Tidal Flow Strategies Hold the Key to Success at Potomac River Elite
Low tide is going to play a big factor in the Bassmaster Elite event on the Potomac River, possibly leading some anglers to a risky ''run the tide'' strategy
CHARLES COUNTY, MD - As a longtime saltwater angler from New Jersey, Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Adrian Avena knows how to put together a tournament game plan on a tidal fishery.
In fact, he knows a couple of ways to do it — and he expects to see them both utilized during the Bassmaster Elite at Potomac River.
The tournament is scheduled for Aug. 11-14, with daily takeoffs set for 6:15 a.m. ET from Smallwood State Park. The 3 p.m. weigh-ins will be held at Smallwood State Park on Thursday and Friday, then at Indian Head Pavilion on the Village Green on Saturday and Sunday.
“The bottom end of the tide is always going to be best time to catch them,” said Avena, who enters the event in second place in the Rookie of the Year standings. “So one of the options is to get into the area where you got the most bites in practice — the place where you found the biggest concentration of bass — and pretty much camp on them and wait for the tide to get right.
“It takes a lot of patience.”
Another option is to “run the tide,” trying hard to stay in places all day long where it’s just right. It’s a gamble, but it can sometimes pay off big.
“There will be some guys that are going to hit a lot of places, hoping to time it just right so they’re catching that low tide everywhere they go,” Avena said. “That can be tough, too. But you can put together some big bags that way.”
Though mid-August is a difficult time to visit most fisheries, Avena said the Potomac has made a real comeback in recent years with the re-emergence of grass along many parts of the river. Barring heavy rains that could make a mess of the fishery, he thinks it could take upwards of 72 pounds to win the four-day event.
That would be impressive for a tournament that almost didn’t happen.
During March, new state regulations in Maryland caused B.A.S.S. to consider canceling what would be its first trip to the Potomac since 2007. Under those regulations, tournament competitors would have been allowed to weigh in five bass per day, 12 inches or longer, with only one that measured 15 inches or longer.
B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin said that regulation would not have sufficed for a major tournament trail like the Elite Series.
But an alternative option was eventually proposed that will allow tournament anglers to weigh five bass that measure at least 12 inches. There will be no maximum size limit, but anglers must observe several special rules to ensure safe handling of the fish.
B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland credited state conservation officials for finding a solution to the impasse.
“The Maryland Department of Natural Resources recognized that a problem with the bass population exists in the Potomac and wanted to act quickly to protect it from further decline,” Gilliland said. “Their first proposals were met with a great deal of opposition from tournament organizations, including B.A.S.S.
“But to their credit, they have been willing to listen to angler concerns and presented new options that allow tournaments to be conducted if they follow what DNR calls ‘Best Management Practices’ for fish care.”
Gilliland added that most of the special requirements are already standard practice for B.A.S.S.
Fish will be redistributed to approved locations via live release boats, equipment will be used during the weigh-in to maximize fish survival and anglers will use non-puncturing clips on their cull tags instead of traditional tags that puncture a fish’s lip.
“Complying with the criteria in Option 2 should not prove difficult for us,” Gilliland said. “Most of these requirements were taken directly from the B.A.S.S. publication, Keeping Bass Alive, and are standard operating procedures at all B.A.S.S. tournaments.”
Pennsylvania angler Dave Lefebre, who had seven career Top 10 finishes on the Potomac while he was with FLW Outdoors, is especially glad the tournament is still on.
“It’s about a six-hour drive from my house, so it’s about the closest tournament for me all year,” he said. “It has something for everybody. If you want to fish offshore, if you want to power fish, if you want to go as shallow as your boat will go, you can make it all work.
“I always kind of have this feeling of panic when I fish the Potomac, because it’s never the same place twice. But that also makes it a really fun place to go.”