MARBURY, Md. – Wind wracked the river on Day 1, but the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals pros still put plenty of fish in the boat, with 15 pounds going all the way down to 30th place. Totaling 19 pounds, 15 ounces, Blake Hall took the lead to get things going in T-H Marine Stop 5 at the Potomac River. Behind Hall, Troy Stokes sacked 19-9 and Martin Villa is right there with 18-15. Going into Day 2, more than half the Top 10 is tied in some fashion, and it looks like we’re headed for a characteristically tight Potomac event.
Hall led the first day at Lake Eufaula earlier this spring before falling off. Now, he’s perhaps in a similar position, having landed a 5-9 Berkley Big Bass to edge him ahead of the competition. Still, in his short time on tour, Hall has proven to be a very dangerous shallow-water angler, so another good start for the Alabama pro is no surprise.
“Yeah, it looked good on paper, but it was pretty tough,” Hall said. “At 11 o’clock I only had four for probably 7 (pounds), then I made a pretty good run and then caught three big ones in probably 45 minutes. And then culled one more time right before I came in. Just never lost one – everything that bit I got it in the boat.”
Hall’s midday location change was key to the day, and it came off minimal practice feedback.
“I only had one bite on that stretch in practice, so hopefully there are some more around,” he said. “I’m around some. If they’ll bite, I’ll catch them, but it’s not been easy all week. Hopefully we can follow it up.”
While some pros keyed on wood cover, bluegill beds and key current areas on Day 1, Hall stayed true to the Potomac staples.
“I’m fishing grass – all grass – with a ChatterBait, swim jig, worms, just mixing it up,” he explained.
He’s also not trying to run the tide.
“I’m paying attention to the tide, but I don’t think it’s critical or nothing,” he said. “I’m just trying to get in some good areas where there are some fish and just grinding it out, fishing through the tide.”
In 2021, Stokes finished a crisp 127th in the Pro Circuit event on the Potomac. He obviously learned from that, and fished really well on Day 1.
“This time, I studied the tide chart a lot harder,” he said. “On the Lowrances, you can see it on there, I didn’t know you could do that last time. This time, I could actually tell where the tide was going to be right, and that’s really what I did today.”
Fishing from takeoff to Potomac Creek, Stokes got things rolling early.
“I fished the high tide, did really good, caught some big ones,” he said. “You saw my Bubba scale weights come in, it was pretty quick. It was some fish eating bluegills. That was the thing in the morning.
“Once the tide got right for the low tide, I went to another area. I had to fish through it twice, and the second time through I caught a 2-10 and another 4-14.”
Doing a lot of damage with a spinning rod, Stokes put together a very complete day.
“I caught a bunch on a buzzbait, I weighed-in one on it,” he said. “I caught two others on a drop-shot, and two on a Senko-type bait.”
Still, despite a really good Day 1, Stokes knows that he’s walking a fine line between success and failure.
“Tomorrow I’ve got a long day, so I have some more stuff to run,” he said. “I have some stuff I found in practice, and some stuff from two years ago. So, that’s the plan tomorrow. I could catch 7 pounds, or I could catch 18 again. I don’t know. It’s one of those deals, where the difference between doing good and mediocre is not much. I caught that 4-14 on the exact same cast I made 45 minutes earlier.”
1. Blake Hall – 19 – 15 (5)
2. Troy Stokes – 19 – 9 (5)
3. Martin Villa – 18 – 15 (5)
4. Drew Gill – 17 – 4 (5)
5. Tommy Dickerson – 17 – 0 (5)
5. Robert Nakatomi – 17 – 0 (5)
5. Nick Hatfield – 17 – 0 (5)
8. Cody Meyer – 16 – 14 (5)
8. Kyle Hall – 16 – 14 (5)
10. Jim Moynagh – 16 – 10 (5)
10. Ryan Armstrong – 16 – 10 (5)
10. Austin Culbertson – 16 – 10 (5)