- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

The Bassmasters kick off the 2002-03 season on the Potomac River tomorrow morning through Saturday at Smallwood State Park, along the Mattawoman Creek in Charles County. It is the 13th time the sanctioning body, the international Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, has visited the tidal Potomac, but this year there'll be some notable format changes.
This $320,950 Maryland Bassmaster Northern Open is the first of three competitive fishing events in the newly established Northern Division. As with the Central and Southern Opens, these tournaments have been changed from draw competitions to pro-am events. The size of the Open fields were changed from 300 to 200 professionals and amateurs this season, with only the top 50 anglers in the pro-am field to compete on the final day, Saturday.
"We sent out surveys to every angler in our tournaments and an overwhelming 99 percent of the Open anglers wanted to go to the pro-am format, so we did that," said BASS tournament director Trip Weldon. Weldon added, "We have a great payout on both sides, especially the amateurs."
The professionals will be competing for a total purse of $242,200 and a first-place prize of $50,000. Amateurs will split up $78,750 with $24,000 going to the winner.
The 200 touring pros, each with an amateur fisherman in the back of their boat, will have their work cut out for them. Currently, the Potomac River water is hot and the fishing can be sluggish. However, if there is one thing local experts learned long ago it is that the fellows who earn a living from bass fishing are in a different class than the typical weekend angler. Despite dire predictions of poor catches by locals, don't be surprised if the top rungs for Saturday's fish-off will finish with three-day totals of 45 to 47 pounds of bass. Only five fish per day can be brought to the scales.
If the tide is high and begins to fall during the first several hours of the morning, a number of the Potomac's feeder creeks can provide a good topwater bite. Bass will hang out along marsh edges, in spatterdock, and among sunken trees. Smartly cast surface poppers or buzzbaits will see action.
After the sun clears the trees and the water temperature rises, the best albeit slowest method for attracting bass will be wacky-rigged Senko or swimming worms in the same type terrain, as well as main-stem grass beds. In a number of instances it may be possible to cast and retrieve shallow and medium depth crankbaits, but if a heavy presence of milfoil or hydrilla water weeds makes it impossible to grind a treble-hook lure through the vegetation, a quarter-ounce spinnerbait will do the job.
That's pretty much it. The Potomac is an open book. There are no fabled secret fishing spots; no grass beds that are superior to others; no special methods that will convince a bass to bite when all others will fail.
The tricks to winning or placing high in the money during any of the Potomac tournaments are simple: Don't give up. Don't run all over creation, losing valuable time. Stick with two or three simple, usually productive lures one for the top, one for medium depths, one for the bottom. By bottom we mean water that rarely exceeds 9 feet, although some fishermen will get a bite now and then in 15 to 18 feet of water. The majority of attacks from the bass, however, will come in water so shallow you could wade in it and never get the tops of your socks wet.
What worries us is the possibility that quite a few of the bass will die in the hot water that will be in the livewells of the boats. We'll see.
The participants' boats will be launched at 6a.m. daily, with public weighings of the bass to take place at Smallwood State Park, starting at 2p.m.
Some of the national "name" anglers to fish the Potomac tournament include Florida's Steve Daniel and Roland Martin; Georgia's Mickey Bruce and Roger Farmer; Indiana's Ken McIntosh; Kevin Wirth of Kentucky; Danny Correia of Massachusetts; Marty Stone and Dustin Wilks of North Carolina; Rick Lillegard of New Hampshire; Michael Iaconelli of New Jersey, and Joe Thomas of Ohio.
There's also Oklahoma's O.T. Fears and Kenyon Hill; Pennsylvania's Randall R. Romig; Japan's Takahiro Omori, who now lives in Texas; former world champion Woo Daves and his son, Chris, both from Virginia. They are joined by fellow Virginians Rick Morris and Curt Lytle.
The Bassmaster Northern Open event is presented locally by the Charles County government and its office of tourism. You can call the office at 800/766-3386.

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