Tidal Potomac River

by Chris McCotter

Cooler temperatures have arrived and with it the fall fishing transition on the tidal Potomac River. Here’s what you can expect on yoiur next visit.

We should see a water temperature drop by month’s end to around 60 degrees.  This opens the tacklebox for most moving baits and topwaters for sure. Buzzbaits, poppers, walkers and wakers are all worth trying. Note that the water warms in midday so toward the evening there’s a good topwater bite! Speed is key, though. Use slower presentations on cooler mornings.  Speed up as water warms to 70. 

Tidal Potomac bass are crowding available hard cover like docks and laydowns in shallow water as what’s left of scattered grass. 

The Wilson Bridge barges and pilings are great.  Target structure like drops and edges around the Spoils, and Smoots (National Harbor).  Try the fish habitat planted by MD DNR in Smoots.

Topwater action is great early under low light or in the evening. Start with a continuous pop, pop, pop and throw in pauses, and smaller twitches. During colder conditions, wait 10 seconds between pops.  Watch baits carefully to note bass movement under your bait.  A pull is better than a pop!  

In cooler water, try walking lures. Wake baits are great fished at any speed. Use a med/heavy rod with 30-pound test GAMMA Torque braid for best results in clear water over grass.

Mud Puppy Boogie Buzz buzzbaits, with 2/0 Mustad Ultra Point stinger hooks, draw strikes from quality bass in cover over grass clumps as the tide falls, and after water warms through the day.  Swim Toads on a weighted 5/0 Mustad Ultra Point swimbait hook is great over and around cover. 

Cover depths with Carolina rigs with lizards on points or grass edges near deep water.  Use a 3/4-ounce weight, Mustad Ultra Point Mega Bite hooks, and an 18-inch leader…sometimes shorter. Move baits with rod, dragging slowly, stopping to let baits cover drops. Bump cover, stop and let sit a few seconds.  When you get a bite, sweep set. 

For the tough bite, try splitshotting and drop shotting with smaller Mud Puppy Custom Lures DS (drop shot) worms, 3/16-ounce Water Gremlin Bullshot weights and 10-pound test Gamma Copoly line. Make short pitches to pilings along sides and leave on slightly slack line.  Shake as needed.  

Anglers can target grass remnants with lipless crankbaits in shad patterns and firetiger in stained water. Because lipless crankbaits are notorious for big bass to throw, upgrade to Mustad Ultra Point KVD Triple Grip short shank trebles…go up a size. 

Burning spinnerbaits, willow/Colorado combination and a white skirt, near cover produces hard strikes. When water warms, try double willow, faster retrieves.  For clear water, use silver blades, gold for stained and a combo for in between. Bump cover and rip free from grass.  At higher tides, it’s easier to work a 3/8-ounce and larger bait down to the grass.  Use 12 pound rest Gamma Edge fluorocarbon for longer casts and better hook sets.

As tides fall, work edges, clumps or isolated pieces of cover including docks with green pumpkin candy tubes rigged on Mustad 3/0 Ultra Point Tube hooks with 3/16 weights or with Mud Puppy Baits tube heads around bridge pilings and docks deeper than 5 feet on 10 pound test GAMMA Copoly, on spinning gear.  The Mud Puppy head is weedless, easy to skip and glides on the drop.  

With cooler temperatures following cold fronts, hop smaller profile baits like Mud Puppy Custom Lures avocado stingray style grubs on 8-10 pound test GAMMA Copoly rigged on a 1/4-ounce head in ditches and in front of pads. 

Crank South Point, Smoots, Spoils, Fox Ferry, Hogg Island, Fort Washington, barges in Broad, around barges near the Wilson Bridge, pilings, and all hard cover. Cover different depths on 12-pound test GAMMA EDGE Fluorocarbon.  Sharp Mustad Ultra Point treble hooks are a must! Treble hooks are big in numbers, not big in bite, not holding in much of the fish. Line stretch and rod flexibility make it easier for fish to take baits and provide “give” needed to land fish hooked on trebles. 

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 early duck season is October 7-10 and he has openings for some serious marsh dragon (wood duck) hunts on the leases he holds around the area. 

Stauch is also booking his main waterfowl seasons November 16-27 and December 17 through January 29. If you’ve always wanted to experience the thrill of a duck hunt, Staunch can accommodate you on the nearby tidal Potomac River.

Snakehead fishing on the tidal Potomac for Capt. Mike and Capt. Chris of Apex Predators Guide Service will slow down this month and they will turn their focus to crappie fishing. The tidal Potomac offers excellent fishign 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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