By Steve Chaconas
As another fishing season winds down, there’s a whole lot to be thankful for.
Making it through a long hard guide service year on the Potomac River without damaging my boat, motor or losing a client overboard is quite the feat! While spending nearly 100 days on the water, close to 1000 hours of fishing time, it’s a minor miracle that I wasn’t hooked once this year. Oh, many of my clients and some crazy fish tried to either cast, jerk or wiggle a sharp Mustad hook into any available part of my body. This is the first guide season that I haven’t had a hook into me past the barb. Embedded hooks used to require a run to the emergency room, but now I have become surgically precise in hook removal. Unfortunately, most of the hooks had to be removed from me. Teaching clients to remove hooks is important, but when you must instruct them to remove it from your own body, it is imperative that the instruction is in excruciating detail.
I try to take the risk of getting hooked out of the hands of my clients. For example, I handle every lure stuck in a tree or on a dock. I can get most of them out without too much trouble. However, I always make certain there is no risk of the lure snapping back to the boat at warp factor 10! Next, I land all fish by hand. No net! This is better for the fish, but adds a bit of risk due to fish flopping around and erratically shaking the hooks into my fingers, hands or arm, not to mention my face. Another reason to wear my Maui Jim sunglasses is for eye protection. That leaves only one more circumstance where an errant hook could attack. When a fish bites and a client yanks and misses, there’s only one place for the lure to go. Yep, straight toward the boat. Not having the controlled and compact hook set, which is more of a snap, they propel the often 6-hooked missile to the boat. And, since most of their hook sets are not straight up, they will either go to the left or the right depending on the direction of their missed yank. I am always standing in the front of a boat with a client at my side, either to my left or right depending on the direction of the boat. Believe me, I am focused on everything the guy next to me is doing.
The closer someone stands to me, the safer I feel. I figure an overhead cast off their shoulder won’t hit me if only inches separate us. I’ve only been wrong twice; in fact two casts in a row. After the first hook stuck me in the arm, fortunately not past the barb, I was calm and nurturing to build my clients confidence. But on the very next cast history and nearly misery repeated itself. How was he able to cast with his right hand with me standing to his right and he hit me twice in a row in my right arm? I don’t want to know. I just don’t want that to happen again.
So while various body parts were pricked this year, I had no need to begin the play-by-play hook removal seminar. That’s a good thing. All in all I made it through another season without any nagging injuries. Feet and back withstood the test of being on the deck hours at a time. Just a nagging shoulder injury that has yet to be healed or diagnosed by anyone with a medical degree.
So begins another off-season. Time to say goodbye to my 2015 Skeeter and to begin to design and outfit my 2016 Skeeter. My workouts and reconditioning are commencing. Lots of hiking and some minor weight lifting combined with stretching and rubber band pulling. I’ll write a few articles, give a few seminars and do what normal people do on vacation. I think I’ll go fishing. That is until March when I start to guide again. And that is a lot to be thankful for.
Potomac River Bassing in NOVEMBER
Grass is just about gone. Fish are still in the remnants. Check out docks again and any creek channel ditches or drop offs. Coves like Belle Haven, the Spoils and National Harbor are good targets.
Crankbaits are a good choice. For shallow applications over grass and wood, Mann’s Baby 1-Minus is best thrown on 12-pound test GAMMA Edge fluorocarbon line. Another good crankbait is a Mann’s Baby X that dives about 3 feet. As for colors, firetiger is a good choice in most water clarity and skies. But shad patterns are good when the water is a bit clearer and under sunny skies.
There are still some topwater bites to be had. A Lucky Craft Gunfish in aurora black on either GAMMA Torque braid or Copoly line can we walked over wood and grass. They can also produce around docks.
Lucky Craft suspending Pointer jerkbaits on 10-pound test Edge fluorocarbon line are deadly when the water cools to 55 or so and is fairly clear. Baitfish and clown patterns do well. Make long casts and vary the cadence.
Texas rig Mizmo tubes with 3/0 Mustad Mega Bite hooks and pitch around any cover, especially docks where the grass has died back. A soaking in Jack’s Juice Bait Spray will help to get fish to hold on longer.
It’s also time to rely on spinning gear like the Quantum EXO. These very light and solid reels with smooth drags are perfect for the switch to 6-pound test lines and finesse techniques like shaky head with Mizmo BarbWire heads and drop shot.
Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & contributing writer for BoatU.S. (BoatUS.com) Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.