The eighth and penultimate stop (that’s second to last) for the top circuit in B.A.S.S. is this week in the Huk Bassmaster Elite at Upper Chesapeake Bay presented by Mossy Oak Fishing. The event is being held Thursday through Sunday on the East Coast fishery.
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The 107 anglers should expect consistent temperatures - each day should begin in the mid-70s and rise into the mid-to-upper 80s - but the real battle will be finding and catching bass from the fluctuating tidal waters. On the line is a $100,000 prize for the winner as well as Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points.
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The Chesapeake Bay (center) is a huge fishery, with a number of rivers making its northern expanses freshwater down to around Baltimore. The waters turns brackish by mid-bay and salty as the sea farther south. In this NASA Landsat image, the Potomac River leading to Washington, D.C., is at the left and Delaware Bay on the right flows from Philadelphia farther north.
Photo: Courtesy NASA
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Morning takeoffs are on the northern end of the bay at Flying Point Park, 511 Kennard Ave, Edgewood, MD 21040. Spectators are invited to come watch the anglers launch, and the first boat is set to take off at 6 a.m. ET each day. All B.A.S.S. venues are free. The weigh-ins on Thursday and Friday will be held at the park at 3 p.m. ET.
Photo: Google maps
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For Saturday’s semifinal round and Championship Sunday, the weigh-ins will be up the road in Aberdeen, Md., inside Ripken Stadium, 873 Long Dr, Aberdeen, MD 21001. Emcee Dave Mercer should get things started at 3:30 p.m. ET. The Outdoors Expo will be there on the weekend days starting at noon, featuring an aquarium, free prizes, food and beverage vendors and the latest fishing products on the market. The Maryland Center for the Arts and Maryland Department of Natural Resources will present exhibits on-site as well.
Photo: Google maps
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The first B.A.S.S. event fished on the Chesapeake was the 1991 Bassmaster Classic, which Ken Cook won by one of the slimmest margins ever in a championship. The Chesapeake was the site of Northern Opens in 2009 and 2010, won by Dave Mansue and Nate Wellman, respectively.
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The most recent event on the Upper Chesapeake was the 2015 Elite won by Aaron Martens, his fifth of six wins on the circuit. It was Martens’ second tournament title of the season, and it put him closer to his third Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
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The Bay was difficult for many of the anglers to figure out. Mike Iaconelli, here fishing the famed Susquehanna Flats, was a pre-event favorite, having won the previous year on the nearby Delaware River. But Ike gobsmacked local fans as well as Fantasy Fishing teams with a zero on Day 1. He finished 95th after catching two fish on Day 2. But fishing was tough for most. Over the first two days, only 79 limits were weighed out of a possible 214.
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Davy Hite was among the five anglers who weighed in limits each of the four days - Martens, second-place Bill Lowen, fourth-place Gerald Swindle and seventh-place Russ Lane. Hite kept it simple in taking fifth, which put him back in the hunt for a Classic berth, catching all 20 of his fish on a Yamamoto Senko.
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Swindle’s approach was probably the most curious of the Top 12. He stayed close to the launch, got on his trolling motor, put his head down and threw at anything - “If there was a bubblegum wrapper, I threw at it … I was so clueless coming into this deal, I just picked a crankbait that had a lot of teeth marks on it,” he said.
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Chad Pipkens went shaky head all the way to finish third and put himself back in Classic contention. He completed a late-season run from 92nd in the AOY points standings by taking 32nd on the St. Lawrence, third at Chesapeake and fourth at the season-ending event on St. Clair. “I was 92nd three events ago, and now I’m going to be in Classic contention,” he said. For those even outside that 50 bubble, late moves can happen.
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Lowen ended second but at he led at one point, and by a large margin, on Championship Sunday. Lowen began the day almost 5 pounds back of Martens as he vied for his first B.A.S.S. win. Lowen put together an early limit and actually held an unofficial lead of nearly 10 pounds.
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Martens put Lowen 8 pounds behind him with a big midday run. The Natural knew he’d go through a slow period at the docks near Baltimore until the tide got right. When it did, he culled to the big bag of the event at 21-5, including a 7-2 catch caught in front of a Bassmaster LIVE audience. Martens' four-day total of 70-2 gave him a second win on the season and he left for St. Clair with a 69-point AOY lead.
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The AOY race has just two events left to determine the top 50 who will advance to the AOY Championship on Lake Chatuge in September. Justin Lucas, who was 23rd last time on the Chesapeake and left there second to Martens in AOY points, comes into this event second behind Bradley Roy, 617 to 607. Lucas grew up fishing the California Delta, and Elite wins there and on the nearby Potomac River prove his success on tidal fisheries.
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Roy actually fared better on the Chesapeake in 2015, finishing 16th, and he said that of the two remaining fisheries, the St. Lawrence is more worrisome. “That’s because it’s such a good fishery, but if you get stuck in that 3 3/4-pound class of fish, you have a bad tournament,” he said. “If you catch just a little bit bigger, you have a great tournament. You don’t really control that variable as much as you think you do.”
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Roy and Lucas lead the four anglers who have broken away from the pack - Brent Chapman is third with 602 points and Josh Bertrand fourth with 597. While Roy thinks the winner will come from this group, the 103 others will head out onto the Chesapeake hoping to make some noise of their own.