Top 10 Patterns from the Potomac River - Major League Fishing

Top 10 Patterns from the Potomac River

The keys to success in the final event of the season
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Jeff Sprague Photo by Patterson Leeth. Angler: Jeff Sprague.
June 19, 2017 • Sean Ostruszka • Archives

Riding the tides, grass, community holes – that usually sums up most Potomac River tournaments. This weekend’s was no different.

The FLW Tour on the Potomac River presented by Costa Sunglasses showcased how there are few surprises anymore when it comes to the well-known fishery. Some anglers crowd up in key grass beds, like the ones in Belmont and Chicamuxen, while others attempt to run the tides. And with conditions setting up pretty well – aside from some less-than-ideal tides and a bit of extra wind on the final day – pros were able to see success doing both. 

Winner Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, Wis., stuck to two areas, maximizing an early bite around the first tide switch, and milking the afternoon tide change for some key big bites. However, he was hardly the only angler playing that game.

Monsoor’s winning pattern

Top 10 baits

Complete results 


Chad Warren

2. Warren’s topwater bite nearly pulls it off

It’s been a rough year for Chad Warren of Sand Springs, Okla. The rookie had yet to cash a check on Tour through six events. Yet, he came just 5 ounces shy of making all the hardship disappear, finishing runner-up with 66-6.

Warren kept things pretty simple, starting the tournament fishing a grass channel in Broad Creek with a Keitech Swing Impact FAT on a hook with a spinner blade for extra flash. Yet at 1 p.m. on day two he hadn’t had a bite, prompting a move to Pohick Creek.

There were two key aspects that Warren liked about the Pohick grass flat. The first was that while most of the Potomac is lush with hydrilla and milfoil flats, the area in Pohick had what locals call “star grass,” which didn’t reach the surface even at low tide. The second was that no one seemed to be fishing it.

Warren expected to pull into Pohick on day three and crush them on the swimbait, but instead did so on a popper.

“It was cloudy and I saw bait popping,” Warren says. “I threw a popper a little in practice, and I decided to throw that at them. They were eating it.”

The popper bite continued on the final day, as he sacked up a quick and substantial limit, but the clouds broke earlier than they did the day before, and with it his pattern.


Chris Johnston

3. Johnston runs the tides to near perfection

The Johnston brothers hail from Ontario, but they a very familiar with the Potomac thanks to many trips there through the Costa FLW Series Northern Division. That showed, as Cory finished 21st and Chris took third with 65-8.

Both were running the same pattern, which involved cycling through 10 areas based on the tides. Chris acknowledges he simply got a couple bigger bites on his flipping jig than his older brother.

The pattern had been working perfectly until day three, when he struggled throughout the morning. He even spent an hour in his big-fish spot without a bite. In the last hour he stopped in Mattawoman Creek and culled out everything he had. He started there on day four and then cycled through areas in Triple Creek, Pomonkey and others to scratch together 15-11, fishing at what observers considered a “torrid” pace.


Cody Meyer

4. Meyer milks community holes

Cody Meyer was the one pro who managed to increase his weights every day. Don’t expect some special secret on how he did it, though.

“I’ve just been bouncing around community holes,” says the Auburn, Calif., pro. “I’ve just been fishing in crowds all week.”

Chickamuxen, Belmont, Mattawoman, stops in Leesylvania – if there was a crowd of boats in there, Meyer was probably there, too. Even his baits were no different from everyone else, Potomac staples like swim jigs, vibrating jigs and stickbaits.

“I’ve just been really fortunate to get some key bites,” Meyer says. “I just went fishing, because my only goal was to make the Forrest Wood Cup. It’s been a bonus to make another top 10.”


Michael Neal

5. Neal goes big on final day

Once Michael Neal had a shot to win, he went for it. Case in point, early on Sunday he went to boat-flip in a 2 1/2 –pounder, but it popped off mid flip. He didn’t even seem to care, simply saying if he weighed in that fish he wasn’t going to win anyways.

He was right, but unfortunately, a number of his bigger bites came off, allowing him to only climb up two spots to fifth by tournament’s end.

Neal keyed on two narrow stretches of main-river grass in on either side of Leesylvania State Park. The one in front of Powell’s Creek he’d been sharing, but the other in front of Neabsco he had mostly to himself.

On the final day, Neal opted to go for big fish, cranking a SPRO Fat John 60 and a vibrating jig over the grass. He got the bites, but many of them were just slapping at the lures, causing a number to come off after short tussles.   


Brandon McMillan

6. McMillan’s “special spot” leads to massive comeback

With an hour left on day one and next to nothing in his livewell, Brandon McMillan went to a 50-yard stretch in Chickamuxen. Little did he know that tiny spot would help him climb from 126th all the way to second on day three, finally settling in sixth with 63-2.

McMillan admits he didn’t know what made the spot so good other than it was “different.” Turns out, there is a house there owned by a man who used to fish a lot of tournaments on the river. According to locals, the angler “sweetened” up that stretch with gravel and other hard objects for him to fish during tournaments.

After day one, McMillan spent three days of doing nothing other than dragging a weightless green pumpkin and black flake-colored Yamamoto Senko through the spot.

With the way the bass had been biting on the spot, he figured there was a significant school sitting there, but they either moved or got lockjaw on the final day, as he was only able to sack up 11-11.


Jeff Sprague

7. Sprague sticks it out in Belmont

Much like Michael Neal, Jeff Sprague went into the final day solely going for the win. He even tossed back a number of small keepers. Unfortunately, the big bites never materialized and he slipped to seventh.

The Point, Texas, pro capped off back-to-back top 10 finishes in the Angler of the Year race by utilizing a similar pattern as Monsoor. He’d run over to Leesylvania first thing to catch a quick limit, then he’d scoot up to Belmont Bay to go for bigger bites. Belmont happened to see significant boat traffic the first two days, and it seemed to take its toll by the final day, as Sprague never was able to catch anything that would help him contend for the win.

He spent most the week using stickbaits, swimbaits and flipping a jig.


Mike Surman

8. Surman bounces all over

It seemed like everywhere you went, there was Mike Surman’s red-and-White Yo-Zuri boat. That constant bouncing allowed him to put together consistent weights every day, until Sunday.

Surman figures he hit 10-12 places a day, though not all of them were grass beds. He had a few key docks where he threw a Duel Hardcore 2+ crankbait. On his grass spots, Surman stuck with a Gambler Big EZ swimbait.

As far as the tides, he says he wasn’t really running them, but he was trying to put himself on certain spots when he thought the tide might be right.

“I had a couple places I wanted to be at high or low tide, but most of the time I was just jumping around.”


9. Cobb hangs in Chicamuxen

Fishing with a broken foot is not conducive to doing much bouncing around, be it from spot to spot or even getting bounced around while moving from spot to spot. Thus, once Brandon Cobb found fish in Chicamuxen, he wasn’t moving no matter how many boats were in there, and there was no shortage of them.

As many as 25 boats were in Chicamuxen at any given time the first two days, including day-one leader Clark Wendlandt and McMillan. Despite the pressure, Cap'n Cobb put his head down and milked the area for all it was worth, flipping and throwing a frog throughout the massive grass flat. He even was pretty equal opportunity when it came to species, as he caught nine snakehead on day two alone and joked he was the best snakehead guide on the river.

By the final day, though, the area had been tapped out and Cobb’s weight dropped as a result.


Andy Young

10. Young’s solo areas key

The Potomac has so many well-known areas that finding anything all to one’s self is near impossible. Yet, Andy Young found not one but two places to get away from the crowd.

Both stretches were roughly 200-300 yards long, with one on the main river and the other in Broad Bay. It’s worth noting the spot in Broad is where a number of local tournaments had been won in recent weeks, yet no other pro other than Young seemed to be fishing it. That prior success may have finally impacted the area, though, as Young scrapped together a limit on day three and only caught two the final day.

He spent most his time flipping, drop-shotting, tossing stickbaits and vibrating jigs.