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Football Season!

What a morning! A bit eerie and slow to start—and I’ll get to that shortly—but the finish was spectacular, if a bit unexpected. It’s getting colder and colder in the Mid-Atlantic, specifically in central Maryland, where overnight temps have held steady in the low-50sF and even dipped into the high 40sF this past week. This, coupled with the pending arrival of Tropical Storm (nee Hurricane) Ian this coming weekend, means we have a low pressure system upon us and increasing winds. Generally, these conditions can shut a bite down. The wind forecast (at 12 knots with up to 23 knot gusts according to most models) was looking too dicey to my eyes for an early morning trip on the boat in search of a striped bass topwater bite. The water chop would be too active, the gusts too pushy, and so I opted to bang the banks at Governor Bridge Natural Area in Prince George’s County, where the wind wouldn’t be much of an issue. It’s an easily accessible small collection of freshwater ponds and trails, all adjacent to the the Patuxent River, so there’s opportunity to ply both nontidal and tidal fisheries. Pretty cool.

This chunky largemouth slurped up the topwater frog just as it settled in the water next to a line of lily pads after the cast.

The good news was that the cloud cover was at 90-plus percent—the sky was gray and depressing. Perfect for the topwater bite! Venturing to these ponds and the skinny river, I had two species in mind: northern snakehead and largemouth bass. As such, the arsenal in hand was a 6’6″ fast-action, medium BPS Bionic Blade paired with a Pflueger President XT spinning reel spooled with 20# Powerpro braid and a 5′ leader of 17# Berkeley Trilene Sensation (I love the strength to diameter ratio of the Sensation mono). A simple setup, primarily for bassin’, that I’ve owned for more than a decade. It’s caught it’s fair share of nice fish.

And the lure of choice was a black and orange colored Tailored Lures’ Model C frog. I believe that darker colors offer a profile more attractive to fish on cloudy days.

The Tailored Lures Model C frog.

All things considered, the question remained whether the fish would want to bite…or not. Arriving on site, I was the only soul there. More good news. Peace and quiet were on my side. I hiked to the riverfront, deciding to give snakehead the first crack at breaking surface. There’s a stretch of bank at the soft canoe launch ideal for casting. The water is also a touch deeper at about 5′ when the level is normal. Today, however, it was ghastly low. I pitched and played the frog along the banks enough to have covered all the accessible water. I hiked a bit beyond the visible path along the bank, deeper into the woods, and found a few more spots to cast. There was a eerie stillness being alone out there; just a few black crows overhead, cooed and cawed. Definitely felt the Halloween vibes. But with nary a hint of life in the water, I decided it was time to move elsewhere altogether. To the ponds. And to the bass, hopefully.

Backtracking carefully through the woods can be a trick, but I made it out and onward to a point of land that juts into the heart of the largest of the three or so ponds. This water stretches about 6 to 8 acres in all and features a sprinkling of tiny islands at the northern end, encapsulated by thick vegetation; mostly lily pads. There are tracks of clean water carving through the pads. Lots of weedlines.

My plan at this point was to hop, spit, and sputter the frog along the very edges where pads met dark water. And within just a few casts of doing so, a football of a bass slurped up the frog and it was game on! In fact, I threw the frog at a three-channel intersection. The frog landed exactly at the edge of pads and as soon as it settled, the bass went for it quickly. I set the hook with a good amount of force and this bass shot through the water, zigging and zagging between pad fields as I tried—quite hard I might add—to divert it from swimming deep into the cabbage. This was a tough bass and felt much larger than any I’ve pulled out of this pond before. A brief struggle ensued within stems and stalks, but the bass swam itself back into open water, where I was able to finally horse it in. Whew! Banking this bass was awesome and she had to be in the 5 to 6 pound range, which is a monster for this water. Very, very cool.

Happy angler with the first of two 5-6 pound largemouths.

After that adrenaline rush, I moved around the pond’s perimeter, attacking it’s interior with similar casts to weedlines and pockets. To my surprise, a second chunker slurped up the frog and suddenly I had two solid bass—likely 10 pounds together—to write home about. Both were hooked in the upper jaw area on the stout hooks. What’s nice about this lure is that it’s easily worked through thick vegetation—it’s weedless—but has, I think, 3x strength hooks, which can be ripped into tough jaws and maws of the fish it’s intended to catch. These handsome largies proved it!

Netting the cherry on top of this outing—which, again, started quite slow but finished with oomph(!)—made it an easy call to pack up for the morning and head home. Two fat football bass, both healthy and released back into the stillwater to test another angler, scored big for me in this young fall season. See y’all on the water again, real soon!

The second of two chunks on this morning.