It's been a while since the Elite Series has had an event on a true tidal water, and the Delaware River is definitely that. In fact, the Delaware offers the largest tidal swing that I've ever seen.
At the Potomac River, you see tidal swings of 2 or 2 1/2 feet; at the James, it's 2 1/2 to 3 feet. The Hudson River swing is bigger than that, but at the Delaware, it's a 7 foot swing and that's huge. Honestly, it's almost mind-boggling!
The big tidal swing is challenging because the fish are conditioned to the current. In a lot of bays and creeks, when the water falls all the way out of them, it pulls all the baitfish and food into the last deep water there — the channel itself — and the current is concentrated around points, cuts, seawalls and things like that. The bass know it's prime feeding time at the end of an outgoing tide, and they're conditioned to feeding then.
That's when the bite's the best.
Tidal bass also move a lot, even within the general area where they live. In fact, I think they probably move more than bass in any other type of ecosystem. In some cases, they'll go up when the water rises and only pull out when it starts to fall. In other places, they may hunker down by a dock and wait for the tide to get low and for some food to come by.
The challenge, of course, is to figure those things out and to figure out the timing of it all. There's always a way and a place to catch them as long as the water's moving. Finding it, though, and being there at the right time can be tough.
Here at the Delaware, the water doesn't seem to stop and stagnate for any length of time. That's not true at places like the Louisiana Delta, where the water can stop moving for an hour or two. Wind can also affect the tides on some waters, though it seems to be a smaller factor here this week.
Tidal movement happens faster here than most places I've seen. The closer you are to the ocean, the sooner you see its influence. On a river like the Potomac, where the tidal influence is much slower and less dramatic, you can run the tide — hit a spot here or there and run up river to do it again, keeping up with the tidal influence as you go.
On the Delaware, it happens too fast for that.
The end of the outgoing tide positions the fish on the remaining structure and cover in the river and its tributaries. That last two hours of outgoing tide is really critical to success here. One of the toughest things about this tournament is that we won't have that late outgoing tide during competition hours until Sunday. For that reason, you might see the very best weights in the finals.
Experience on tidal waters will be a big advantage this week, especially since we're talking about the best anglers in the world. This could shape up to be one of the toughest and most exciting Elite tournaments ever.