My first tournament this season took me to the Potomac
River. Located between Maryland and Virginia, the Potomac
River is without doubt one of the premiere fishing locations
on the eastern seaboard.
River fishing for bass is tough. So many factors play a
role in the presentation, location and color selection.
The Susquehanna River in Maryland, the St. Lawrence River
on the US and Canadian border and the St. Johns River in
Florida have left me with physical and mental scars, including
memories of lost fish, lost opportunity, lost equipment
and a several close, personal looks at Mother Natures awesome
The Potomac today would be no exception.
With a stalled storm over the Atlantic Ocean, wind and
high tides caused havoc for the fishermen. During official
tournament practice on Saturday, I had damaged my boat in
only 20 minutes of battling the waves and wind. I was now
a non-boater. Add to that the prospect of bad weather for
the following day and I began wondering if it could get
Sunday morning showed no promise of change as we waited
patiently for the start of the tournament. I watched as
200 boats were rocked from side to side by turbulence. How
rough would it be when we took off for Nanjamoy Creek (normally
a 40 minute run.
When our number (boat 117) was finally called, we moved
out into the main river channel. Almost immediately, waves
hit us from both sides as we pushed southward on our journey.
As each wave would hit, we were thrown upwards by the force
of the water, only to come crashing downward into our seat.
The force of impact sends a jarring pain, which sears through
the spine and into the skull like a kick from a steel boot,
but you just keep going. Suddenly and without warning, a
large wave appeared in our path. It was too late to turn
and too late to avoid. We hit the wave full force and watched
helplessly as the electronics located at the bow the boat
were ripped from the mounting and slid along the flat casting
platform towards us. As we pressed on, equipment straps
began to give way and rods bounced towards me. Rob, who
was driving the boat, battled with cross winds and waves
with each passing moment. The next large wave that hit us
ripped the electronics and windshield from its bolted mount
in front of Robs face. How he was not injured still
remains a mystery to me. We were now without depth, temperature
or location electronics. With no shoreline in sight and
the waves continually beating us from all sides, we had
no choice but to proceed.
After what seemed like an eternity, (one hour and 40 minutes)
we reached our destination. Gathering our thoughts and equipment,
we began fishing. The creek provided us with some shelter
from the wind and current and soon the journey seems a distant
memory. (Fishing can do that!). The size limit for the Potomac
is 15 inches. That is a two-pound plus fish, so catching
them to size proved a daunting task. Between us, we caught
and released forty fish in the 13 and 14-inch size range.
Rob finally caught a 15-inch keeper but we were now facing
an out going tide that bought the fishing to an abrupt halt.
We searched for a few more fish in vain and decided we should
begin our journey back to the launch site and weigh in the
only legal fish of the day.
We tried to be optimistic about the journey back, hoping
that the wind would be at our backs and that the turbulence
has in someway subsided. How wrong we were!
Once we left the bay, the wind lifted us into the raging
river system once again. Pressing onward, we hit large waves
than we had seen in the morning. The trolling motor on the
bow was ripped from its "gator mount" and plunged
into the water causing a large spray to cover us both from
head to toe. Rob cut the engine and we tied the motor down
to secure it and protect us both from the possibility of
it breaking free and hitting us full in the face, (A trolling
motor weighs approximately 40 pounds. With a gator mount,
that is increased to near 70 pounds) not a pleasant event!
As we moved on, we began to notice water coming into the
lower deck area around our feet. Rob turned on the bilge
only to find that the unit had failed. Now we were beginning
to fill with water and still had several miles to go before
reaching safety. After almost two hours, we finally pulled
into Mattawoman Creek opposite the launch site. Here we
tried to find out what was wrong with the bilge, but with
so much water in the boat, there was little we could do.
With time almost run out, we had to make a final crossing
of the river at one of the widest points. When Rob tried
to get the boat on plane, we became lower in the water at
the rear of the boat. The only solution was for me to sit
on the bow and counterbalance the boat so that we could
attain enough speed. I had to perform this function twice
before we got back to shore. Just when we thought it could
not get any worse, the wind picked up again and began rocking
the boats tied to the moorings. We could not prevent the
boat from being pounded into the dock and other vessels
tied close by. So great was the force of the wind that the
boat cleats were ripped from the bodywork. Rob went for
the truck and trailer and I took the boat out from the area
and moved along the shoreline where some other fishermen
had tied their boats. Throwing a line to the shore, the
boat was "secured" and I waited for the trailer
to be reversed onto the ramp to remove the boat from the
water. While waiting, I timed the water coming into the
boat as around an inch every five minutes. We had just made
it back! By the time we got the boat out of the water, the
lower deck area was full. As we raised the boat onto the
trailer, Rob turned to me and asked, "have you ever
had worse" to which I replied yes I had (Ed note: "we
will look for that story another time") I also added
that today was a good day! A good day? Why is that? I replied
today was a good day because we are here at the dock. A
bad day, is when you never make it back.
Charles - Contact me with your questions or comments at