2014 Bassmaster Elite at Delaware River Delaware River - Philadelphia, PA, Aug 7 - 10, 2014

Delaware’s rising bass tide

M. Kennedy for GPTMC
Bassmaster Elite Series pros will compete on Pennsylvania's Delaware River August 7-10, 2014.

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series profiling 2014 Elite Series locations.

Many Elite Series pros balked when they learned that the Delaware River was on the slate for August 7-10, 2014. The Delaware has long been highly industrialized, which is also true of the Ohio River.

Will the Delaware be as stingy as the Ohio River was during the 2005 Bassmaster Classic at Pittsburgh, Pa.?

“The Delaware River is going to surprise a lot of people,” Elite Series pro Michael Iaconelli says. “It’s a fantastic fishery.”

The Bassmaster Elite Series pros are no strangers to tidal rivers, but few of them have faced the dramatic tidal fluctuations that await them at the Delaware River. One of the few is New Jerseyan Iaconelli who has fished the Delaware for over 30 years.

“The average tidal swing on the Delaware River is 7 feet,” Iaconelli says. “The pros that tune into it will cull through 15 to 25 or more bass a day.”

That certainly wasn’t the case when Iaconelli was a youngster. Pollution had taken a toll on the Delaware River and its aquatic life. The Federal Clean Water Act of 1972 marked the beginning of the Delaware’s revitalization.

By the mid ‘80s, when Iaconelli began fishing the Delaware River for bass, it was much improved. Today, the water is clearer and full of life. Natural vegetation, including eel grass, spadderdock and lily pads, have returned. Lush milfoil and hydrilla beds also provide excellent bass habitat.

Green Bass or Brown?

Besides the Delaware’s enormous tidal fluctuations, another conundrum for the Elite pros will be whether to target largemouth or smallmouth bass. The largemouth comprise about 70 percent of the black bass population accessible to the pros during the tournament, Iaconelli points out. However, the smallmouth bass here tend to be heavier.

Smallmouth and largemouth bass coexist in parts of the Delaware River, but the brown bass are most prevalent in the tributaries between Philadelphia and Trenton. The water there is clearer than down river and has more rocky smallmouth habitat, Iaconelli asserts.

He adds that tournaments are won with smallmouth bass even farther upriver north of the Trenton Makes Bridge, which connects Trenton, N.J., to Morrisville, Pa. The downside here is that you court disaster.

“It gets rocky and treacherous up there and eventually turns into rapids,” Iaconelli says. “I’m sure some of the pros will chance it anyway.”