Raking through leaves to find some bass

Bill Burton

November 09, 1990|By Bill Burton

WHITES FERRY -- This is the time of year that the foliage along the banks of the upper Potomac is beautiful. If only the leaves would stay on the trees.

This is more than an aesthetic consideration for bass chasers. Leaves on the water can mess up angling.

To catch a smallmouth, a lure must be clean as a hound's tooth. When the surface looks like a lawn that hasn't felt a rake all fall, it can become difficult to get a grub down to where it does its business without snagging leaves.

Not that guides Ken Penrod and Bill Glotfelty, and I had much to complain about. Fishing was as good for smallmouths as I have ever enjoyed -- some stretches, a fish every third cast.

One cast lost to leaves, another wasted, and the third a solid strike. The bottom of the Potomac about a mile above here on the Virginia side is paved with smallmouths.

The day before we headed out, Penrod guided a party to 110 bass. As we left the modern launching ramp at the end of Whites Ferry Road I wished he hadn't told us that.

You know how it goes. Every time a guide tells you what it was like yesterday, you know today will be different. This time it was, too -- only better.

We didn't count our fish; I lost track of mine after 16 catches and releases in the first hour. When Glotfelty -- who has been guiding largemouth parties for Outdoor Life Unlimited in the Washington area -- said he was anxious to catch a smallmouth, Penrod promised him he would do so in 10 minutes.

Penrod was wrong. It was five minutes. It would have been quicker than that had not the early morning fog blanketed the river.

If you find that hard to believe, consider that Penrod said this kind of fishing will last well into December, depending on the weather, of course.

Other than the mat of floating leaves, the only other complaint was that as the weather chills the bass hug the bottom closer. There's no chance to catch them on a surface plug. They won't leave the floor of the Potomac.

And they have a definite preference in lures. They want grubs, which makes fishing easier in thick leaves. Grubs rigged with soft plastic twister tails have only one hook to get snagged.

The technique is to cast it into only several feet of water, let it drop to the bottom, then reel in slowly, occasionally bouncing bottom, and wait for a strike.

Sure you get hung on the rocky bottom. That's why Penrod placed a bag of 500 lead-headed jigs and three bags of 100 twisters on the boat seat. We wasted about 50, probably one for every three fish.

Color didn't make any difference. These smallmouths are anxious to bite something grubbing the bottom.

Glotfelty tried a gaudy luminous orange-tailed twister in hopes of taking a smallmouth larger than the 9- to 12-inchers we were getting. He promptly had a strike that prompted an I-told-you-so snicker.

Penrod grabbed the net, dipped the fish, and Glotfelty's jaw dropped. Snagged to his grub was a 5-pound carp. The two guides can be contacted by calling 1-301-572-5688.


The Striped Bass Advisory Board last night postponed until its Dec. 11 meeting consideration of a May season for large Chesapeake Bay rockfish.

Meanwhile, Department of Natural Resources tidal fisheries chief Pete Jensen told the group Virginia authorities will close that state's rock gill net season -- which opened Monday -- at 3 p.m. today because the quota of 220,000 pounds will be reached. Netting was scheduled to continue through Dec. 5.

Catches have been so good that dockside prices have plummeted as low as 90 cents a pound.

The sportsfishing season, which also opened Monday, is witnessing relatively poor catches, and low angler turnout. An aerial survey indicated less than 400 boats were participating. There are complaints that moderate weather has slowed the run of fish hook-and-liners depend on.

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