Fishing with Federals

By Steve Chaconas

Fishing with Federals

Fishing’s my job. I enjoy my job. Meeting new people and getting to try my jokes on them is rewarding. I seldom take time to fish with friends. It’s sad that I’m unable to do the thing I enjoy the most with the people I enjoy the most. But that changed.

Two buddies from Fort Hunt High School Class of 1973 in Alexandria joined me recently. I’ve enjoyed our post Fort Hunt relationships. I see Gary Burke often as he lives in the area. Duel Ballard now resides with his young, very young, wife in Delaware. We share the Fort Hunt connection, but also a love of fishing.

I’ve asked Gary hundreds of times to fish with me. Not sure why we haven’t hooked up, although we likely shared some concrete while catfishing off the old Wilson Bridge shoreline foundations. Duel, who knew my grandparents in Ocean City, jumped at the invitation a few years ago to join me. Every outing with him is full of laughs and fish. Duel is a natural angler. I enjoy watching him fish. He’s effective at getting fish to bite, more than half the battle.

Duel knew I wanted to get Gary to join me, so he started setting up our trip a few months ago, pinning Gary down to a date. That day finally came. Duel drove 3 hours to pick up Gary at 0700. We met at the dock but had to wait for a dock builder who was loading their boat, good thing too. An unexpected lightning storm greeted us.

A half hour wait, and I backed my Skeeter down the ramp. Oops, forgot to undo one of the rear straps. I climbed back into the boat and reattached the bow eye and pulled the boat out to release the rear strap. Backing down again, I realized I forgot to unhook the bow eye. Pulled out again and then backed in for the final time. Something else to laugh about.

I prepare for a day on the water by studying tides and then choosing locations. I confidently pulled up to the first spot where Duel started us off with the first bass of the day. But after that, only catfish bit our lures with Gary and I getting involved in reeling in these slimy whiskered fish. Then I realized I read the wrong tides. We strapped down the rods and took off, not before updating each other on our current list of medications, past, current and future surgeries.

Arriving at our spot, about two hours behind due to my tide error, we made the best of the situation and caught a few more bass. Discussions of old high school girlfriends, including some embarrassing and likely inappropriate details, were revealed.

Back to fishing Plan C! Gary got into some nice bass as his double knee replacements were taking their toll. He hung in there so we could relive our high school sports stories and talk trash about some of our rivals. The fish kept us interested enough without interrupting.

Catching and releasing several bass was only the backdrop while we discussed our old lives and our new ones. We also remembered lost classmates, recounting their amazing youthful energy. Most were gone through no fault of their own, some the fault of others and yet a few due to their actions. Kinda covered the gamut of the circle of life.

Fish paused some great stories, mostly about our operations. From the sounds of things, our nearly 200 collective years of life have resulted in 20 feet of scars. Good thing we didn’t show them all. Three grown men with only two pairs of readers and most of our original teeth.

When it came time to eat lunch, we needed the readers. Before opening the packages, labels were read and questions were raised, what the heck is maltodextrin and how much should we have? Would this have an adverse interaction with Lipitor? We played liars poker with our prescriptions.

We caught up on favorite high school classes, cars and concerts. Then came the ex-wives. I’m way behind. As for politics, we shook our old heads several times that day. We agreed kids today are really messed up. We never would have had time for video games. We believe we’re smarter than our phones.

To say we had fun would be short selling the experience. We weren’t reacquainting, we were extending relationships. Fishing allowed three 60 somethings to participate in a sport that didn’t require our prior physiques. Our shells of our selves could adequately suffice to be successful one more day under the sun.

Potomac River Bassing in JULY

Hollow body Mann’s Super frogs work now! Tie to 60-pound test GAMMA braid and fish over grass, under docks or near any cover. Use a 7’2” Quantum Medium heavy rod and a fast Quantum Smoke reel.

Pitch Mann’s Stone jigs with HardNose craw trailers to grass, docks and pads on 16-pound test GAMMA Edge fluorocarbon line. Swim over and around cover. Mizmo tubes soaked in garlic Jacks Juice will produce. Same line with a 3/0 Mustad Ultra Point Mega Bite hook and a 3/16-ounce weight. Mann’s 5-inch HardNose Freefall weightless stickworms on 10-pound test GAMMA Edge Fluorocarbon line can also be fished around cover.

Crank Mann’s Baby 1-Minus crankbaits in craw and baitfish patterns over wood and grass with 12-14 pound test Edge on a KVD Quantum cranking rod. Use faster Quantum Smoke reels.

Mann’s Classic ¼ ounce spinnerbaits and chatterbaits with white skirts are effective close to grass, wood and rock, bumping cover or snapping free from grass. With high clear water, cloudy skies and some chop, try 3/8-ounce double willow spinnerbaits with firetiger skirts.

Seeing grass or submerged wood is important for finding fish. Maui Jim HT lenses cut the glare and highlight cover.

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.

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