UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

Previewing the Potomac

Previewing the Potomac
Travis Manson

Just two days separate the final day of the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American and the start of the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship, both on the Potomac River. It’s a huge fishery that’s more than capable of handling the pressure of multiple major tournaments in back-to-back weeks, and given the time of year the pair of tournaments land on the fishing calendar, it’s fair to expect some big things from both events.

All-American tournament field

The All-American, which is presented by General Tire, will feature 98 of the best boaters and co-anglers from FLW’s grassroots ranks. The three-day event begins on May 30 and finishes on June 1. The College Fishing National Championship, which is presented by Lowrance, will pit the best college teams in the country against each other June 4-6. Both tournaments are hosted by the Charles County Board of Commissioners and Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism.

Given the timing of these events, fishing conditions should be pretty similar for both. Here’s a little bit of what to expect from the Potomac in the coming weeks.

 

Lay of the Water

At 383 miles long and with a drainage area of about 14,700 square miles, the Potomac River is a pretty huge system. Though popular community holes can get very busy on the weekends or when large fields come to town, there are almost always places to escape the pressure if an angler wants to.

The Potomac is fed by the North Branch (from West Virginia) and South Branch (from Virginia). They converge in West Virginia to form the Potomac, which then flows southeast into the Chesapeake Bay. As such, the Potomac is a tidal fishery and it usually fluctuates up and down about 2 feet per day.

For bass-holding goodness, the Potomac has a lot to offer. Though it predominantly fishes shallow, there is a lot of manmade cover in the form or rip rap, docks and the like, as well as natural emergent and submergent vegetation and plenty of wood.

Despite the size of the river, FLW Tour pro Bryan Schmitt – who has three Costa FLW Series wins on the Potomac – doesn’t think there’s much difference in the layout or fishability from one end to the other.

“There’s no change from one end to the other,” he says. “[Tournaments] can be won pretty much from the bottom to the top.”

 

Kyle Cortiana

Springtime Options

Schmitt has fished the Potomac enough to know just how good it can be this time of year. Even with aquatic vegetation lacking this year, it’s not hard to find the right fish.

“There’s definitely less grass for sure,” he explains. “We’ve had a lot of rain for like six months, and it just makes the water dirty and the grass can’t grow until the water cleans up.

“Typically, the grass doesn’t even start growing good until April or May. All it does with no grass is it makes it pretty predictable. [Bass] have to be on structure.”

As such, anglers in both the All-American and the College Fishing National Championship will likely be keying on shallow structure and cover, targeting fish that are in some stage around the spawn.

“I’d say like 50 percent have spawned and 50 percent are still going to spawn,” Schmitt adds. “The crazy thing is, it doesn’t matter what’s going on; you’re going to fish shallow. You’re going to throw reaction baits. You’re going to flip. It’s pretty simple no matter what [the fish are] doing.”

With the exception of fishing offshore, almost everything will be in play in the coming weeks.

 

Bryan Schmitt

Schmitt’s Predictions

When Schmitt won the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event on the Potomac in June of 2013, he did so predominantly flipping (until he moved out to deeper grass to adapt to a cold front that moved in on day three). He won that tournament with a total of 52 pounds, 8 ounces – or a little over 17 pounds per day.

“For a single event, it might take 17 (pounds) a day,” he says, in keeping with past experience this time of year. “If you can do 17 a day, it’ll be very strong.”

Given that 49 boats (in the All-American field) is barely any pressure for the Potomac, weights should remain up across the board, even by the end of the College Fishing National Championship the following week.

What baits does Schmitt think will get the job done?

“It’ll either be won dead-sticking a stick bait or it’ll be won on a ChatterBait, if I had to guess,” he posits.

Of course, targeting shallow bass doesn’t exactly limit one’s options for catching fish. Whether it’s a stick bait or a ChatterBait, a jig or a crankbait, it’ll be won shallow either way.

 

Take Your Pick

Both tournaments launch from Smallwood State Park in Marbury, Md., which is at least a 75-mile run to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. To the north, the river remains fairly wide until it narrows significantly around Washington D.C. and begins to track like a normal, winding river fishery.

According to Schmitt, there isn’t really one predominant section or area that anglers tend to key on, though there are a few sections of the river that might be favored more than others.

“Far south could be really good,” he explains. “Belmont Bay and Mattawoman Creek will play big, I’m sure. They always do.”

But as Schmitt already indicated, there isn’t much difference in fishability from one end of the river to the other. For anglers in both tournaments, it’ll basically be dealer’s choice.

 

Travis Blenn, Kyle Alsop

What’s at stake?

This season, the All-American boater champion earns a six-figure payday and a spot in the 2019 FLW Cup. But FLW has sweetened the pot. The highest-finishing boater and co-angler from each Regional and the Wild Card at the All-American earn spots in the 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship. Both winning anglers in the team-based College Fishing National Championship earn berths to the FLW Cup and their club earns a Ranger Z175 with a 115-horsepower Evinrude.

 

All-American Tournament Details

Dates: May 30 - June 1

Format: All boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 7:00 a.m. ET

Takeoff Location: Smallwood State Park, 2750 Sweden Point Rd., Marbury, Md.

Weigh-In Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Weigh-In Location: Smallwood State Park, 2750 Sweden Point Rd., Marbury, Md.

Complete details

 

College Fishing National Championship Tournament Details

Dates: June 4-6

Format: All teams will compete for two days. The top 10 teams based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 7:00 a.m. ET

Takeoff Location: Smallwood State Park, 2750 Sweden Point Rd., Marbury, Md.

Weigh-In Time: 3:00 p.m. ET

Weigh-In Location: Smallwood State Park, 2750 Sweden Point Rd., Marbury, Md.

Complete details

Tags: potomac-river  -all-american  -bfl  -bass-fishing-league  -college-fishing  -fishing  -june  -bryan-schmitt  justin-onslow  article 

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