Grass beds may alter flow of Potomac BASSMASTER


September 13, 1994|By PETER BAKER

In previous years, when the BASSMASTER tournaments have come to the upper tidal Potomac River, many competition anglers have targeted the river's grass beds, usually extensive and productive habitat.

The word this week is that the river has changed for the $190,000 BASSMASTER Maryland Eastern Invitational that starts Thursday out of Sweden Point Marina on Mattawoman Creek in Charles County.

The grass beds have been diminished by a wet, cool August and early September.

"There will be a lot of people scrambling to find a place to fish," said Florida pro Jim Bitter, who won the BASSMASTER BP Top 100 tournament out of Mattawoman in 1992.

"There is a lot less grass than there used to be from Washington to Mattawoman, and the grass below Mattawoman doesn't look very good either."

Below the Mattawoman, said Bitter, who scouted the area before practice was cut off Sept. 1, the grass beds are extensive but were too thick to fish effectively.

Above the Mattawoman, which is 30 minutes south of Washington by bass boat, there are thin patches of grass along the shoreline where in previous years there have been beds of grass extending up to 200 yards into the river.

"The good fishing areas will be small and packed," said Bitter. "There are lots of creeks and I imagine more people will fish creeks than before -- fishing any wood cover they can find."

Last year's winner, Jay Yelas of Jasper, Texas, is among those pros who decided not to scout the Potomac this year, feeling confident that the river provides enough largemouth bass and varied habitat to enable a good fisherman to adapt.

"I have fished the same areas . . . so it will be hard not to go back to those areas, but I am going to keep an open mind," Yelas said. "The Potomac is always a great tournament. It has got to be the best bass fishing on the East Coast. For a tidal river, it always produces some big bass -- 5- and 6-pounders."

Winners in the four previous BASSMASTER tournaments are Guido Hibdon of Missouri, who won in 1989 with 43 pounds, 13 ounces; Don Leach of Oklahoma, 1990, 37-1; Bitter, 1992, 68-15; and Yelas last year, 54-11.

Bitter and Yelas fished four-day tournaments with daily limits of five bass over 12 inches. Hibdon and Leach fished three-day events.

When Bitter won a couple of years ago, he fished a small rocky hump with crankbaits a short distance north from the mouth of the Mattawoman.

Last year, Yelas fished a spinnerbait in holes in the hydrilla beds and rockpiles with jigs and crankbaits on the rising tide.

The tournament runs through Saturday, with daily weigh-ins starting at 3 p.m. along the Sweden Point waterfront at Smallwood State Park in Marbury.

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