Top 10 Patterns from the Potomac River - Major League Fishing

Top 10 Patterns from the Potomac River

How the top finishers solved a late-summer funk
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Travis Manson Photo by Charles Waldorf. Angler: Travis Manson.
August 29, 2017 • Jody White • Archives

The bite on the Potomac River has generally been excellent this year, but for some reason the fishing got tough at last week’s Costa FLW Series Northern Division finale. Heavy hydrilla growth in the backs of many of the creek arms limited where anglers could fish, and the recent rains had the river running dirtier than usual in some sections. A cool snap during the tournament made the fishing a lot more comfortable than it had been, but unfortunately it didn’t improve the bite. Nonetheless, the top pros managed to consistently bring limits and some good quality to the scales, and they did it in a variety of ways.

Mike Hicks earned the win primarily with a topwater, but that certainly wasn’t the only way to catch them.

Hicks’ winning pattern

Top 10 baits

Complete results


Gregory Wilder

2. Wilder falls on the final day

Greg Wilder cracked ‘em each of the first two days and built a solid lead heading into the weekend, but it wasn’t enough to overcome an 11-pound, 3-ounce final day.  With a total of 45-1, Wilder has now finished inside the top 10 two years running at the Potomac – after finishing second there in 2014, he seems due for a win.

As he did in 2016, Wilder relied on a  Zoom Trick Worm in either merthiolate or bubble gum. Tossing it weightless or with a slight nail weight, he basically mined one section of Aquia Creek for his fish, moving with the tide in and out through the grass beds. He primarily fished on the edges of where the grass was topped out and a little beyond that, an area that changed depending on the level of the tide.

On day one, he ground it out all day and caught most of his weight in the afternoon. On day two, the first couple hours of the morning provided all the action. On the final day, it was an afternoon bite again, when the tide was nearly at its highest.

“It was tough in the morning, I missed a couple in the morning and had to grind it out,” says Wilder of his final day effort. “I didn’t catch my fifth until the last 20 minutes. I’m lucky to have a limit. The way I fish and the style of fishing I do, I look to commit to an area. When I get to running around I kinda come unglued. Even with how tough it was today, I stayed committed because I had confidence in it.”

With Wilder’s success the last few years on the Potomac, it seems like a loud Trick Worm will get some play on the Potomac in the years to come.


Travis Manson

3. Topwater time for Manson

Like Wilder, Travis Manson ended up catching basically all his fish from one stretch of grass. With a pair of 15-pound days to start the tournament, the former B.A.S.S. Elite Series pro fell off on the final day and managed a 43-1 total.

Manson’s magic grass was about a 50-yard section of flat in Chicamuxen Creek bordered by a ditch that dropped from about 3-feet deep on the edge to 4- or 5-feet deep in the middle. The flat itself had good grass and featured lots of mats.

“It was alive,” says Manson of his primary area. “Every morning there was bait flickering, bass busting; it was what you want for bass in the grass.”

Manson had a brutally tough practice, only catching eight fish the entire time, so he didn’t have much else to go to. Nonetheless, when his starting spot failed to produce a limit on the final day, he was able to scratch up a few more keepers in Chicamuxen.

For baits, Manson would begin the day with a black River2Sea Whopper Plopper in the 90 size and then mix in an old 3/8-ounce buzzbait doctored to squeak more and a Savage Gear popping frog once the sun got up.


Bradley Staley

4. Staley stays close

Bradley Staley didn’t have to do anything extraordinary to earn the first Costa FLW Series top 10 of his career. He simply ground out decent bags close to takeoff with a vibrating jig for a total of 37-13.

“I was just in Mattawoman all week fishing outside grass lines,” says Staley. “I had the boat up against the grass and I was paralleling it with a 3/8-ounce Dave’s Tournament Tackle Vibrating Jig. It seemed like on low tide they would be on the very outside edges, and on high tide they would be up in it further and you needed to cast back in it a little more.”

Staley says he used the Potomac killer color for his vibrating jig and trailered it with a  Zoom Speed Craw. He caught a quick limit every morning, but he struggled after noon every day. Staley says he relied on the vibrating jig almost 100 percent after watching his co-anglers struggle to generate bites with other baits.


Ed Casey

5. Spinnerbait produces for Casey

After a top 10 with a drop-shot at the 1000 Islands, Ed Casey turned to a spinnerbait this week at the Potomac. Chalking up limits over 12 pounds each of the first two days, Casey failed to complete his limit on day three and finished with 37-2.

Mostly, Casey fished far in the back of Piscataway Creek, throwing a Terminator Spinnerbait with a Zoom Tab Tail Grub in the pads. He caught a few throwing way back into the cover with a frog, and also picked up a couple on the edges with a Yamamoto Senko.

“I was throwing up into the lily pads and stuff like that,” says Casey. “I could see the fish, I knew they were in there, you could see the pads moving. Mostly I was casting up into 2 feet or so, and then it dropped down into 3- to 5-feet of water on the edge.”

Casey says his best tides were high or outgoing, and once the tide got right, he could usually count on a few bites. One additional modification he made to his spinnerbait was to upsize the stock willow leaf blade for more vibration.


Mike Blake

6. Blake also chooses Aquia

Mike Blake totaled up 36-6 on the week and caught it all from Aquia.

For some reason, Aquia was extremely productive this time around, much like Chicamuxen was so good in June when the FLW Tour hit the Potomac. Of the top 10, four anglers based their game plans on Aquia, and three – including Blake – basically spent the entire tournament there.

Blake says he liked the mid-section of Aquia because it had the right mix of milfoil, hydrilla and clear water. Though he did cover water, he also had some waypoints and spot-on-the-spot places he would concentrate on.

“I had specific areas in that grass that had a sandy area,” says Blake. “I was trying to fish around the matted hydrilla where it broke off into a sandy area.”

Blake says he caught nine keepers on the first day, eight on the second day and just five on the final day. He used a mix of baits that included a Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog thrown blank on a Z-Man ChatterBait, a Zoom Speed Worm, a Dave’s Tournament Tackle swim jig in a shad pattern and a Keitech Model 1 Tungsten Casting Jig paired with a YUM Christie Craw.  


Charlie Reed Jr

7. Swim jig does it for Reed

Charlie Reed Jr. weighed 13 and change each of the first two days, but never got a good bite on the final day and finished with 36-2.

“I’d throw a little popper in the morning, and as the sun got up I’d throw a swim jig,” says Reed. “Today I probably caught 15 or 16 fish, but they were all small.”

Reed focused on an area in Belmont Bay near the mouth of a small creek, and says the bite was typically best when the tide was moving – the direction didn’t matter. His bait of choice was a homemade 3/8-ounce swim jig in green pumpkin trailered with a Strike King Rage Bug and Rage Craw.


Joe Wood

8. Wood mixes it up

Joseph Wood seems to have an aptitude for the Potomac, and the former Northern Division Angler of the Year has now made the top 10 on the big tidal river in back-to-back years. Wood caught nearly 15 pounds on day two, and that keyed his 35-10 total.

“It was a grind, the first day I had 10 or 11 keepers, and I barely caught five today,” says Wood of his final day. “For all my stuff I had a terrible tide, yesterday was pretty bad too, but I was able to hit one good hour of outgoing and that’s when it happened for me.”

Wood fished a variety of places instead of camping in one area. In all, he caught fish from the Arkendale Flats to Belmont to Chicamuxen and Mattawoman. Wood used a wacky-rigged Yamamoto Senko and a Lobina Rico for some of his fish, but his big bites came flipping a Missile Baits D Bomb.


William Kramer

9. One and done for Kramer

William Kramer smoked 16+ to start things off, but couldn’t manage a bag over 10 pounds the next two days and finished out with 35-7.

“I was catching them on a frog early, the first day my bag came on a frog, I actually left them biting,” says Kramer. “I’m a grass bed fisherman, that’s pretty much all I did all week. I had some main-river grass going that helped me out every day. But this place is really tide oriented, and until you get to those last 2 hours of outgoing it’s really tough.”

Kramer’s frog of choice was a LIVETARGET Hollow Body Frog, and he also used a spinnerbait and a homemade 3/8-ounce swim jig in black and blue or green pumpkin with a 3-inch Berkley PowerBait Chigger Craw as a trailer. He caught most of his frog fish in Mattawoman, but never got it going again after day one. Most of his main-river action happened between Quantico Creek and Aquia.


Jason Kervin

10. Kervin manages for a cut

Jason Kervin made the first top 10 of his career entirely off one stretch of matted grass at the mouth of Aquia. He smoked 18-7 on day one, but couldn’t rustle up a limit either of the last two days and finished with 28-14.

“In practice I fished all around and I knew the grass was really good in there, but I didn’t know how good until I got back in there,” says Kervin of his spot. “Once I got in there I started flipping around and shaking fish off. I didn‘t set the hook in that area at all, mostly because I got so many bites. So, I didn’t know what I had coming in, but it showed it had a lot of big fish in it.”

Kervin got the bites and landed them on day one, but he didn’t fish clean on day two. On the final day, he simply couldn’t coax the fish into biting. Each day, he would drift through the area with his electronics off and the trolling motor up, but he wasn’t able to do that as effectively on the final day because of the lack of wind.

Kervin caught almost all his weight on a Missile Baits D Bomb with a 1 1/4-ounce tungsten weight. On day one, the fish would bite on the first drop – on day two, he had to let it soak and shake it up and down some to get them to eat.