- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2001

What Potomac River fishing guide Dale Knupp does to find bass almost any time of year particularly when the fish are still in a romantic mood during spring bears remembering. It will increase your catches whether you lean against the bow-mounted "pro throne" of a $40,000 bass boat or wear down the heels on your Hush Puppies.

Some years ago, Knupp and several of his friends discovered spawning bass inside narrow marina docking channels, sometimes in water so shallow you could see the fish move back and forth when weather conditions permitted plenty of clarity. During an initial outing, the U.S. Coast Guard-licensed river guide hooked so many bass he quit counting.

"These fish were in less than two feet of water and if the sun stayed behind the clouds they'd try to destroy a topwater popper," he said. "In all other cases they'd bump into each other trying to get to a slowly retrieved shallow-lipped crankbait, such as a chartreuse/gray Baby 1-Minus, or a plastic worm like the 4-inch Berkley Ribworm in blue fleck or junebug colors."

Knupp's success comes mostly in the waters of tidal Potomac River tributaries that are located on the Maryland side. We hasten to add that in some cases the bass catches can be duplicated in Virginia feeder creeks, but for some reason state officials allow marina operators to control free-flowing water that actually belongs to all the people. In one case, a Virginia shoreline property owner near Fairview Beach became so incensed when a bassboater approached "his" water, he started throwing rocks at the fisherman to get him to move.

Rather than confront grumpy Virginians, Knupp (who comes from the Winchester area) nowadays confines his bass searches to two places where marina docks and channels are readily available, the upper tidal Port Tobacco River and the Mattawoman Creek in Charles County, Md. Include on the list also some parts of the Piscataway Creek's Fort Washington Marina.

In the case of the Mattawoman, a boatless angler can walk the docksides of the Sweden Point Marina inside Smallwood State Park and slowly, gently drag a scented, plastic worm through wooden pilings, underwater crossmembers, or along the bulkhead walls and indeed come up with wonderful catches.

After slamming Virginia, it is only fair to mention that across the river from Smallwood Park, at the Leesylvania State Park south of Woodbridge, the same can be done by shoreline walkers, and parts of the boat cove behind the Belle Haven Marina in Alexandria are also suitable.

But Knupp's best successes come in the narrow boat mooring lanes in the back of the Port Tobacco River, a place that requires careful minding of a depth finder lest a boat operator be stranded on broad tidal flats.

Inside the little channels, the guide flips a plastic worm to wooden walls, no more than five feet from his intended target. That's the beauty of the thing. If you're quiet and don't go banging around making more noise then a heavy metal rock band, the bass do not seem to mind the slowly moving boat. They cling to the shade of a wooden abutment and when the imitation worm slithers past their noses, they'll attack, sucking in the rubbery lure.

"It's all in a day's work," says the guide, smiling from ear to ear because inside the marinas and boating channels that approach the slips, there is little need for long distance casts. "All I do is strip 10 or 12 feet of line from the top of the rod guide, then flip the worm into whatever good-looking hiding spots I see. The whole operation looks sort of like the pendulum on a clock."

So you watch him, a 7-foot rod in his hand, the line and lightly weighted plastic worm dangling in the water. Suddenly, he grabs the line near the reel with his left hand, the rod and baitcasting reel in his right, and pulls the nylon upward, the line and lure allowed to swing back behind him, suspended over the water surface.

While holding the line firmly he pushes the rod tip forward and simultaneously lets go of the "bait." He watches it disappear into the dark water, allows it to sink and rest for a moment, then pulls it up and repeats the process unless a bass snatches up the offering. In that case he doesn't have to reel in much line. Generally, you can lift the bass into the boat with one fast swing.

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