- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

MARSHALL HALL, Md.

Just by listening to the names of the fishing lures my Charles County neighbor, bass guide Andy Andrzejewski, spread out on the cover of his bass boat, you could have sworn we were in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Swamp, getting ready to dig in on the famed local crustaceans.

There were Paca Craws, Power Craws, 3X Craws and some other critters that might be mistaken for a crawfish within the limited thought processes of a Potomac River largemouth bass, perhaps even a Chinese snakehead. More about that later.

On a still chilly morning, Andrzejewski launched his 22-footer and a few minutes later headed downriver and directly to a pile of ballast rocks that had been deposited by 19th century mariners who traveled up and down the historic Potomac — sometimes in need of extra weight, sometimes in need of disposing of it.

Over the years, the river guide has found a number of such ballast rock piles and all of them, he’ll quickly agree, provide good hiding, resting or ambush spots for the fish.

With the help of a global positioning unit’s previously recorded coordinates, he stopped near a neat collection of round stones that almost touched the water surface at low tide and most assuredly would touch the lower unit of an outboard motor were a boater foolish enough to charge across them. The entire collection of basketball-sized rocks made up an area roughly the same as a child’s plastic backyard wading pool, only three times higher.

“I don’t suppose I need to ask what we’re using this morning,” I said to Andrzejewski, who pointed to two of his rods that held what he calls “creature baits.” They were Paca Craws from the NetBait Company and they looked like clumsily shaped crawfish claws attached to a tubular body into which the guide had inserted 3/0 worm hooks along with 1/8-ounce slip sinkers.

I wasted no time copying my boat partner’s “bait” choice by putting a similar lure, a Strike King 3X Craw, to one of my worm hooks, and another soft bait known as Beast and made by Berkley to a second rod.

The name creature bait has something to do with its likeness to crawling, slithery things that might not fool a human, but largemouth bass love them, especially if some type of scent comes from the lures.

On our first cast, the fishing guide and I each had a bass grab our “craws,” and they wouldn’t let go. It was easy bringing in, admiring, then releasing these largemouths.

The ballast stone pile delivered six bass, including one of nearly four pounds. Remember that should you find such a bass lair. More often than not, you’ll also find more than one fish in residence there.

Next Andrzejewski suggested we check out a number of rapidly growing milfoil beds not far from a river area known as the Greenway Flats.

The creature baits once again worked their magic. We’d make a cast directly on top of the submersed vegetation and allow the soft lure to sink into the waterlogged greenery, its flapper claws enticingly moving up and down as we’d slowly lift the rod tip, take up a bit of slack 14-pound testline, lower the rod tip again, then repeat the exercise.

Inevitably, a bass would snatch the phony crawfish. Now and then we’d even see our lines move rapidly underwater against the prevailing wind, which of course defies physics unless something alive has hold of it.

After the 26th bass was reeled in and eventually let go, we decided to call it quits, but not before Andrzejewski made a final cast, felt something pick up the artificial bait and set the hook. All he got back was a cleanly cut line. The hook and the lure was gone.

“Could that have been a snakehead?” he wondered.

It could have been. They’re able to slice fishing lines in two with their sharp teeth and we were, after all, near the original snakehead headquarters, Virginia’s Gunston Cove.

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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