Journey to the Potomac

I drove to the Potomac river to catch bass and chew bubblegum, and I was all out of bubblegum!

OK, that’s a complete exaggeration. I don’t even like bubblegum, and I certainly wasn’t expecting much on my first trip to this tidal fishery. To be completely honest, I was going to call it a success if I managed to not break or forget anything important, not accidentally throw myself overboard by sending the motor too hard, and actually catch a scorable bass. It was about as low as expectations could be, and to see why lets rewind it back a couple weeks.

It was mid-march and I was planning out the next 1.5 months. I had to get my new motor mounted, new battery system figured out, the kayak rigged and wired, all my tackle organized and prepped, my truck bed system all installed with new rod locker, and all of this was on top of starting the process of moving. Elizabeth and the animals were heading to our new place (her old place she just bought) beginning of April, and I would be following in the upcoming weeks. There was a lot going on, but I had time. We’d focus on the move, then I would have a couple weeks to wrap up my fishing prep; except I wasn’t paying attention. My first tourney was moved up two weeks earlier and I didn’t see it. Suddenly I was pushed into high stress panic mode!

The five weeks became less than three, and one weekend was consumed by the first stage of the move. It was go time. In the middle of this I also had to work a day at a trade show for Three Belles Outfitters, but that trip served another purpose. My Dakota Lithium batteries weren’t in yet for my new motor! Luckily Three Belles got me hooked up. They had some batteries in stock and I was able to pick them up just in time. Then it was trips to Lowes, West Marine, or Harbor Freight every other day, tackle orders were quickly placed, amazon packages arrived daily, and evenings were spent in the garage working on the boat and truck or inside working on tackle and rods. Every morning I was making a new list of what needed to be done based on the progress from the day before.

Thank goodness for El. She took care of the animals when I missed their feeding time, she tolerated my rushed and late dinners, and she handled much of the move prep. It was a godsend having her there to pick up the slack since I was definitely falling behind on everything at the house. We got the first load moved (including the goat and chicken) and I was quickly back home to keep working. I had only three days to finish up and be ready to roll.

The week of the tournament was a blur. Monday evening I finished my rod locker, and got the kayak wired up. Tuesday after work was my first time actually in the kayak since the fall. I didn’t even bother to bring any rods or tackle, I just wanted to make sure the motor ran and the kayak didn’t sink or flip. The test was a success, so it was right back home to finish packing tackle.

Of course when it rains, it pours, and work Wednesday wound up being a complete fire drill. I had a major report I needed to wrap up before I left and it took all day to get it done. So much for leaving the office early. When I got home I still needed to pack clothes and finish loading the truck. When I went to load my rods, I found in my haste to build things I used the wrong screws on the latch and wound up screwing the lid shut. An easy mistake to fix, but one that certainly made me feel stupid and worried about what else I might have screwed up. I then proceeded to spend 10 minutes digging through every closet in the house and all my outdoor gear storage totes looking for my rain pants before finally giving up on that (turned out they were in my truck the whole time). I also couldn’t find my split ring pliers so gave up on that (they were in my tool box already in the kayak).

About an hour later than I wanted, hoping I had everything I needed in the truck, I took off for El’s. During the hour plus drive over there I was wrecking my brain going through all my mental lists. Overthinking everything I might have forgotten. I was so stressed about being rushed I ended up giving myself an ocular migraine. Luckily that passed quick without much loss of sight and it was just after 8 when I rolled into El’s. Dinner was almost ready and a cold beer was waiting. It was a very welcome sight! (I usually do most of the cooking).

My original plan was to leave for Maryland Wednesday night so I could have all day Thursday and Friday to prefish. But upon seeing that the weather Thursday was calling for scattered thunderstorms, I decided to not rush things and wait till Thursday morning to hit the road. Besides, I still needed to stop at the DMV to get the boat registered and I could do that on my way before leaving the state Thursday.

Thursday came and I finally hit the road. Things at the DMV went easy and I got the kayak all registered; and the drive down to DC was smooth sailing. It was when I got down to the Potomac when things started getting turned upside down. My intent was to launch at Belle Haven and fish at the northern boundary, but I was immediately reminded about just how chaotic the traffic around DC, especially the parks, can be. It was clear that commuting to that ramp in the morning was going to be a pain, and leaving there in the afternoon would be downright unbearable. I called a quick audible and with only one day to prefish I was going to be all in at my back-up launch, Farmington Landing.

I decided to make a drive by before heading to the house to get familiar with the access. When I got there, things looked promising. The water wasn’t too muddy but had solid color. There was plenty room for vehicles, and at the time there was just one SUV and kayak trailer in the lot. A plan was formulating and I was finally starting to feel better about the upcoming tournament.

I got to the house and began finishing my tackle prep. My rods and reels were spooled but I didn’t have any leaders or baits tied on. I rigged a few rods, at least enough to practice and search around with, and talked shop with my roommates. It was then I discovered the plan I was formulating was a popular one. Through the grapevine I learned a number of anglers had identified Swan Creek as a potential target for the weekend. This time around however, I wasn’t going to let that effect me. This was the entire reason I put the 24V motor on my kayak, to have a shot at getting to those spots first when we take off in the AM.

Friday morning came not so bright and not very early. It was cool and still a little rainy, and I had been nonstop for weeks so I took my time getting up and out to hit the water. I relaxed, made my coffee, and meandered over the ramp. I wasn’t the only one prefishing there, but paid little attention to that and proceeded to get myself ready. I took some time to play with organizing the stuff on my kayaks. I had a small panic moment when my sonar wouldn’t work before I realized I had an SAE reverse adapter inline. I removed that and everything finally turned on. I knew that my seat was soaked from the overnight rain so I went to pull out an old rain jacket to sit on. Low and behold, sitting there under the back seat, I found my rain pants that I had spent so much time looking for. It took me quite a while to get loaded up but I was finally ready to hit the water.

Not the Species I was looking for.

I made my way down to the mouth of the creek and was getting ready to head north to Swan when I saw a nice rip-rap breakwater at the south side of the mouth. A bass boat had just fished at the point, but I figured maybe I should check it out. It could be a good way to get a bite on my way back in if things didn’t work on Swan. I fished along it for a while alternating with a spinnerbait, a lipless, and a black and blue finesse jig but clearly there wasn’t anything hanging around on the rocks. The only bite I got was a little yellow perch on the jig. 

After about 15 minutes heading downstream, I made the call these rocks were not holding bass. I could see up ahead about a half mile there was a small cove. I was curious and pulled out my phone to look at the aerial images. It was a marsh with two small creaks that dumped into the main channel. You could see through the stained water what looked like clumps of grass in this little bay. Being early April, I doubted there would be any actual grass, but I figured I had plenty of time to go check it out.

I cranked up the motor and headed down into the cove. As I cruised away from the bank out onto the flat I found exactly what I expected. It was getting closer to high tide and I was in about 5.5-ft of water and my side imaging was lit up with the scattered remnants of grass clumps. I threw out my red-eye shad and started hopping it around of the bottom. I quickly snagged up some of the grass. It was GREEN!! This was new growth grass. A couple casts later and I pulled in a fat little 13-inch largemouth. I put my rod away, and starting graphing around. No sense sticking more fish. I dropped a waypoint where I caught the first fish, and marked some of the more prominent clumps of grass. I was getting kind of excited. The flat had everything you’d expect in a prespawn staging area and maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t be as effected by the tide swings being right on the main river.

After a quick graphing session, I motored out of there and got back into the creek arm. I had a new plan for the weekend and I wanted to get away from my spot as fast as possible so nobody else would see me. There were other kayaks in the area, but none had seen me in that cove or catch any fish. I just hoped nobody else ventured out there as I had.

I fished along the arms of the creek back to the ramp and managed a few other small bass. No specific patterns emerged, but at least I knew there were more fish in the area. I got off the water with a little prefishing time left but I felt ready. I loaded up, chatted with some locals about my kayak, kayak fishing, catfish, hunting, and all sorts of stuff, then headed out to grab a late lunch. It was going to be an anxious night waiting to kick off my 2022 season, and I had no clue what was in store.

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