WALDORF, Md. — Records are sketchy concerning the hottest ever BASS Elite Series event, but the title would be hard-pressed to match Capital Clash presented by Advance Auto Parts if Wednesday's Angler's Alley and pre-tournament briefing is any indication.
Unofficial temperature readings of 102-104 degrees at the Waldorf Jaycee's Community Center sent most all participants — competitors and autograph seekers alike — scampering into the air-conditioned comfort of the meeting hall.
But the intense Eastern Seaboard heat was far from the overriding theme of the 108 professional anglers poised to take on this stretch of the Potomac River — situated between Chesapeake Bay and Washington D.C. — for the next four days. Most shrugged it off with pragmatic shoulder shrugs, testament to the field's get-it-done attitude.
Rather, things like tide and grass dominated the chatter as anglers prepped for the second-to-last regular season event, which is particularly important for Angler of the Year leaders Skeet Reese and Kevin VanDam.
"There are basically two ways to fish (the Potomac River): you can fish a spot or you can run and gun with the tide," said Grant Goldbeck, one of several anglers hailing from the greater D.C. area. "There aren't a whole lot of secrets on this water. It's made up of a bunch of community holes. I got hurt last year by not moving off of the fish I found in practice. I didn't want to give up my spot."
Goldbeck says he'll run from spot to spot — fishing the favorable tide as it progresses up or down the river. It's a tricky thing to figure out as some areas are better for a rising tide and some are better on a falling tide, all of which can be significantly affected by even a light wind or wind switch.
Throw in variables like when to pull the plug on the predicted morning topwater bite and whether to fish the omnipresent matted grass with a topwater frog or by punching through the vegetation with flipping gear and you've got quite a puzzle to figure out in two and a half days of practice.
Kelly Jordon, last year's winner on the Potomac, says the grass is a lot different than it was last year, and he said he sees an overall situation which will make the event much more challenging for the entire field.
"There's more grass than last year, but there's more of it that's not right," said Jordon, who primarily flipped thick mats last year on his way to a $100,000-plus payday. "There's also more of the good stuff out there, but when you do find it, there's just miles and miles of it, which makes it hard to pick up on the subtleties that are the key to making it work."
"The best grass I've found hasn't held near the concentrations of fish I had last year. They're much more scattered," said Jordon, who added that he hasn't gotten near as many early morning topwater bites as last year. "I'm fishing it a lot different than last year.