- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2001

For fans of tidal water largemouth bass the fishing this time of year can be tough but on occasion also wonderfully rewarding.

September signals a time when boaters and shoreline anglers suddenly see more floating water weeds than ever before, even though the great die-off of submersed vegetation that will occur when a hard frost strikes our area hasn't started yet. It's also a time when the fish frequently behave as if something is dreadfully wrong even though there isn't.

Some days the green fish just don't want to bite.

It should be sufficient to make a man want to pull his hair out, but he'll think better of it the moment he realizes how old he's getting. (Personally, I'm trying to delay the comb-over thing as long as possible.)

In the case of the Potomac River somewhere between Wilson Bridge and Charles County, Md., enough bass are caught to make repeated visits worth the investment in time, gasoline and trolling motor battery charges. However, when you hear the horror tales from tidewater bass hounds on Virginia's Rappahannock River anywhere between Fredericksburg and the small Northern Neck settlement Leedstown, it might not be such a bad idea to think of partaking in strong drink and cursing, or, heavens forbid, golf.

Nobody knows what's wrong with the Rappahannock, a wonderfully scenic, uncrowded waterway that earlier this spring was touted as being capable of matching the Potomac in matters of sheer numbers of willing fish. The catches lasted until just after the annual spawning by the bass, but then the bottom fell out of what had been bonanza catches. It was almost as if the largemouths developed anadromous habits, going to the sea to live until it was time once again to reproduce and visit the upper reaches of brackish-water creeks.

The "Rap," as bass fishing insiders call George Washington's favorite river, has been so unproductive in the bass catching business that a little club tournament there recently was won by a fellow who caught only one fish. Think about it. One bass in a place that can come up with 30 to 40 a day when things are right.

My not-too-distant neighbor, professional fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski, who lives in La Plata, Md., is just as baffled as I am.

"I don't know what's wrong with these fish, but in the past weeks if you didn't have the right tide, the perfect time of day and proper water color, you would have been better off staying home to watch TV," he says.

A few days ago, Andrzejewski put together a battle plan that served both of us well. It's a lesson in fish-finding skills for all those who enjoy matching wits with what basically is a witless fish. (What does that say about humans?)

With a stiff southeasterly breeze blowing, Andrzejewski, whose broad 22-footer can easily handle rolling waves, decided to stay inside the Mattawoman Creek in Charles County to see how tough the fishing would be along a dense, green mat of hydrilla and Eurasian milfoil water grasses.

With the morning sun not yet having climbed over the treetops, Andrzejewski began by casting a small, blunt-nosed surface popper tightly to the edges of the weeds, allowed it to sit there for a few moments with its tail section properly lower than the front and the feather-dressed hook enticingly pulsating. The guide then slowly, deliberately jerked the rod tip in short motions while taking up slack line.

Whoosh. A bass struck. Then another.

The sun made its presence known, and surface lures became useless.

I started flicking a 4-inch Berkley Bungee worm, attached to a 1/16-ounce slider head, to the weeds. Bang. A bass grabbed the worm and its hidden hook and now couldn't let go.

Andrzejewski and I got several others on the Bungee worms, but because we were in a hurry we switched to small, deep-running, shad-patterned crankbaits. The quickly retrieved lures can cover more subsurface terrain in a hurry important when you have an appointment that demands you be off the water by noon.

The sparkling, little fish imitators immediately saw action in a place few bass hunters would use a treble hook lure: directly against the dense beds of milfoil.

If we didn't bring back a handful of the green vegetation, chances were good that a bass was on the hooks.

It was a wonderful feeling during a time in our country when we badly need something to be happy about.

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