- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2007

A newcomer to tidal Potomac River bass fishing recently sent a blistering note to a popular Web site, the Bass Fishing Home Page. With tongue in cheek, the e-mailer wondered what happened to common boating courtesy on one of the nation’s top bass fishing waters.

He signed his name Tony, and although some sorely needed word clarification has been added, here is the note from www.wmi.org/bassfish:

“[I] was wondering. Just moved or should I say [got] stationed here from Ala. [I] just want to get the rules right. Is there no common courtesy on the lakes and rivers here? Is it OK to be on plane 3 feet from another boat and start fishing 10 feet ahead of him on the same bank … or is it OK to be on plane in front of someone fishing a point? Just wondering so I can join the crowd.”

The comments stuck with me. Here you have a new boater on the Potomac thinking he was still in Alabama, where courtesy and even helpful advice among fishermen is not unusual. How sad. It apparently didn’t take long before Tony noticed it’s not the same around here.

The difference in proper behavior and common courtesy on the water between Deep South states and the Washington area is enormous.

Tony eventually will have to accept that boorish behavior is de rigeur on the tidal parts of the Potomac. In a world of high-speed bass boats, seemingly never-ending fishing tournaments and tremendous pressure to deliver noteworthy bass catches, it’s not surprising to witness acts that would draw loud boos anywhere else but happen here daily.

Wonder what the e-mailer, Tony, would have written had he been with me a few weeks ago when two men in a bass boat with Pennsylvania numbers watched me as I headed toward a usually productive rocky shoreline. I was no more than 100 yards from my desired fishing area when the two “blew” past me, shut down the outboard motor and began to fish directly in front of me.

After hearing my objections to their asinine behavior, one of them said sheepishly, “We’re practicing for a bass tournament, and we need to find some fish.” I shook my head in disbelief and left the area rather than have a major confrontation.

River bass guide Andy Andrzejewski once had a bass boater begin fishing so close to him that the man’s dog jumped into Andrzejewski’s boat.

In another incident, the same river guide was approached by a nationally known bass pro who was fishing in a large tournament. The bass pro told Andrzejewski he was fishing in a stretch of water in which the tournament pro needed to catch his bass.

“How about moving so I can work this shoreline,” the out-of-towner asked.

Andrzejewski declined. In fact, he kind of suggested that the visitor find another place to cast his lures in — New Jersey perhaps.

Once I was fishing the Moss Point rocks, just below the mouth of the Chicamuxen Creek, when a dozen boats came charging downriver. The boats had just left the tournament departure site in Smallwood State Park. One of the boaters saw me set the hook to a bass, and he instantly steered his craft toward me, put his boat in front of mine and began to fish so close to me that I could have touched any part of his craft with a good cast.

“I’m not in your way?” I asked the offending oaf, whose partner stared at me as if I didn’t belong there. Neither said anything; they kept casting and retrieving their lures.

The stories are endless. Some fellows speed on full plane through the slow zone inside Mattawoman Creek; large bass boats pass by within yards of small, occupied johnboats, throwing wakes on them without any safety considerations.

Not all of them are bass tournament participants. No, some just want to pretend they are.

This bass catching has pretty much turned into an ego thing. Good manners and courtesy on the water are sacrificed along the way.

What a pity.

c Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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