EDITORS NOTE - This is the latest installment of Chris Flints tournament fishing diary recounting the Everstart Series final on the Potomac River. In November, Flint, a Potsdam resident and member of the Northern New York Bassmasters Club, will fish in the Series Championship in Louisana.
MAYBURY, MD - The final event of the Everstart Series brought me to the Potomac River in Maryland where you can run the tides to Washington and see such historic sites as the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument as you cast in search of the elusive fall largemouth.
A short run south can put you smack dab underneath some of largest commercial airplanes as they glide in just hundreds of feet over the top of you ,missing the mighty Potomac landing at Washington airport. Regardless of all the distractions, this event I would have a short practice period on tidal water and a fishery known to fish brutally slow during the fall transitions. The Walmart FLW tour arrived at the same location in May where pros caught plenty of numbers and the winner of the four day event Scott Martin dropped a whopping 22 lbs on the scales on day one. This event would not shape up with numbers or large bags of fish.
I arrived with a short practice period in front of me about two and a half days to learn tides and a whole body of water that I had never been on before. For those unfamiliar with tidal fishing there are two methods. One is you understand what bite window the fish are feeding on, by this I mean are they feeding on incoming, outgoing or slack tide. Once this is figured out you can set up a run and chase the tide up or down the river to catch the proper bite window.
The problem is that window can often be only 20-40 minutes when the fish feed. Any error in travel time from spot to spot results in a washout of a day and no fish, it is that important. The second method is to find a location where you know fish are pull onto it and wait all day long for the bite to come. This is a mentally challenging game to play as you fish over and over the location waiting for that window to open up. But when the bite starts get ready because it will end as fast as it began.
I started my first day of practice checking hard cover such as wood, shipping posts and bridge pilings. I ran north of our launch site for the event and fished around the Washington Bridge area. The deal with the Potomac this time of year is the constant need to change baits for reaction strikes. I fished that day with a total of 12 rods on the deck of my boat, throwing chatter baits, frogs,spinnerbaits, senkos,swimjigs and crank baits to name a few.
My first day of practice ended not catching a largemouth but having six bites over the course of 11 hours of fishing. Yes, six bites in 11 hours!! I never caught a fish.
Day two started with me forgetting about yesterdays practice. I ran south out of the launch and started checking grass flats and creeks mouths. Again I was throwing an array of baits attempting to get a bite or see some fish activity. As the day progressed the bites did not. I had checked a half a dozen grass mats and areas in creek mouths with no bites. I was now running on my 10th hour with not one fish in the boat. I headed back towards the launch area with the thought being plenty of events have been won within a mile or two of the boat launch.
I pulled up on a weed mat along the main river channel and chucked a popper frog out as far as I could, somewhat in disgust and disbelief of the day I was having. The frog hit the water with an immediate explosion through the thick weed mat. Shocked I set the hook a bit late, which is not a bad thing on a frog bite and felt the rod load up. I had just landed my first Potomac largemouth a solid 3.5 pound fish!
Excited but with only about one hour left of daylight, I left that mat and moved further up river to a large grass mat in the mouth of a creek. This area is a known community hole that holds extensive grass. If there is any place I would not rather be its in a community hole with boats packed beside me. I had no other option; I needed to get familiar with it and attempt to locate a spot where I could get a couple of fish.
As I pulled into the grass flat it was obviously a community area by the number of boats that were sitting on every corner, bend or turn of grass. I found a small area and a bend in the grass where I could make some casts. As I looked around at everyone you could see them punching the mats with jigs over and over. At that point I did not see anyone catching fish. I decided to present something different in an attempt to catch and extra fish.
I tied on a Manns minus crank bait in chartreuse. My first cast to the weed line I caught a 1 pound largemouth. Surprised I made another cast and did the same thing. Six casts resulted in six fish, nothing huge but it was a limit and somewhere to start. I ended the day with 11 hours of fishing and seven fish.
Day three I had about four hours to practice, which resulted in not much more than sightseeing and checking a few docks. I was now under the opinion, if it was such a tough bite why stick a fish I might need to catch on tournament day. I knew in this event if I could just catch two limits of fish it should seal the deal on me qualifying for the Championship. This was going to be tough.
The first day of the event started with me being boat 60 to take off. Having caught limited numbers of fish my plan was to hit that corner of the community hole where I caught fish if there was a spot for me to pull onto the grass mat. As I pulled into the bay I could see there were already about ten boats on the mat but to my surprise no one had pulled up on the corner where I had caught fish. I quickly pulled in and dropped the Talon to anchor myself in and begin the long day.
I had told myself I was not leaving that spot until I caught at least two keepers. Not knowing how my only other spot would be I was nervous about leaving too quickly. I was going to be fishing the sit and wait them out pattern. The grass mat I had was about 50 yards long by 20 yards wide. The boats kept coming in and I was now sharing that mat with another boater on the opposite side who had also anchored down. We were close enough at times we had to cast around each other as we inched around the mat throughout the morning hours. This now was sort of a chess game, who was going to stop on the right corner when the bite starts. I threw everything in my boat at them with no results.
My non-boater was throwing a small white buzz bait and had the first fish. Mentally a tough thing to see especially when the bite is so hard. At least it was not the boater next to us! We continued to work and my non-boater landed another one on the buzz bait. I now scrambled to locate a small white buzz bait which I did not have. The closest thing I could find was a white horny toad. I tied up and let it fly. A few cast later I landed my first fish, 12 inches maybe ¾ of a pound. We continued to pound that grass mat from 6:30 am until 10:30 am with no other activity. I made the decision it was time to go.
I pulled up on my only other spot where I had caught a three pounder in practice. It was about 10:45 am and I made my first cast onto the mat, whoosh! I swept the rod which loaded up and quickly netted a 3 pound fish! My non-boater then made a cast with the buzz bait and got crushed. It felt as if we just came into the feeding window. For the next hour and a half we circled a fifty yard section of grass with bass blowing up our topwater baits. I was amazed at the activity and the bites we were getting.
By 12:30 pm I was culling out smaller fish for bigger ones. We ended the day as the bite slowed by 1:30pm which was to be expected. Weigh in time came and to my surprise I had 12.13 lbs on the scales which put me in the 27th position going into the second day.
With the weights being light and close I was less than three pounds away from making the top ten cut. This tournament was now within my limits to make a second top ten finish. I knew what I had to do. Return to my heavy bite area and sit on it all day. If I could get another 12 pounds I would cash a check, 14lbs would put me in the top ten to fish on Saturday. I was going to need a perfect day of fishing which means capitalize on every bite and dont lose any fish.
Boat number 70, I started day two excited and a bit nervous if this was going to work out. I was at my spot within ten minutes and no one was around. With the bite being good at 10:30am yesterday it would be expected that my bite would not turn on until about 11:30am with the tide coming in a bit later.
I knew it was going to be a nerve racking day waiting there until 11:30 am wondering if they would bite and if they didnt it was game over as I would not have time to make a run anywhere else before check in. The morning started off and we actually had some fish responding to topwater baits. One thing I did notice was the bite was way less aggressive and the fish were just trying to suck the bait in. Yesterday they would crush it and your frog would be buried in the back of their throat.
Early morning came and went with no fish but a few bites. I was definitely second guessing myself. A friend of mine who is a Pro and fishes the Bassmaster Elite series told me, whatever you do stay at your area for that bite. I dont know how many times his words ran through my head. I had circled my waypoint so many times you could not even see it on my map anymore.
I started throwing the white frog again as the expected feeding time arrived, it was about 11:40 am and I connected. Bhammm, right on time fish. The first one of the day a solid three pounder. It was go time and I knew it would not last long. I continued to aggressively work that frog over every inch of grass on that mat and quickly had four fish in the boat. I needed that other 3 pounder for a fifth fish and to get towards that 12 pound mark.
Another cast and a huge splash, I looked to see a four pounder shaking his head and coming towards the boat. I reeled as quickly as I could to keep him coming as he made a dive about five yards from the boat and locked up in the only piece of grass between me and him. I kept steady pressure and started the boat towards him hoping to just pull him from the grass when all of the sudden, gone!
He came off, a fish like that hurts to lose but I did not have time to pout I needed to keep my bait busy. The bite slowed after that and I was able to get one other keeper for a limit before we had to head in.
I arrived at weigh in with many anglers having a disappointed look on their face. Most of the dock talk was a tougher bite with smaller bags coming in. It seemed a fair assessment but I had a limit. I weighed 9.01 pounds for the second day. When it was all said and done I finished in 44th place.
I missed a thousand dollar paycheck by two ounces! Now as I look back yes that fish haunts me, I can see it as clear as day with its big head shaking before it dives into the grass never to be seen again. In retrospect thats what makes this sport so exciting, you can go from pure lows to highs in a matter of seconds. Its what makes every good angler strive to be great. Its the reason you never stop trying because if you do losing becomes a pattern, a pattern that nobody wants.
For more information on my fishing adventures look me up or the FISHCAP website or facebook page.