Sam Dutton of Baltimore writes: Saturday, I went with three friends to the Potomac above Hancock to go bass fishing. We waded in about four feet of water and had a blast. I caught about nine smallmouth and one of us caught 20, all from 7 a.m. to noon. All were catch and release.
That area is loaded with bass. The Upper Potomac must be one of the best bass fishing areas in the country. We also find that river bass fishing is far superior to lake or pond bass fishing. The river bass put up a stronger fight and are lean and fit since they must fight the continuous current. Lake bass are lazy and fat. The Potomac water was crystal clear and we had to cast far out to catch the bass so they couldn't see us. I also caught the largest bluegill I ever saw.
What a great resource. How come we mostly hear about bass fishing on the lower, tidal Potomac? Is it because the Upper Potomac has a rocky bottom and is too shallow for the speedy and powerful bass boats?
Ken Penrod of Life Outdoors Unlimited replies: You are preaching to the choir when you rave of the Upper Potomac's beauty - and bounty. I've fished that river for nearly 45 years, the past 27 as a full-time professional guide. I've written several books that specifically deal with the Upper Potomac. I also guide on bigger waters, such as the tidal Potomac, from a bass boat that's capable of 70 mph. But fishing isn't about speed, it's about reward.
From the tone of your note, I've concluded that you are not a casual river smallmouth bass fisherman. Your comments about making long casts and that smallmouth are athletic lead me to believe that last week wasn't your first foray. Still, try not to be species specific with regard to preference because there is no bad fishing. The difference between a smallmouth bass and a largemouth bass is "attitude." A largemouth bass offers tremendous challenge and requires technique - and so does a smallmouth bass. They are cousins but so different. A river smallmouth bass is all about business. A largemouth bass is a moody character.
As to your question concerning the lack of publicity for the Upper Potomac - it may be the danger factor. Wading is a summertime, low-flow, high-water temperature adventure. That same area where you waded will be 20-40 feet sometime this year. When in doubt, stay out. (To obtain river conditions online, go to penrodsguides.com and click on river conditions.)
This is a shallow, rocky habitat, and johnboats, canoes and kayaks are perfect even if wading isn't. By the way, did you know that a 12-inch, river smallmouth bass may be 4-6 years old?