UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - James River

Buck Wins Potomac River BFL Regional

Buck Wins Potomac River BFL Regional
Grae Buck fished a single ditch in a milfoil bed for three days to win the BFL Regional on the Potomac River.

The Oct. 8-10 Walmart Bass Fishing League Regional on the Potomac River came in the wake of a tough summer that yielded lower-than-expected catches. Weather swings brought in higher water and tides that did not fall to expected levels to position fish for typical tidal bites. Yet, 155 boaters and 155 co-anglers, representing the top performers from four BFL divisions, accepted the late-season challenge with a lot at stake. A top-six finish at this Regional would qualify them for the 2016 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American, a televised event with a six-figure payday and a boater berth in the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup on the line.

For three tough days of fishing, anglers from the Buckeye, Michigan, Northeast and Piedmont BFL divisions competed, with only the top 12 fishing on Saturday.

While it’s not uncommon for tournament competitors to share water, for Pennsylvania boater Grae Buck, winning meant sharing water with unexpected outdoorsmen. Going into the last day Buck was in second place, nearly 3 pounds behind veteran Frank Ippoliti. But when he arrived on his best spot, duck hunters had already set up there.

After a bit of fishing around his area and negotiating with the hunters, Buck managed to get into his spot at around 10 a.m. and in time to catch the tide going out and three of his crucial fish. It was the fourth fish that counted, giving him a 15-ounce victory with a three-day total of 34 pounds, 9 ounces.

The Potomac was definitely challenging during practice for the tournament. Buck only managed one keeper a day for the first three days of practice. Then on Wednesday, he was able to locate a ditch in a milfoil bed where he could catch bass that were being sucked in by the falling tides. He caught three and left with plans to camp on the spot the next three days of competition.  

After seeing large black and red crawfish, Buck matched the hatch with a SPRO Little John tied to 12-pound-test Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon. He made long casts with a new Dobyns Fury Series cranking rod. It was just stiff enough to snap the bait from the grass, which was key in triggering strikes. He had to contact the grass on the edges of the ditch to get a bite. As for the rod, it was the first time he had used it.

“It performed well,” says Buck. “I didn’t lose a fish on it.”

Muddy water was flowing from the creek into his 200-yard stretch, and Buck says the transition area forced fish to react to the bait. The spot also had sparse milfoil clumps, which allowed him to get lures through the grass.

Several times during the tournament, Buck had to play defense as boaters from other Potomac tournaments were trying to move in on his spot. He never left, focusing on the last two hours of outgoing tides.

“If you got one in the morning it was a bonus fish,” he adds.

Buck covered water and found that the 7:1 gear-ratio Quantum EXO casting reel allowed for long casts and quick retrievals.

Falling short of a limit on the final day had Buck wondering if he had a chance to win. He ended up with just enough weight for victory, thanks in part to windy conditions that challenged the field.

“I guess it was just tough today [Saturday] for everyone with that wind,” Buck adds.

 

Vanore

Vanore Falls Just Shy in the Grass

During practice, John Vanore of Mullica Hill, N.J., was running docks and struggling, only catching one fish. His decision to go to grass in the tournament paid off as Vanore landed a three-day total of 33 pounds, 10 ounces for second place.

Not only did he find cleaner water after the switch, but also water that was almost 10 degrees warmer. Vanore only was able to get fish to bite a black and blue-skirted ChatterBait with a black Keitech Swing Impact swimbait trailer. He used 15-pound-test fluorocarbon line for better hooksets and to snap the bait out of the grass.

Vanore targeted hydrilla in 4 to 5 feet of water. As the tide fell, he was able to run the bait past small grass points in the hydrilla to get bites.

“I made casts across the grass points, and the fish would pop out and hit it,” he recalls. “I like to make long casts to cover water. Fish were hitting it about a third of the way back to the boat.”

For Vanore, the final day started well but deteriorated as boat traffic and low water muddied his area. Hoping for a change in tide to bring in fresh water, he tried to wait it out but never got the clarity he was looking for.

 

Ippoliti

Ippoliti Buzzes Into Third Place

Veteran angler Frank Ippoliti of Mercersburg, Pa., weighed in 33 pounds, 4 ounces in three days for third place.

Ippoliti says he was definitely optimistic leading up to the tournament.

“This is probably one of the best times to fish the river for catching big stringers,” Ippoliti says. “There are crawfish everywhere. It’s a smorgasbord for the fish, and if you time it right it’s a great time for fishermen.”

Throwing an old-school Cavitron Buzzbait, Ippoliti removed the skirt and replaced it with a Keitech 3.8 swimbait to provide more buoyancy and action, as well as to resemble the shad that the fish were feeding on. He says it’s a perfect scenario for shallow fall fishing. The bait stays above the fish. He tied his buzzbait to 40-pound-test braid and threw it on a 6-foot, 8-inch custom rod to make super-long casts in the clear water.

“Sling a buzzbait until you can’t sling it anymore,” Ippoliti says of the technique.

Ippoliti lost some key fish on the first day, but adjusted by removing the buzzbait’s stinger hook and increasing his retrieve speed to keep the bait out of the grass. This move produced a monster day-two 18-pound bag, putting him in the lead by more than 2 pounds going into the third and final day.

Unfortunately, a strong north wind pushed the water out of his area, and he was only able to weigh in two keepers on day three. Ippoliti finished third.

 

Duarte

Duarte Tops Co-anglers

Two big fish on the last day landed John Duarte of Middle River, Md., in the co-angler winner’s circle with 29 pounds, 2 ounces.

Having grown up fishing the Potomac, Duarte guided his day-one out-of-town boater to several of his spots. This kept Duarte in the game, but day two was really interesting. After his boater’s trolling motor broke, they resorted to drifting through spots, but Duarte still landed his best limit of the tournament – 13-9.

Duarte used his tidal experience to execute thoughtful casts to present lures to key spots in grass beds – primarily edges. If too close to an edge, he would cast out of the other side of the boat or even behind the boat. If the boat was farther from his target spot, he would just make longer casts to reach the key location.

“I was snapping out of the grass,” Duarte explains. “I kept casting and fishing hard all day. I had an idea where fish were positioned on different tides and when they move deeper and shallower.”

Sticking with a white ChatterBait with a soft jerkbait on the back and a Big Mouth Lures gold and nickel willow-leaf 3/8-ounce spinnerbait, he used 15-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon on a 7-foot, medium-heavy rod with Okuma reels to cover grass beds.  

 

All-American Qualifiers

The top six boaters and top six co-anglers at the Potomac River Regional qualified to compete in the 2016 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American, which is a televised event with a six-figure payday and a boater berth in the Forrest Wood Cup on the line.

Here are the qualifiers.

 

Boater

Grae Buck, Harleysville, Pa.

John Vanore, Mullica Hill, N.J.

Frank Ippoliti, Mercersburg, Pa.

Kyle Weisenburger, Ottawa, Ohio

Jamie Hartman, Newport, N.Y.

Bruce Neal, Lancaster, Ohio

 

Co-angler

John Duarte, Middle River, Md.

Philip Borsa, Redford, Mich.

Marvin Reese, Gwynn Oak, Md.

Ryan Sykes, Hamilton, Ohio

Leo Reiter, Greenup, Ill.

Robert Jordan, Hamilton, Ohio

Tags: grae-buck  bfl  potomac-river  capt-steve-chaconas  headline-story  2015-10-08-potomac-river 

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