Tidal Potomac River

by Steve Chaconas

Whatever hydrilla and milfoil grass that came up this season on the tidal Potomac River is going, going, gone! It’s now time to target hard cover and drop-offs.  Here’s what you can expect on a November visit to the nation’s river.

Look for rock, wood and docks and expect tidal bass! Fish are now moving and eating but will hold on the above structure.  Reaction baits get the job done like squarebill cranks, lipless crankbaits, vibrating jigs and spinnerbaits with cloud cover or chop. Keep in mind, early November fishes entirely differently than the end. Transition from late fall into early winter takes place. 

Blue Plains is a great fishery but it can be crowded. Carolina rigs, split shot and drop shots are good choices here.  Anglers should downsize line to 6-10 clear, low-stretch line on spinning gear.

For deeper applications, South Point and The Spoils are great Carolina rig spots.  There’s some topwater activity, but you must exercise patience. Fish will either be on the edge of the drop or in ditches or channels.

Clear water areas around Blue Plains and Four Mile Run are great locations for jerkbaits this month. In very clear water, go to the smaller sizes. This is a light line 10-pound test line presentation on a medium action graphite rod. Let baits sit for varying lengths of time; fish tell you what pause they want.

Spinnerbaits, like a 1/4-ounce with Indiana/Colorado gold blades, work around wood now, especially when water is a bit stained. For deeper applications when water cools to 50 degrees, slow roll a 3/8-ounce willow/Colorado across cover near drops. 

Cranking is the best pattern for The Spoils, Smoots, Fox Ferry and other deep-water access spots. Target shallow fish first, with squarebills with Mustad Short Shank Triple Grips and tight wiggle flat cranks in firetiger and chartreuse with brown back patterns.  Bigger-body baits are best in stained and/or colder water. Try deep divers for deeper cover and edges.  

Along any remaining grass edges and tops, try lipless crankbaits like the 1/2-ounce size in shad colors for fairly clear water, or gold and craw colors in stained water. Shallower, go to smaller ¼ ounce size.

For Carolina rigs, use 30-pound test GAMMA Torque braid for main line, 12-pound test GAMMA EDGE Fluorocarbon for leader. Mustad Mega Bite hooks on 5-inch Mud Puppy Custom Lures 5’ Brush Monkeys with 3/4-ounce weights locate cover and bottom composition, especially down steeper drops. Shallower and lighter split shot rigs work on 10 or even 8-pound test GAMMA COPOLY with 3/16 or 1/4-ounce Water Gremlin BullShot bullet–shaped split shots that come through cover. Stickworms like 5-inch Mud Puppy Jiggle Sticks work well when rigged on a 3/0 Mustad Ultra Point Mega Bite hook.

Drop shot rigs can be fished deep or shallow.  When you contact cover with a C-rig or crankbait, try dropshots with leaders eight inches or less and 3/16-ounce Water Gremlin BULLSHOT weights. Using the weight on your drop shot, feel your way to drops…or grass edges, leave in these locations as long as you can. Rig Mud Puppy DS (drop shot) worms, SR grubs on 1/0 Mustad Mega Bite hooks or 3/0 with a 5-inch Jiggle Stick worm. Pitch these around docks!

Tube fishing is strong in November on the river. Fish them deep or shallow, depending on water temperature and clarity. In most cases green-pumpkin/copper, green pumpkin orange, and blue craw colored tubes on tube heads make this rig the best bottom bait. In stained water, darker colors are best.  

Swimming or pitching bulkier baits like 3/4 ounce jigs in black/blue, or green pumpkin with a matching Mud Puppy 3” Mad Craws are good choices depending on water clarity.

When cold fronts come through, one of the best baits is SR (sting ray) 3” grub in avocado on a 1/4 ounce round jig head on 8 pound test GAMMA COPOLY line on faster spinning gear.  Drag slowly over drops from 2-5 feet and deeper, depending on how big the weather change is. Shaky head fishing with light line just about anywhere with 5-inch Jiggle Stick Worms on a 1/8 ounce head will get bites when all else fails.

You’ll find a lot of this gear at Taylor’s Bait & Tackle on Rt. 1 near Aquia Creek as well as at Costello’s in Warrenton. Today’s tackle shops are piggy-backed into other stores, so don’t overlook either as both have excellent selections. Taylor’s has frogs from many manufacturers. Costello’s has a great selection of Missile Baits including the new Magic Worm – a collaborative effort with Robo Worm.

Travis Stauch of Ram Rod Guide Service welcomes your call about waterfowling on the tidal Potomac River this fall. The middle duck season is November 16-27 and the late season is December 17-January 29. He has openings for you and your friends/family.

If you’ve always wanted to experience the thrill of a duck hunt, Staunch can accommodate you on the tidal Potomac River.

Capt. Mike and Capt. Chris of Apex Predators Guide Service will turn their focus to crappie fishing. The tidal Potomac offers excellent fishing for big freckles and these guys know where to find them.. Call them soon for a fall crappie trip. You’ll be surprised at how good the freckle fishing is on the Potomac.

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