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A BASSMASTER Finds Fish on the Potomac

Recreational anglers use a variety of methods to find fish, including dock talk, fishing reports and looking for “bent rods”. Every bass fisherman would like to improve on their fish finding techniques. Skeeter/Yamaha Pro Brent Chapman approaches fisheries methodically and goes right at them. The results speak for themselves. Chapman, a 7-year BASSMASTER Tour pro, has fished the Potomac BASSMASTERS five times placing in the money in 4 of them, including a top fifteen finish.

“The best way to find out what the fish are doing is to put the trolling motor down and move into the creeks to determine whether and how the fish are relating to pads, wood or grass. Just go fishing and let the fish tell you what they are doing.”

Given that, Chapman finds that lower outgoing tides are best on the Potomac. He also takes note on how the current positions fish on cover. ”You have to be thorough and hit the sweet spot on the shady side, down current. It may take multiple casts at different angles to get that fish to bite.” This Kansas pro sometimes finds multiple fish on every part of a piece of cover. “Dominant fish are going to get the key spot. You can catch a limit on one tree.”

Too many anglers leave a spot before the fish bite and never really learn how to fish it at the right time. “One of the biggest keys is to commit to an area and capitalize on the good times and make the best of the other times.” Chapman waits for the tide rather than running it. “The tide will change every day and this makes it difficult to run around. By staying in one spot you can learn it.” Losing a late day bite one day might yield an earlier bite in the same location. By learning the spot, you can be ready at the best times.

Chapman begins his search on the main river and the creeks finding that fish are always in the creeks. Starting close to the bank he works deeper with shallow cranks, jigs and plastics. “For cranking, I use a Storm SubWart…in 3 sizes. I use the biggest on wood, and the rest on grass, as they are easier to pull through the grass.” To make accurate casts, he uses a 6’ 6” All Star fiberglass MH rod with backbone…the Brent Chapman Cranking Rod. “They let me design this rod based on my experience fishing the Potomac’s shallow wood.” When fishing the grass, he opts for a longer cast and a 7-foot rod for more leverage with the SubWart
He spools 15-pound test Rapala Tough Line that is more abrasion resistant. The diameter of the line does not impact his fishing depth. “The majority of fish are in 5 feet or less and you can control depth with your rod tip…. higher for shallow and lower for deeper…you can vary your depth about 3 feet, so line diameter is not as critical.” When cranking pads and grass edges, he positions his boat parallel and casts into pockets.

One big modification he makes to his crankbaits is the addition of an extra split ring for each hook. Chapman feels that the double split ring keeps the hooks from binding when the fish twists. To keep the hooks from catching each other, he uses short shank Eagle Claw Pro Series Trebles.

For jig fishing Chapman uses an All Star 907 FSX titanium graphite 7’6” rod spooled with 25-pound test Rapala Tough line on a Quantum E 600 PT casting reel. He feels the faster retrieve of this reel, 6.2:1, allows him to make more casts as he retrieves the bait in between targets. In addition, it also allows him to take up slack when the fish is coming towards him. For most of the places he fishes he ties on a 1/2-ounce Rattleback jig with a black/blue skirt and plastic blue chunk.

In most cases, he pegs his Texas-rigged plastics, except for tubes. “I find that the separation really makes the bait erratic, it’s the only bait I don’t peg.” For pads Chapman uses jigs, tubes, creature baits and french fries. When the tide comes back in, he puts all of his baits very close to the shore.

As far as colors, he opts for black/red flake or smoke red/black flake tubes, green pumpkin or watermelon fries and creature baits. “I attribute color selection to time on the water, you can get tied up with color selection and baits, especially when you only have a few days to fish…where you throw becomes more important than what you throw and what color you choose.”

Chapman is looking forward to coming back to the Potomac. “The Potomac is a great fishery and an example of what the efforts of people who care can do.”

Chapman has fished 4 Classics, with a 10th place finish. He won the 2000 Louisiana BASSMASTER Central Invitational. His all-time winnings total over $250,000.

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