the rest of the day. I felt that it gave me my best shot at a limit. As I got to within 50 or 75 yards of my best spot, three Amish or Mennonite anglers were there fishing in kayaks. One of them caught a good fish, then I saw another one lose one. Shortly thereafter I caught a 2 ¼ pounder on a wacky worm and another keeper on a dropshot. The water was clear and I could see what was probably a 15 to 17 pound limit swimming around, but I couldn’t get them to bite.
I finally left for the creek where I’d ended Day One, and as I entered Koby Kreiger was coming out. He said that he had four fish, but hadn’t caught one in a long time. It was 11 o’clock and the bite was tough. The tide was low and I needed it to get up some to get into my key area. There was just one little ditch that I wanted to hit, so I waited. As I fished around, at 11:30 I caught my third keeper, then a 2 pounder, then another keeper, for a limit. A little while later I added another, which enabled me to cull.
It was close to 1 o’clock and the water wasn’t coming up as quickly as I wanted it to. I thought that I could get into the ditch, but was afraid of getting stuck, so I ran elsewhere and hit a few more places, but never caught another keeper. In hindsight, I was pretty fortunate to have caught what I did, but when the scales read 8-03 it left me 6 ounces short of the cut. If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn’t have waited around so long on Day Two. I could’ve gone up where Andy went and almost certainly caught another pound and a half bass, which would’ve put me into the check line.
A wacky worm produced more fish than any other lure in this tournament. I fished it on a new VMC Neko #2 hook, and a Fenwick 7’2” medium-action World Class rod paired with a size 35 Pflueger Patriarch. The reel was spooled with 14 lb. Nanofil and a leader of 10 lb. test Trilene XL fluorocarbon.
The dropshot was probably my second most productive lure. My main bait was a Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper in translucent purple, fished on a 2/0 VMC worm hook with a 1/8 ounce Reins Tungsten dropshot weight. I used a 6’8” medium-action Fenwick World Class spinning rod with the same size 35 Pflueger Patriarch, but this time spooled with 10 lb. Nanofil and an 8 lb. Trilene XL fluorocarbon leader.
My Minn Kota Talons were also critical, as they are in just about every event, but particularly in tidal situations. There’s always current there, and in some of the clear water areas I fished it was important to stay off the fish and make long casts. I’d cast and cast and cast to the same spot and on the 10th try I’d catch a fish. Those bass move around a lot and use certain areas as ambush points. When it’s tough, you need those Talons to maximize the number of strikes.
Obviously I’m disappointed to have missed the cut to Saturday. That makes three tournaments on tidal waters this year where I’ve failed to get a check. On the other hand, I’m in 18th place in the Angler of the Year race with one regular season event to go. Given that position, I don’t have to fish conservatively. I’m not going to do anything stupid, but if some sort of opportunity presents itself I can take more risks than the guy in 30th place. Considering where I was at this point last year, I’m in a good spot, and ready to close out the season strong.