NORTH EAST, Md. — The second of three tidal events of the season begins Thursday on the Upper Chesapeake Bay, at the 2022 St. Croix Bassmaster Northern Opens presented by Mossy Oak Fishing, also the final Northern division event of the year.
B.A.S.S. last visited the Upper Chesapeake Bay in 2015 for a pro-level event. Aaron Martens won in mid-August with 70 pounds, 2 ounces after four days. He won it by running a network of coves holding bass behind dock pilings during the ebb and flow of the tide. Junk fishing prevailed as the dominant pattern, as it likely will this week.
Here are five things to watch for as the tournament plays out through Saturday.
#1 Tide factor
This tournament will be all about playing the tide and its love-hate relationship with bass patterns. Some anglers favor low tide, when bait and bass are concentrated in the first deeper areas outside their immediate high tide habitat. Others like the high tide for triggering bass and bait activity in shallower areas. Either way, it’s all about moving water, and executing strategic opportunities where they are likely to play out in a given area.
#2 Time management
Time management. In bass fishing it’s all about being at the right place, at the right time, or knowing when it’s time to move to another spot given the limited time available during the day to land a limit. The tide factor adds another element to time management. Do you commit to an area best on low tide or high tide? Can you do both? That all factors in across a vast area of the Upper Bay where the tides can be a different time, based on location.
#3 Needle in a haystack
Vegetation. Hydrilla, eelgrass, star grass and other varieties are abundant in the Maryland waters open to competition, including certain rivers and throughout the bay. That makes eliminating areas of vegetation that are unproductive, while finding the subtle differences (bottom irregularities, isolated wood and other distinguishing features) a key to time management and the tide factor with vegetation.
#4 Fishing through the numbers
Summer patterns continue to hang on, so without any drastic seasonal changes the fishing will be consistently tough. Predications by local experts predict catching a limit will be difficult for half the field, if not more. Weighing 13 to 14 pounds a day will put Championship Saturday in view; 15 to 16 pounds a day could win. A good day will be fishing through numbers of smaller bass, and culling up to reach that high number, and that will not be easy to do.
#5 Fishing pressure
If tight, low-end weight margins didn’t add enough challenge to this tournament, there is also the fishing pressure factor. That can be good and bad. On the pro roster are 183 boats, their anglers vying for fishing space in key areas known to produce the quality of bass it will take for success (think Susquehanna Flats). There are tidal rivers and the upper Bay itself. Both could be in play, meaning there might be plenty of room for everyone. We won’t know if that factors until today’s weigh-in and beyond.
No matter what, being open minded to daily change and above all else, grinding it out every day will be the ultimate keys to success.