- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003

Spread the word. If Patrick Ramsey throws a football as accurately and swiftly as he casts a fishing lure, the Redskins will make it to the playoffs. Bet the rent money on it.

On a day when weather forecasters promised little more than showers and we instead were drenched by unceasing monsoon-like rains, the Redskins’ starting quarterback showed up at Virginia’s Leesylvania State Park, on the shores of the tidal Potomac River, smiling from ear to ear. “I’m ready,” he said as he climbed from a gleaming Ford pickup truck. “Let’s go catch some bass.” Standing in the wet parking lot, he slipped on a rain suit, reached inside the truck to snatch up a couple of his favorite rods that had been resting atop a bag filled with golf clubs, then quickly climbed into a waiting boat.

What is it about number 11? He doesn’t care if it rains; he laughs when a foul-weather suit leaks; and if there’s only a scant promise that a largemouth bass awaits him in the waterlogged mazes of the river’s spatterdock lilies, his eyes take on a wild look.

It was time to go fishing.

Ramsey scoffed at the rotten weather, and why not? Aren’t NFL games played in rain, snow, muck and fog? So why would the pride of Tulane wimp out during a downpour? What a silly notion.

That Ramsey isn’t new to sport fishing is evident. “I’ve fished ever since I could walk well enough to reach a local farm pond. You definitely won’t have to baby-sit me while I’m with you,” he said, quite serious, rain cascading from the bill of his cap. The local river guide, Andy Andrzejewski, slowly idled away from the park’s boat launching ramps in a powerful bass boat and Ramsey wedged himself between the helmsman and a writer, then began to recall childhood days in his hometown, Ruston.

“I’m sure you never heard of it,” he said. “It’s between Monroe and Shreveport, in north Louisiana, but you probably haven’t heard of them, either.” Assured that we had, Ramsey quickly threw his new fishing pals for a loop. When asked if he’d ever caught any big bass, Ramsey grimaced and said, “I don’t know if you’ll think of them as being big in your part of the country, but back home in a private lake I caught one over 11 pounds on a goldfish-color Zoom lizard, and at a public place, Lake Caney, I had two that went over 10 pounds.” Now the pressure was on us to deliver something.

Andrzejewski clued Ramsey in to local Washington happenings. “It isn’t likely that you’ll hook one that big in tidal water. Think more about 3- and 4-pounders. Those are your typical good tidal river fish, although you could wander into a bigger one on occasion.”

Ramsey didn’t care. He was in his element. The boat fairly flew across the river into Maryland’s Mattawoman Creek, its occupants wearing face shields to ward off some of the pelting rain, but rivulets of water soon crept inside the suits, eventually moistening whatever you wore under the rain gear. When the guide stopped at a place known as Marsh Island, Ramsey confidently fired topwater buzzbait lures into flooded weeds and spatterdock. He cranked the lures back toward the boat in a manner that no beginner ever could.

Small wonder that he winced when his companion hooked a little male bass, a “buck” as bass hunters call them. “You’re one ahead already,” said Ramsey and as far as he was concerned, an undeclared and unofficial fishing contest was under way.

Ramsey astonished his boat mates with his casting ability. After all, it isn’t every angler who can sling a level-wind baitcasting reel with a reasonably light lure tied to the end of the line and still cover good distances. Normally, beginners need to be close to their target, or — if you wanted to copy Ramsey’s forceful casts — risk picking monofilament from the reel spool when a line overrun results in what anglers call a “bird’s nest” — a tangle of knots and messy loops.

“You’re two bass up on me,” Ramsey remarked when Andrzejewski decided to risk the rain and the slowly increasing wind to move out into the main stem of the Potomac and turn into Charles County’s Chicamuxen Creek.

When the fishing began, Ramsey, with a plastic worm and slip sinker attached to his line, began a methodical search for bass along a shoreline owned by the U.S. Navy. Bang! He stuck the hook to a largemouth, lowered the rod to keep the fish from leaping, and fought it back toward the boat only to see it break off a nanosecond before he could flip it onto the deck. He only shook his head, saying, “Man, I wanted that one. That was a nice fish.”

The casting continued. Ramsey flipped a smaller bass into the boat, removed the hook and put it back into the water. With a slight lessening of the rain we stopped the fishing long enough to devour homemade sandwiches, take a sip of cola from a can, and listen to Ramsey tell of a rod and reel combo given to him as a wedding present by none other than Bert Jones, the former quarterback of the Baltimore Colts. “He’s a great guy and a good friend,” Ramsey said.

When the 6-foot-3 Ramsey picked up his rod again, smearing a dab of fish attractant known as Smelly Jelly onto the plastic worm, and resumed fishing he missed setting the hook to one bass, stuck a yellow perch so fast the fish never knew what happened as it flew through the air. Ramsey let it go, but on a subsequent cast, as he allowed the worm to slither across a log-filled shoreline edge, he felt a slight shaking of the worm. “Hmm,” he said, “what was that?” Two seconds later he swept his rod sideways in a lightning quick move and a 4-pound, 2-ounce bass boiled to the surface.

As soon as the bass neared the boat, Andrzejewski netted the largemouth, which was a true Potomac beauty, full of sass and vigor. “This is what it’s all about,” said Ramsey, admiring his catch before he let it go. “Gosh, I love to fish.”

The day’s count now had reached two bass limits of five each, quite a number of bass that jumped off the hook, several yellow perch and a batch of deli meat-pepper-and-onion-filled sandwiches.

In short, it was perfect day. To blazes with the rain.

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