Recon for BFL Shenandoah Division
Potomac Should Fish Small

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Photo: ESPN Outdoors
Virginia Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kurt Dove likes soft jerkbaits this time of year.

The Potomac River is one of our country's urban bass fishing treasures, and it's no secret. Throughout the year, but particularly in the spring, the national capitol's river is bombarded by one tournament after another.

Despite the extraordinary pressure, it continues to pump out hundreds of limits each week. Both tour-level trails know it and they return year after year. Triple-A and "lower" trails know it as well, and it's one location that always seems to draw big numbers.

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kurt Dove of Fairfax, Va. considers the Potomac his home water, and this is one of his favorite times of year to fish it. Here's how he'd attack the Potomac if he were to fish this upcoming weekend's BFL event.

Community Holes

"My gameplan this time of year is to focus on four specific areas Mattawoman Creek, Chickamuxen Creek, Aquia Creek and Arkindale Flats," he said. "You can almost be certain it'll be won in one of those.

"In the late spring a lot of fish are still up shallow, spawning. You're looking for areas in and around spawning flats. But you can't just run around and sight-fish. There's only a short window to do that, and that's only if the proper conditions exists. Most of the time you'll be fishing around beds you can't see."

None of his preferred areas are secrets, so he said that anglers will likely have to fish shoulder-to-shoulder in order to be competitive. "You're going to fish in a crowd. Just deal with it put your head down and fish. The river fishes smaller now than at any other time of the year. It's nothing to have 15 to 20 boats in a small area."

The key to those known spawning areas is that they have hard bottoms. "All of these creeks have grass, but the key is to search around and find the concentrated areas where there's a hard bottom."

Plastics Dominate

He'll start off the morning throwing a topwater, usually a buzzbait, a popper or the novel JDC Skip N Pop, a hollow-bodied weedless popper. "I want to get what I call a couple of 'cheap bites' in the first hour," he said. "If I can get two or three fish doing that, it would be great."

The Mann's Baby 1-Minus is a Potomac staple, and there can occasionally be a strong jerkbait or spinnerbait bite. When those tactics are in play, he'll run the tide to chase his reaction bite. But often they don't work.

"I was out last weekend and the fish weren't reacting to fast-moving baits," he said. When that happens, the key is to slow down and fish plastics in the grass. His favorite is a soft jerkbait (or stickbait) with a 1/16 ounce leadhead. "You have to add some weight to get it to penetrate the grass and fall in the beds around the milfoil," he noted.

His preferred colors are green-pumpkin and watermelon, depending on water clarity.

His third plastic choice is a Texas-rigged craw in black/blue.

In order to upgrade a decent limit, he often finds the need to back out to the deeper grass edges. "Those 14- to 17-inch keeper fish may be up shallow in a confined area, but to catch a 4- or 5-pound fish you need to back out a little when the tide pulls out. Instead of being in 2 feet of water, go out to 3 or 4 feet and fish plastics slow, or drag a Carolina rig."

Weather Wildcard

The one scourge of all Potomac River anglers is wind. When it runs up against the tide, it can produce kidney-bruising conditions. "That's why you need to get comfortable in two or three different areas, so you can get away from the winds," Dove said.

Wind also "dirties up the water. There's not much grass growth yet to filter it out, so gusting winds mess it up. And when it gets dirty the fish often shut off."

Another wildcard factor is the northern section of the river. All four of the areas he identified as likely tournament winners are parallel to or south of the tournament's launch site. "If someone could get something going up north, in creeks like Piscataway or Swan, there probably wouldn't be as much pressure on it," he said.


> He predicted it would take 19 to 20 pounds to win, and 14 to 15 pounds to get a check. "To be competitive, you have to have 15-plus."

> In last week's Piedmont Division BFL on the Potomac, the winner had 19-06. It took 16-13 to crack the Top 10 and 14-00 to get a check (30th place).

> Dove won the April 2003 BFL on the river with a weight of 18-10.

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