On my first cast of the day, I scored a bulls-eye on a submerged stump. Bass pro Bob Parker attempted to conceal his amusement while nudging his boat toward the Mattawoman Creek shoreline so that we could free my lure. It was the first of a series of mishaps and the beginning of a great largemouth bass safari.
If I had to limit all my bass fishing to a single spot, the choice would be this section of the lower Potomac River. Most bass fans finger this area as the East Coast's finest largemouth waters. Some insist the bassing here is the best in the entire country.
Parker (301-839-2858) is one of nine full-time guides associated with Reel Bass Adventures, an outfit that I fish with regularly. In addition to the full-timers, the outfit also has a dozen part-timers, which allows servicing of the entire mid-Atlantic fishing scene.
The waters in this section of the Potomac are brackish over ideal bass habitat and have never failed to provide a trophy-class bass for me on every trip. About the same time last year, while fishing here, I managed to put two five-pound fish in the boat on back-to-back casts. That is not unusual here.
On last week's trip, Parker decided to "stay up here in the creek because of the winds out on the [Potomac] river. I've been having good luck around Marsh Island, so let's run up the see what we can find."
This was a short run from the superb launching facilities offered by Gen. Smallwood State Park, which Reel Bass Adventures favors as a staging area for this portion of the Potomac and its tributaries.
"This place has been producing for me in the afternoon, after the water has warmed. But, it's been pretty mild these past couple of days, and maybe the fish will move into this shallow water a bit earlier," Parker said.
We worked the northern shoreline for some 500 yards. I was casting a silver Rattletrap crank-bait tied to my spinning rig's line, while Parker expertly probed small pockets of open water with deadly accurate casts.
I had two good hits, lots of hang-ups, and no fish to show for the shoreline drift. Parker had a pair of hits and released a three-pounder before we moved to make the circuit of Marsh Island, about 300 yards off shore.
Many great blue herons call this section of the tidal Potomac home and it's easy to be distracted by their beauty. That's exactly what happened when I managed to lose what I suspect was the largest bass of my life.
We were drifting in about two feet of water and putting our lures right against the Island's grassy shoreline before retrieving. Moments before I would have made another cast, my line got unexpectedly heavy, and mono began to peel off the reel. My drag was set to release line after about nine pounds of pressure. When the fish stopped pulling line, I tried to set the hook securely into it's bogey mouth, but the bass was smarter than me, and the line went limp.
Parker said the fish probably had picked up the Rattletrap at the edge of the shore and swum with it toward the boat.
"They do that sometimes. They'll grab a bait-fish in the shallows and carry it into deeper water to eat it, and that's when your line got heavy. It sort of sucked the lure in. That's why you never felt it until it was too late. When the fish stopped and you tried to set the hooks, the bass simply spit the lure out. Darn shame -- that looked like a heck of a nice bass."
I decided to change my luck by switching to my bait rig, and on the first cast managed to come up with a world-class backlash. This was followed by centering my butt over a crank-bait.
I cured the backlash by disgustedly cutting the line, and Parker removed the lure from the seat of my pants.
When we knocked off at noontime, the tally sheet recorded a dozen good fish.
Look for the fishing to get even better as the weather and water warms.
Pub Date: 5/18/97