I finished 9th in last year’s FLW Tour Open on the Potomac so I definitely came into this event with some preconceived notions about what I’d do and where I’d fish. The river changes from year to year, particularly the location and thickness of the grass beds, but no matter what the sheer population of fish in the Potomac may be unmatched by any other lake or river we visit on tour.
After a few days of practice, I realized that some of the areas that produced last year were still ripe, but I also knew that with less grass in certain locations the key spots were going to be pounded. That proved to be true as some areas had up to 30 boats in them at a time during the tournament. As a result, I tried to find some water or a pattern a little bit off the beaten path. I found it in a really good squarebill crankbait bite around some rocks. They might not have been the size to win, but there were lots of them, so I thought I could catch a solid limit and then go hunt down a kicker or two in the grass.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t want to cooperate with my game plan. We experienced heavy winds on Day One, which wiped out almost all of my squarebill places. I wasn’t on my game, either, and lost a couple of key bites that really cost me. I ended up weighing in four fish for a little over 8 pounds.
Despite my sub-par day, I still knew that my patterns were strong. I was right – on Day Two there was no wind and they bit the squarebill really well in the morning. In fact, I had a limit by 8:10, which freed me up to camp out in the best grass spots, doing everything I could to get the big fish that would vault me up into the money.
One key that helped me to almost double my Day One weight on Day Two was a bait adjustment. I had primarily been flipping a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver and supplementing it with a swim jig, but I decided instead to use a black and blue ¾ ounce Lunker Lure Grass Monster Jig tipped with a big blue sapphire chunk trailer. That was exactly what the fish wanted and I could almost call my shots at times. It was pretty obvious that the fish were keyed into the open holes within the grass clumps themselves, so when I’d spot one I’d pitch in and quite often it resulted in an arm-jarring strike. The key was to shake the jig in place rather than hop or swim it.
There were other boats in the grass with me, but I was out catching just about all of them. My 8’ extra-extra-heavy Carrot Stix flipping stick ensured that I winched all of them out of the thick stuff and into my Phoenix boat.
The next FLW event is on Kentucky Lake. After this shallow water slugfest, we’ll all have to change gears and go deep, because the fish are almost certainly already out on the ledges. That hasn’t been a strength of mine over the years, but I’m 100 percent committed to the ledge bite. It may have given me fits in the past, but I’m looking forward to it.
The FLW season has not gone the way I would have liked, but I’m still focused on putting myself in a position to win a tournament. I’m also still dedicated to qualifying for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic on Lake Conroe through the PAA Tournament Series. I’ve been there the past couple of years and I think I’ve figured a few things out.