MARBURY, MD — To say that Randy Howell is familiar with the tiny Potomac River creek he's fishing this week would be an understatement. The Elite Series pro, who will be 34 years old next month, has been fishing this area since he was 18.
"I had a buddy who had this little boat," said Howell, who grew up near North Carolina's Lake Gaston. "We could take it about anywhere. He actually found this place."
Howell used to make the 3 1/2-hour drive from Littleton, N.C., to fish bass tournaments on the Potomac.
"There wasn't as much grass then," he said. "You could catch 10 or 12 pounds there, so it was good enough to place about 28th or 30th in some of those smaller tournaments."
But this year Howell has used this spot to put himself in a tie for fifth going into the final day of the Capital Clash, presented by Advance Auto Parts. Over the last three days of weighing in five-bass limits, all but two of his 15 bass have come from this one tiny creek. As far as Howell knows, it's so small it doesn't have a name.
The same area helped Howell tie Rick Clunn for 14th place at last year's Capital Clash. Obviously, he's going to best that performance, since he made Sunday's top 12 cut. But the payoff could be even bigger. Going into the Capital Clash, Howell was 51st in Elite Series Angler of the Year points. Only the top 37 qualify for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, which will be held next February on Lake Hartwell, near Greenville, S.C.
"This tournament is going to be a good one for me, because a lot of the guys ahead of me did bad," Howell said.
The key to this tiny feeder creek is high tide. It's difficult to get in or out of it at any other time.
"You can't idle in there, and you can't use your trolling motor to get in there," Howell said. "Your boat's got to be up on plane (going full speed)."
Once he gets there, Howell has been able to use about a two-hour period to fill out his limit and cull a few fish. This spot has been a steady producer all week. Thursday Howell weighed 15-6, Friday he had 14-3 and Saturday he totaled 12-2.
"I've been flipping when I caught 90 percent of my fish this week," said Howell, who is using a 1 1/2-ounce Molix tungsten weight combined with a Berkley green pumpkin Chigger Craw on 50-pound test Spider Wire Stealth line.
He's using the heavy sinker to punch through aquatic grass mats to put a lure in front of the bass that reside under the heavy cover.
That's another thing that's changed about this tiny hot spot Howell has known since he was a teenager. With the increased aquatic vegetation on the Potomac, it's taken some new methods to fish it.
"We didn't know how to punch (grass) mats then," Howell said. "The technology has helped me catch more fish there."
And it's possibly helped him punch his ticket to the Bassmaster Classic.