Successful angler a prince of tides

OUTDOOR

January 18, 1994|By PETER BAKER

David Fritts was standing within a display of Ranger bass boats while a good crowd roamed the aisles at Bass Expo this past weekend in the Cow Palace at the state fairgrounds in Timonium.

Now and again, Fritts would answer a question or point to an important feature on one boat or another, but as of late afternoon Saturday, it did not seem that Fritts was drawing a crowd befitting one of the hottest professional bass fishermen around.

Not to worry, Fritts said, there is time still to capitalize on his victory in last summer's Bass Masters Classic. Besides, too many demands on his time eventually would cut into what he does best, which is catching bass with crankbaits.

Fritts, 37, said the greatest pressure on his time will come over the next couple of months, as his schedule of personal appearances at fishing shows and seminars increases.

"But it hasn't hurt my fishing so far," said Fritts, who followed his win in the Classic with an impressive string of tournament performances. "My fishing, in fact, has improved a little bit since. I won. I finished second. I finished third. One of them, I didn't even make the money in, but I am up there [in the standings] pretty good and I am just going for it."

One of Fritts' better tournament sites has been the Potomac River, where the past two years he has finished close to the top on the strength of a couple of 15-pound-plus stringers.

"At times, it seems there are a few secrets to fishing the Potomac," said Fritts, who is from North Carolina. "But I just always fish the current, try to figure out the fish and how they are relating to the tides.

"The last two years I have fished the Potomac, the big stringers I have caught have been from the grass, and then I end up going to a wood pattern or rock patterns.

"You just have to be real versatile to fish that river. You just can't go out on that river and do one thing, I don't think, and win."

The need for versatility is, of course, what makes the Potomac a challenging river for bigger fish.

"You can catch fish just about anywhere you want on that river," Fritts said. "It is just a matter of trying to figure out where they are when. The whole key is trying to figure out the tide. . . . I think if anglers would learn to fish tide rather than the structure, they would probably do better."

The tide, Fritts said, positions the fish, and the current carries them food. Where the level of the tide and the flow of the water are in correct proportions, one is likely to find the best conditions in which to catch big fish.

"Slack water. Whenever you have slack water," Fritts said, "I feel like the fish are going to be a little deeper. When you got real hard moving water, I feel like they are going to be a little shallower."

Once an angler finds a current break that creates an eddy or backwater on the edge of a drop-off close to submerged cover, the second part of the search begins. Fritts says this is best done with crankbaits, more specifically Poe's 300 and 400 series of cedar crankbaits, which Fritts says function more realistically than plastic or metal crankbaits.

"I go out there with a 300 series tied on that runs about 5 or 6 feet deep," Fritts said. "Then I have a 400 series tied on that runs about 10 feet. Then I have a Zoom craw worm tied on and some type of spinnerbait, and that is my basic arsenal."

Fritts said he also uses buzzbaits for low light conditions when the fish are more likely to be on top, but does not make extensive use of artificial worms.

"Worms are good, but I feel like the bigger fish bite craws up there," Fritts said. "I have always been more successful with craws. You catch a lot of numbers on worms, but a lot of times you don't catch the quality you need. You really want weight [in a tournament]."

By using crankbaits that fish at different depths, one can read how the fish are relating to the tide and the current, Fritts said, "and I would rather stick with the tide rather than one certain depth, because a lot of times when the tide gets real low, that is when I am fishing real shallow.

"And a lot of times when the tide is real high, you have to fish real shallow, but you also might have to fish a little deeper when the tide is real high.

"So it really is a matter of figuring out the tide."

When an outsider comes to a body of water that is new to him, one of the first questions he asks is where the best fishing has been. Fritts calls this "localitis" and said that at times it can be a terminal disease for fishermen.

"People will sometimes fish the spot instead of the fish," Fritts said. "You have to fish the fish, because they are constantly moving.

"You may fish one spot two or three times that day and get nothing. Then you stop there again when there are five or 10 minutes before it is time to go in and catch them.

"You have to be there when the fish are ready to feed, when the tide is right. You have to catch them when they are the way they are right now and not how they were last week."

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