This season was the tale of two Crews. John Crews had a strong Bassmaster Tour season – he finished 19th in the Bassmaster Tour points – but the FLW side of his tour life was a different story. After a
192nd-place finish at the Okeechobee FLW, a 114th at the Toho FLW and a 175th at the Ouachita River FLW, the 27-year-old two-tour pro hopes to generate a spark at the Potomac FLW (Chevy Open). Competition there starts tomorrow.
He then hopes to ride that spark into the Bassmaster Classic. Official Classic practice begins this Monday (June 27).
"I fished four tournaments in a row – two Bassmaster and two FLW events," he said of Florida. "There was the (Okeechobee) FLW that I stunk, then the Toho (Bassmaster) when I finished in the 50s, and then a 12th-place finish at the Harris Chain (Bassmaster).
"I came back to Toho, kind of expecting to fish the same way I did when I was there the week before. The weather had warmed up some and the fish were not under the same mats. They were not flippable like they were a week and a half prior. I was scrambling the last day of practice.
"I'd found a little area that I thought had some good fish in it," he noted. "I shook off about 10 the day before in practice. When I went there during the tournament, they were just little fish." He caught only two fish on day 1 for 3-06. Ouch.
He said his 192nd-place finish at Okeechobee stemmed from a lack of mental preparation. "I had about a month off and I was just not mentally ready to go fishing," he said. "When I got down there the wind blew every single day of practice. That kind of shook me. If I were mentally prepared, that wouldn't have bothered me. It totally threw off my gameplan for how I wanted to fish and where I wanted to fish."
Even with his three two dismal FLW finishes, Crews is upbeat. He won't make the Forrest L. Wood (FLW Tour) Championship this year, but he finished 19th in the Bassmaster Tour points, which means he qualified for the 2005 Bassmaster Classic. He hopes a good finish at the Potomac FLW will swing the momentum his way.
And he's from Virginia, where the Potomac flows.
"(The Potomac) is definitely one of my favorite places to fish," he said. "The majority of the fish are shallow – around wood and milfoil – and I can catch them on a shallow crankbait, although I'm not averse to dropshotting, jigging or tossing a topwater.
"The fish stay shallow here year-round, from spring all the way through late fall. The majority of fish are in less than 5 feet of water. In the summertime some of the fish will be back out in 8 or 10 feet of water."
A number of recent tour-level events took place under tough, post-spawn conditions. He said the Potomac fish are post-spawn, but might still be in transition. That's left him searching for a pattern.
"Water temperature on the river now is in the low-80s. They should be on their summer stuff, but they're not quite there yet. There are a few fish in the summer pattern, but it's like some of the fish are still spawning. I'm not sure what's going on. They're not in the milfoil as they should be, or I haven't hit the right milfoil yet, which very well might be the case."
Unlike some lakes and rivers with a defined forage base, Crews said the Potomac has a diversity of food items, which affects the patterns.
"The river has places where it has 3 or 4 feet visibility, but the average is 6 inches to a foot. There are a lot of ring perch in the river, or some people know them as yellow perch. There's also a lot of carp, so there are lots of brown, yellow and orange fish. Chartreuse baits, brown baits, green baits – they always work well.
"This place is kind of unique I think because there's such a variety of different fish they feed on. It's not like a reservoir that has tons of shad or blueback herring that they really key on. In this place they might be eating creek minnows, carp fry, bass fry, bream and different colored crawfish – lots of different stuff to eat on."
He noted the crankbait bite can be good, but so can the plastics bite in the grass.
"There's a whole lot of grass in the river. There are lily pads – lots of different types of wood. I would like to throw a crankbait all day, but I'm going to have to throw some other baits, like worms and jigs. On this place a Texas rig works pretty good – works good around the grass, works well around the docks."
And he's not yet sure if he'll make a long run upriver, or fish closer.
"On the Potomac, from where we'll be launching, you can run about 25 miles north and be in (Washington) D.C. Usually at this time of the year (a long run) will be the case, but from what I've seen, I'm not sure this year. I don't know where all the big fish are stacked up. It seems like the fish are a little behind this year on this river. That has me scratching my head a little bit. They're not where they should be."
> Classic practice begins this Monday, and Crews already has a plan for Pittsburgh. His goal in practice is find any backwater areas that he can locate, look for wood cover, and throw shallow cranks. "I'll be looking for isolated structure that other people may have overlooked."
> His favorite crankbait is the Luhr-Jensen Speed Trap, but he likes the smaller version, and he likes to throw it on spinning tackle. "It's a very good, year-round crankbait. It has a tight wobble. I use two different models most of the time. The one I use more is the 1/8-ounce. On 10-pound line it'll run about 4 feet deep."
> His average 2005 Bassmaster finish this year was 46th. His average FLW finish (so far) has been 125th.
> He started the year No. 99 in the State Farm-BassFan World Rankings and improved to his current position at No. 63.