- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2007

At first glance Joe Gioffre’s self-published book, “Potomac River — Bass Tournament Tactics,” raised my hackles. The very idea of writing and illustrating a book in ring-binder fashion, then aiming the contents at tournament fishermen turned me off.

If there’s one thing the tidal Potomac River does not need more of it’s bass fishing tournaments. The river is overrun with these contests and quite a few residents of Charles County (where most tournaments are held) are fed up with being told to wait while Mr. Bigshot from Hog Junction, Ark., is launching a shrink-wrapped boat that advertises beer, while another is pushing coffee or a large chain of department stores.

“You’ll have to wait until 200 boats are in the water,” is the word on occasion. Among locals whose boat taxes, registration and licensing fees, along with state water improvement funds paid for the launch facilities, such incidents can ruin their day. It’s that and the fact that these events are not about fishing; they’re about money, nothing else.

However, Gioffre’s “Potomac River” was so attractively done, how could I not take a hard look at it?

In 113 slick, full-color, massively illustrated pages, Gioffre pours his fishing heart out for all to see. As a native southern Marylander, Gioffre has fished the river for decades, so I forgot about the tournament tactics title and checked out the small type under it that says it’s a “Personal bass fishing guide for the rest of us.” It would have been great if the author had used it as the primary title.

Forget all the thank you messages sent out to people who’ve helped him over the years; forget his use of certain home-grown names of fishing spots, such as Beverly’s Bend in the Mattawoman Creek. You won’t find it on an official NOOA or U.S. Coast & Geodetic map, so it’s of no use to newcomers and visitors to the famous bass river and its tributaries. But in the majority of instances, Gioffre sticks with official government-given names.

All the nitpicking aside, the author provides some 225 nicely instructive color photos, some of them shown sequentially to reveal a certain fallen tree or a cove at high tide, offering very little by way of what’s beneath the water, but then is followed with another shot that shows a tree trunk or a deep ditch during an extremely low tide. Bingo! You’re looking at productive bass fishing spots.

Gioffre provides more than 100 GPS coordinates, all of them neatly indexed to lead you directly to the best bass locations. He amply describes every area, offering tips and hints on how to fish them, speed of lure retrieval, types of lures used, comparisons of the live baits in the river and the lures that match them — it’s all there.

Whenever the author uses subtitles such as “Tournament Tactics 13” simply make it your own fishing tactic. Ignore the tournament talk because Gioffre’s advice is just as useful for folks who don’t care about cast-for-cash contests.

Actually, this Potomac River book is a kind of manual that is available in hard copy or on disc. The hard copy sells for $37.95 plus $9 for shipping and handling ($46.95). The CD goes for $24.95 plus $3 S& H ($27.95). Buy both and you’ll get all of it for $64.90. Everything can be purchased on EBay with a credit card or PayPal, or send a check or money order to “Here to Eternity Ventures,” 11600 Jericho Lane, La Plata, Md., 20646.

Valley of the Big Cats — This book by Steve Price ($40.95, hard-cover, Brown Books Publishing Group, Dallas) is available on www.stevepricephotos.com or Amazon.com, or book stores everywhere.)

“The leopard tackled the impala, using its front legs to encircle the antelope’s body. It happened less than ten feet away, and the kill was instantaneous. The leopard immediately dragged the animal under a nearby bush and began feeding …”

This is but one brief passage in Price’s beautifully photographed and worded book that will command an honor spot on book shelves or the coffee table of any home. What really got to me was Price’s nerve when he crouched down in concealing shrubs, perhaps risking injury (or worse) just so he could “shoot” a leopard with his camera. The man has nerves that are tougher than the mesquite brush in his home state of Texas.

During two lengthy stays in south-central Africa, Price shot 11,000 photos (only the best were used) and what you get in “Valley of the Big Cats” is a kaleidoscope of bone-chilling images, beautiful animals at rest, but also hair-raising frames of lions successfully prowling for food, a leopard leaping into the night air to intercept a flushing guinea hen and much, much more, all of it nicely narrated by the author. We’re talking goose bumps, folks.

In the safety of your comfortable EasyChair, join Price in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, which is a large wild area that time apparently forgot. It’s as untamed and filled with as many of Africa’s big cats today as it might have been for centuries. And here you have Price smack dab in the middle of the action.

It’s a wonderful book. Definitely recommended.

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

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