By Todd Ceisner
By most accounts, the Potomac River was fishing up to its normal caliber last week during the Northern Rayovac Series. Water was muddy and debris-laden in areas and the fish seemed to be bunched in the grass, which isn't as plentiful as it has been in previous years.
Still, what grass is left remained productive and anglers pulled plenty of bass out of the green stuff using a variety of methods and baits.
Yesterday, we detailed winner William Kemp's flipping program. Today, we dive deeper into how runner-up Greg Wilder and 3rd-place finisher Chris Baumgardner attacked the grass.
2nd: Greg Wilder
> Day 1: 5, 17-04
> Day 2: 5, 15-03
> Day 3: 5, 11-14
> Total = 15, 44-05
Following a "terrible" practice, Greg Wilder came away from the Potomac River feeling a little disappointed, but mostly satisfied with his runner-up finish.
"I was extremely happy because the river's been tough," he said. "We all want to win and considering the fish I had, to have a chance at it was a good feeling."
He considers the Potomac his home waters and said the fishing's been tough due to the grass coming in later and sparser than usual as well as the late spawn due to the prolonged winter.
"I suspect it will be tough all year because of that," he said. "I've fished north more than anywhere over the years," he said. "I'm just more comfortable there, but it just wasn’t fishing good so I ran south into a couple pockets. I think they were in there in a lot of spots."
During the tournament, though, he got into his comfort zone, never starting his big motor until it was time to head to check in.
"I went down south to look around and found 13 to 14 pounds," he said. "I still then didn't know what was there. I wasn't sure if the fish were moving in, but in the morning we had a low tide so it was perfect. There were lot more fish in there than I thought. The low tide brought them to the outside edge of the grass."
Using a wacky-rigged Senko, he caught 17-04 on day 1 and was helped out by a 5- and 6-pounder.
He had a 40-fish day on Friday fishing the same area as day 1 and his 15-03 bag pushed him into the lead after day 2.
He described his key area as a grass hedge that he could fish with a frog or buzzbait at low tide. He opted for the Senko through all tide cycles since it produced consistent bites.
The bigger fish eluded him on the final day, though, as his weight dropped off to 11-14.
"I don't know if it was the boat traffic, but I wouldn't have changed anything," he said. "I culled three times and like my co-angler said, 'I had to dance with who brought me.' I just didn't get the right bites."
> Senko gear: 6'8" medium-action Shimano Crucial spinning rod, Lew's Speed Spin spinning reel, 20-pound Sufix 832 Advanced Superline, unnamed swivel, 15-pound P-Line fluorocarbon leader, 1/16-oz. unnamed wacky jig head, 5" Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Senko (green-pumpkin black flake or watermelon).
> Main factor in his success – "Having no fishing or boat pressure around me, plus the weather allowed me to grind and sit down and finesse fish. I really was able to fish to my strengths. If I have to run up and down the river and make a bunch of decisions, I'm not as good of a fisherman when I'm doing that. I like to hunker down and pick over one or two spot."
> Performance edge – "Those Power-Poles allowed me to lock down and Senko fish pretty good. My BassCat got me up and down the river as it does every day."
Chris Baumgardner relied on three different patterns to grab third place at the Potomac.
3rd: Chris Baumgardner
> Day 1: 5, 15-01
> Day 2: 5, 12-13
> Day 3: 5, 16-06
> Total = 15, 44-04
Baumgardner sensed the fishing at the Potomac was "a little off," as it seemed as though the fish had spawned later than normal and were still in a bit of a funk.
"Most of the fish were long and skinny," he said. "When you found them grouped up, they weren't hard to catch, but you had to fish a lot of water to find them like that. When you'd find them you had to slow down because there were usually more in there. There were a bunch of them in little places, mostly in scattered grass."
He came out strong with a 15-01 bag on day 1, but slipped a little on day 2 with 12-13.
"That second day is what got me," he said. "My timing was off and people got ahead of me. It just wasn’t a good day. The wind blew the tide out and the water never did come up for my pad bite.
"I didn't have anything to myself. I think if I did, I would've done better."
He keyed on a frog bite in the morning at low tide on a big flat with scattered grass in the back of a creek.
"When the tide came in, I had a few places I could hit with a ChatterBait," he said. "It was just deeper grass. Once the water got up around noon, I'd go fish pads with a jig."
He said a third of his weigh fish came on a frog, another third on the ChatterBait and the balance on the jig with the latter producing his biggest fish – a 4 1/2-pounder on day 1, a 4-pounder on day 2 and his two best fish on the final day.
"I would just pitch it into the edge of those pads," he said. "The water was probably 18 inches deep and they'd hit it as soon as it hit the water. That's why I went to a lighter jig. I probably could've fished a heavier one, but I didn't want it to fall too fast."
> Jig gear: 7'3" heavy-action Duckett Fishing White Ice casting rod, unnamed casting reel, 20-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 3/8-oz. Shooter jig (black/blue), Zoom Z-Hog Jr. trailer (emerald blue).
> About the Z-Hog Jr., Baumgardner said, "It works good on a jig for some reason. With the emerald blue color, I can go behind guys and catch them with that."
> Frog gear: 7'11" extra-heavy Duckett Fishing Micro Magic casting rod, unnamed casting reel, 50-pound PowerPro braided line, EverGreen Big Bite frog (various colors).
> He also threw a Zoom Horny Toad (junebug).
> His preferred ChatterBait was a 3/8-oz. black/blue model with a black/blue craw trailer or a 3/8-oz. white one with a white Zoom Super Fluke trailer.
> Main factor in his success – "Having a little milk run of places seemed to work for me. I had different places for different tides."
> Performance edge – "My Power-Poles. Any time I'd catch one, I'd put them down and not worry about the tide carrying me 50 feet down the bank. They're handy and help you out, and they got a workout."
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