Elites winds down to Potomac

CELEBRATION, Fla. — Since 1989, the Potomac River has been a regular stop on BASS' competitive circuits, but rarely has a tournament held more at stake than the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series' Capitol Clash on Aug. 10-13.

 BASS has visited the historic river that flows through Washington, D.C., more than 20 times, but this event is pivotal because it will go a long way toward deciding a close battle for the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and the bulk of the coveted invitations to the CITGO Bassmaster Classic in February 2007.

 The Capitol Clash is the 10th of 11 Elite Series events. The season ends Sept. 14-17 with The Rock presented by TheraSeed on Table Rock Lake in Kimberling City, Mo.

 The bass fishery known as the Potomac River has long been a favorite destination of the nation's best bass pros and provides a memorable overall experience. The Elite Series pros might find themselves fishing in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, offshore of George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens or even around Columbia Island — with a view of the Pentagon.

But for these well-traveled athletes, the main attraction on this August week will be the abundant largemouth and smallmouth bass.

 "First of all, it's full of fish," Virginia's John Crews said. "There's tons of fish in that place. The grass has progressively gotten better … it's always been pretty good, but now there's more and more of it. So that's a very good thing for the health of the river."

 The last time a pro-level BASS came to the Potomac was in July of 2003. That tournament was won by local angler Earnest Freeman with a three-day total of nearly 54 pounds.

 "You're going to see an awesome tournament," added Michigan's Kevin VanDam, a three-time CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year who is battling Michael Iaconelli, Steve Kennedy and Dean Rojas for the 2006 title.

 Crews predicts that the winner will need to average 13 pounds or more per day for the four rounds to claim the $100,000 top prize. "Most everybody is going to have a limit," he said. "But finding the bigger fish is going to be the trick there."

 The Potomac is a tidal-influenced waterway with fluctuating high and low daily tides that can baffle even the most experienced anglers. Basic tournament strategy revolves around either fishing certain areas regardless of the tidal stage or running the tide to duplicate a specific tide stage as much as possible. The fluctuations are a serious consideration from D.C. south to the Chesapeake Bay.

Experts say some of the most dependable fishing occurs in the bass-rich tributaries, including Pomonkey, Chicamuxen, Mattawoman and Nanjemoy creeks.

 "(The tidal movement) does help fishing a little bit in the summer," Crews added. "It keeps the water flowing and keeps the oxygen going. But there is so much matted milfoil up there and with that water going through it there's plenty of oxygen in the water."

 The daily weigh-ins, which are free to attend, will begin at 3 p.m. ET Thursday through Sunday at Sweden Point Marina in Smallwood State Park, 2750 Sweden Point Road, in Marbury. Morning launches will leave from the same site beginning at 6 a.m. ET.

 Fishing fans can catch the action from the Capitol Clash on the CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

 Local sponsors include the Charles County Office of Tourism.