August turns into October on the Potomac

MARBURY, MD — August, at least temporarily, turned into early October for the Day 3 launch of the Capitol Clash presented by Advance Auto Parts. So, in addition to guaranteeing themselves a paycheck by making the cut from 107 to 50, Saturday's Bassmaster Elite Series pros received another bonus in the form of weather.

It was 71 degrees with a 5- to 10-mph northwesterly breeze when the anglers launched on the Potomac River at 6 a.m. Saturday.

"I may have to break out some other clothes for that first run this morning," said Charlie Hartley, as he prepared his tackle.

Short sleeves and short pants have been the rule all week on the Potomac, where water surface temperatures during the day have topped 90 degrees in some areas.

There was some cloud cover to go with the cool, breezy conditions, as well.

Grant Goldbeck of nearby Gaithersburg, Md., thought the weather would have a greater effect on the fishermen than it would the fish.

"It's been so hot out here this week that it's been hard to concentrate at times," said Goldbeck, who dropped from third place Thursday to ninth Friday. "But obviously some of these guys haven't had any trouble concentrating."

Chief among the constant concentrators would be Skeet Reese. The Auburn, Calif., resident has led this event for its first two days. Reese went into Saturday with a 2-pound, 5-ounce lead over Kelly Jordon and an ever-growing lead over Kevin VanDam in the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year race.

Reese hasn't won a Bassmaster event since January 2003, but he's finished second seven times, four of which have occurred in the last year. That recent string of seconds started on the Potomac on August 13, 2006, when Jordon edged him by seven ounces to win that title.

"First and foremost, I want to put an end to this second-place string right now," Reese said.

It took 60 pounds, 9 ounces to win here last year. With 35-3 going into Saturday, Reese is a little ahead of that pace.

"If I put 15 pounds in the boat today, I'll be happy," he said. "I'm sure there will be some 18-pound bags, but 15 would put me right there with a chance to win Sunday."

The field will be cut to the top 12 weights after today's 3 p.m. weigh-in at Smallwood State Park.

"It all comes down to a couple of big bites," Jordon said. "I caught a five-pounder (Friday). That's my biggest fish so far. But I had to weigh-in a one-and-a-half-pounder (in his five bass limit) and that really hurt me."

A year ago, Goldbeck and Kevin Short tied for big bass honors in the Capitol Clash with a pair of bass weighing 5-15. This year there's another tie brewing for big bass honors, but these two have "bigger shoulders." Both Gary Klein and James Niggemeyer have caught 8-2 largemouths this week, and Brian Snowden added a 7-13 to the big bass mix Friday.

It's those kind of big bites that will determine who makes the top 12 cut Saturday afternoon. No matter who brings the lunkers to the weigh-in stand Saturday, it's going to be more pleasant to watch. Afternoon highs in the Washington, D.C., area are expected to reach only 85 degrees.

Ah, early October, if only for a day.