Some 300 professional and amateur bass anglers encountered unusually slow going in the opening round of the $400,000 Kmart Bassmasters Top 150 Tournament yesterday on the Potomac River near Smallwood State Park in Charles County.
Bernie Schultz, a veteran pro from Gainesville, Fla., took the first-round lead with five bass that weighed in at 15 pounds, 14 ounces, but only three others were over 15 pounds for the first day -- including amateur leader Jeff Mandes of Townsend, Del., who weighed in five bass at 16 pounds, 11 ounces.
In previous top bass tournaments on the river, top daily totals often have exceeded 16 pounds and three-day totals often more than 50.
This year, however, the tournament is a four-day competition and the field includes 312 anglers, about 100 more than during three-day tournaments.
Some anglers said the pressure on the prime fishing areas was great and that they expected greater totals from the bass-rich waters of the Potomac.
Tommy Martin of Hemphill, Texas, weighed in 15 pounds, 5 ounces to tie fellow Texas pro Jay Yelas for second place, and said he was able to catch bass behind other boats yesterday.
"I think it's the choice of bait I'm using because I'm sure this lure is catching fish behind some other boats," said Martin, who declined to name the lure he was using. "I really anticipated catching my fish on another lure today, but I caught all these this morning, so I stayed with it all day."
If Hurricane Bonnie should continue its northward path rather than turning to the northeast as it moves up from the Carolinas, anglers could face high winds and tidal surges before the competition ends Saturday.
Tournament officials said yesterday that if Bonnie moves close enough to make tournament waters unsafe, the competition will be cut to three days.
Donald Muir of Baltimore finished the first day in second place on the amateur side with five bass for 11 pounds, 6 ounces.
Pros -- 1. Bernie Schultz, Gainesville, Fla., 15-14; 2. Tommy Martin, Hemphill, Texas, and Jay Yelas, Tyler, Texas, 15-05; 4. David Wharton, Sam Rayburn, Texas, 14-14; 5. Ken McIntosh, Leesburg, Ind., 14-13.
Amateurs -- 1. Jeff Mandes, Townsend, Del., 16-11; 2. Donald Muir, Baltimore, 11-06; 3. Dale R. Jackson, Dickson, Tenn., 11-04; 4. Rick E. Anderson, Dover, Pa., 11-00; 5. Robert W. Martin, Jr., Egg Harbor, N.J., 10-00.
Fishermen and boaters are cautioned to check the progress of the storm before setting out today and tomorrow. High winds, flood tides and unusually high seas are possible if the hurricane or its remnants pass through the area.
Monitor NOAA weather radio reports before setting out and while on state waters.
Upper Chesapeake: Drifted eels have worked best for rockfish along channel edges and over oyster bars below Pooles Island, off Worton Point and in the lower Chester River. Trollers have done well for stripers along the western shore from Belvedere Shoals to the Sandy Point area. Bluefish have moved as far north as Turkey Point.
Middle Chesapeake: Increasing numbers of anglers are turning to trolling for rockfish, with the western edge of the shipping channel a good choice from Holland Point south along the 34-foot contour. Chummers have been doing well at the Gas Docks and Summer Gooses. Schools of bluefish, with some up to 7 pounds, are roaming through the area, and spanish mackerel are mixed in with some schools.
Lower Chesapeake: Rockfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel are plentiful for trollers, but keep in mind the lower bay is most likely to feel the strongest effects of Bonnie. The channel edges from the Middle Ground to the HS Buoy along the 36-foot contour have been producing good catches for trollers. Chummers in the same area, as well as from Cedar Point Hollow to the Targets, have done well for bluefish and spanish mackerel.
Ocean City inshore: Storm surge from Bonnie could present major problems along the coastline, and anglers and boaters are advised to exercise extreme caution until the storm is safely past Maryland's coastline. Small bluefish, sheepshead, tautog and an occasional keeper rockfish at the inlet; mostly undersized flounder in the back bays.
Ocean City offshore: Conditions could be hazardous for several days, with confused seas in the wake of Bonnie. However, before the storm approached Maryland's coast, the billfish action continued to be the best in many years.
Susquehanna: A good bet for bass anglers who want to get away from the tournament crowd on the Potomac. Smallmouth hitting well around islands and largemouths near bridge piers or wood pilings.
Upper Potomac: Good smallmouth action, although water levels have been low throughout the river.
Deep Creek Lake: Trout suspended near the dam, pickerel in the grass beds and smallmouth off rocky points.
Pub Date: 8/27/98